As arguably one of the primary safety features on your vehicle, why do so many people regard replacing tyres as a distress purchase?
Safety in braking, acceleration, steering and cornering all depend on a relatively small area of road contact. It is therefore essential that tyres should be maintained in good condition and when changed, that the correct replacements are fitted.
Modern tyres are a highly technical product that have evolved as the result of over 100 years of continuous development.
Your choice of tyres can have a considerable impact on your vehicles handling capabilities. It is essential that you do not mix tyres of different construction on your vehicle, by that I mean radial and cross ply; though as virtually all car tyres are now radial, this should not be an issue. It is highly recommended to fit tyres of the same make and tread pattern on each axle and ideally on all four-wheel positions.
I would recommend that, when possible, you replace your tyres on a like for like basis with those fitted by the vehicle manufacturer wherever possible. The original tyre fitment was determined by joint consultation between the vehicle and tyre manufacturers and takes into account all aspects of the vehicle’s operation. Apart from the size of the tyre, there are other technical aspects designed into the tyre such as casing construction, rubber compounds and load/speed ratings which are calculated to match the vehicles intended use.
Your tyres should be examined frequently and if you see any sign of damage such as uneven wear, cuts or lumps have the tyre checked by a tyre specialist as a matter of urgency, as this could indicate possible internal damage.
Regularly check your tread depth. The legal minimum tread depth for a car in the UK is 1.6mm across a continuous band compromising the central three quarters of the tread width around its entire circumference. Tyre treads are designed to give good grip on both dry roads and wet roads where the tread must also disperse water. Whilst this is the minimum requirement it is highly recommended by various motoring industry bodies, including the IAM, that you should replace your tyres when tread is down to 3mm.
Correct inflation pressure is vital for optimum braking and cornering performance and to maximise tyre life. Prolonged under inflation causes excessive flexing, rapid wear of the tread shoulders and reduced mpg. Over inflation results in an uncomfortable ride, less contact with the road and increased wear on the tread centre. Ideally, pressures should be checked every two weeks, even if the vehicle has a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System. Pressure should be checked when cold.
Should your tyre require a repair of any kind, including a puncture, please ensure that you go to a tyre specialist and that the repair is carried out in accordance with British Standard AU159. Any such repair must be what is known as a ‘Permanent Repair’. This means that the tyre must be removed from the wheel to allow a thorough examination internally as well as externally to ensure there is no hidden damage which could result in a catastrophic failure. If anyone carries out an external repair with an externally applied plug or use of sealant, where the tyre stays on the wheel, this is not a Permanent Repair and does not meet AU159 requirements.
Finally in these times of ever-increasing costs please, please don’t be tempted to purchase a ‘part worn’ tyre. Neither you nor the seller has any idea how that tyre has been abused by its previous owner. Has it had a puncture and been run under inflated? How many potholes has it driven over and how many kerbs has it driven against or even worse over? As I said at the start of this article, the tyre is a highly technically constructed product and without some form of x ray or shearography it is impossible to tell if its integrity has been compromised by such abuse.
Having spent over 30 years in the tyre industry and having dealt with every type of tyre including car, truck, industrial, giant earthmover and aircraft, I have a great respect for the product. Hopefully this article will help you think of tyres in a slightly different way and whilst you may not actually look forward to purchasing new tyres, you will appreciate how important they are to your overall safety and comfort.
Remember your car will feel and drive a lot better with new tyres, think of it like buying new shoes and how good that feels!
Chair & Chief Observer, IAM Lincolnshire