For most of us, whether we’re talking about premium or budget tyres, a tyre is simply, well, a tyre. They’re round, black, and have a patterned tread on them. But that’s not the full story. For a start, tyres are the only direct connection your car has with the road. That little area at the bottom of the tyre – called the contact patch – dictates how your car goes round corners, how quickly it’ll stop on a wet road and even how much fuel it uses.
A car engineer once told me that the tyre can contribute as much as 50 per cent towards the way a car behaves when you drive it. So tyres are vitally important, but it can be difficult to tell the difference between the various kinds. After all, the most expensive tyres in the world can look very similar to the cheapest, so how do you know which to buy?
Start with the label
If your car suffers one of these you’ll need the characters in the picture below
You may never have looked at the writing on your tyre sides. And if you have, there’s every chance you’ll think they’ve been written in another language. But strange as these codes may look, they’re important because if you have a puncture, or your tyres wear out, they give you all the information you need to choose a replacement.
If you look at the side of a tyre, you’ll see characters like 205/55 R16. This is the most basic information you’ll need to tell a retailer if you’re hunting around for new tyres. But other details are vital too. You must choose a load index that is right for your car. Use tyres with the wrong one and you could invalidate your insurance.
The speed rating is important as well. If you have the wrong speed rating and you suffer a tyre failure, you may not be covered by your insurer. You’ll be able to find the correct load index and speed rating for your car in its user manual. Here’s my guide to what the most important characters on your car’s tyres mean. Continue reading
Rotating tyres can be time-consuming and some experts advise against it
Rotating tyres to get the maximum wear from them has been something canny drivers have been doing for years. But there is now some confusion over whether switching your car’s tyres around is the way to go or not.
Look up rotating tyres via the websites of the major tyre makers and they will give you information on how to do it. So will suppliers such as Blackcircles.com. However, Kwik Fit says it does not recommend tyre rotation. Those that do favour switching suggest it should be done every 6000 miles. Green Flag’s head of automotive technology, Nick Reid explained: “This is one of those jobs that really is down to personal preference.”
Here we look at why rotating tyres may not be such a good idea, how it can eke more life out of your rubber, which tyres you move where and how you go about it.
Rotating tyres is a bad idea
55% of British drivers say they can’t change a wheel
Complaining about the state of Britain’s roads is one of the most familiar grumbles amongst motorists. Whether it’s collapsing verges that can drag cars into hedgerows, potholes that will swallow a wheel whole or drains that seem to do a better job of acting like a plug than, well, a drain, there’s no shortage of hazards that can cause damage to cars.
So the results of a survey of 1000 British drivers paint an alarming picture. Despite our cars most vulnerable parts coming under daily assault, the majority of drivers admit they don’t know how to change a wheel.
Janine McCarthy’s car rolled six times after a tyre burst; she urges mums-to-be to check their car’s tyres (Picture © TyreSafe)
When it comes to offering advice to new or first-time parents, everyone has words of wisdom to speed mums and dads towards a blissful time with baby. From sleep routines to feeding, pushchairs to car child seats, the parenting tips come think and fast. But it’s rare that those who mean well would ever advise checking your car’s tyres.
However, that’s the message to proud parents across the nation, as a safety campaign gets under way, aimed at parents of the 695,000 babies born in England and Wales each year. It suggests that checking the condition of car tyres is just as critical as making sure babies are taken home from hospital in an appropriate child seat if travelling by car.
Replace any tyre that has a bulging sidewall like this. It is potentially dangerous
Having a bulging tyre – a lump in the side of the tyre – should prompt drivers to take immediate action.
Tyres lead a tough life. They’re subjected to a variety punishments from Britain’s ravaged roads, with potholes, crumbling verges, speed bumps and aggressive kerbs all taking their toll.
The result can see a bulge, typically about the size of the top of an egg, appear. It means the materials within the tough sidewall have been weakened. The next thing that could happen is the bulging tyre suffers a blow out – effectively explodes – and that could possibly lead to a loss of control of the car.
Buying a new set of tyres for a car is an expensive business that nearly every driver grumbles about. And with over 30 million new replacement tyres sold each year, that’s a lot of grumbling.
Unlike paying for insurance or even buying the car, precious few tyre retailers offer drivers the option to spread payments over a period of time, so there’s little choice but to stump up the cash before you can drive away with new, safe tyres.
I should know. Recently I began to research replacement tyres for our four-year old Mercedes E-Class estate. The difference between the cost of household name premium tyres and budget brands I’d never heard of was staggering. For four new tyres, the largest potential saving between premium and budget was £862.