Stay safe with simple tyre checks

Blog post posted on 24/07/18 |

Recently I attended the annual Tyre Safety Month Briefing in Coventry hosted by the UK charity TyreSafe, featuring guest speakers raising awareness about tyre safety. It provided a great opportunity for all who attended to learn more about correct car care and maintenance, essential for our safety in any vehicle.

The event highlighted how for many of us, our tyres are not something we think about on a regular basis, and even experienced drivers and riders aren’t guaranteed to know how to carry out basic checks.

When we consider that our tyres are the only parts of our vehicle in contact with the road, the dangers of having unsafe tyres become much clearer. Moreover, when we realise that staying safe when accelerating, braking, cornering and steering is dependent on only a small area of road contact, it is suddenly alarming to think about how little attention we may give to our tyres.

The audience was asked at the briefing what they believed the most dangerous month was, for tyre-related incidents. Obvious choices were months like October when the weather turns colder and wetter, or January in the dark mid-winter. However, according to data from the Department for Transport, we are in it! Yes, somewhat surprisingly, July is the month when tyre-related incidents are at their most frequent.

One-third of all tyre-related incidents occur in the summer months and TyreSafe believe this could be due to many factors, including changeable weather and a variety of different road conditions. The summer holidays also mean busy roads are full of less experienced drivers, venturing out in cars weighed down with family members and luggage.

These drivers often do not realise that their heavily loaded car needs different air pressure settings in the tyres, and is an important factor to consider before any journey.

The dangers of part-worn or ‘used’ tyres were also explained, something I previously knew little about. As tyres are arguably the main safety feature on our vehicle, there was a strong recommendation to buy only new tyres that we know would be safe. Taking a risk on our lives to save a few pounds on our tyres isn’t worth it, especially when we consider that each year in the UK on average 1,000 road casualties are caused by tyre-related incidents.

I found the whole day extremely interesting and left feeling much more confident about how to look after and check my tyres properly. Then, last weekend I visited a good friend of mine who is expecting a baby, and spoke about what I had learned. After mentioning she knew little about tyre care, we went over to inspect her car tyres and I demonstrated how I’d been shown to check tread with a 20p coin. To our shock, the tread on both her back tyres did not meet the UK legal minimum limit of 1.6mm, and was well below the outer band of the coin!

The fact that the first car I looked at following the event had illegal tyres really made me wonder how many other cars are on the roads like it, with drivers unaware of the danger they are in.

TyreSafe note that potentially one-in-four of the 37 million vehicles on UK roads has illegal or poorly maintained tyres. It only takes a minute for us to check, and could save us and many others from a serious and possibly fatal, incident.

So, how do we check our tyres before we head out onto the roads? We can follow three simple steps using the acronym ‘ACT’:

  • Check the air pressure of the tyres – the recommended pressure can be found in the owner’s manual, fuel filler cap or inside the door and air can be topped up at most service stations.
  • Check the condition of the tyres looking for lumps, bulges or cuts and have a tyre professional look at anything of concern immediately. Remove any small stones or objects from the tread, however, if you are unsure whether an object has penetrated through the tyre then take it to an expert to inspect before attempting to remove it.
  • Check the tread by placing a 20p coin into the main tread grooves of the tyre, in at least three locations around each tyre. If the outer band of the 20p coin is hidden, the tread depth is above the legal limit of 1.6mm. However, if the outer band of the coin is visible then the tyres may be unsafe and illegal.

Following these easy steps will help ensure our vehicles can properly brake, accelerate and corner on the road as well as helping to prolong the tyres’ life and reduce fuel bills and CO2 emissions. It will also ensure we avoid a hefty fine and points on our licence, if caught with illegal tyres.

Checks should be carried out by car drivers at least once a month and by motorcyclists at least once a week – and always before long journeys.

When it comes to our cars, a tyre safety check is one of the most important checks we can carry out and yet so many of us don’t do it, or don’t know how to. Let us change that today and show our family members and friends as well - helping everyone to stay safer on the roads.

By Anjuli Cooper, IAM RoadSmart Marketing team