7 Tips for Keeping Your Tyres in Good Condition
When you are new to driving, you have an idea of what the regular costs are. Things like ‘fuel’, ‘car insurance’ and ‘vehicle excise duty’ (car tax) pop into your mind and you start budgeting for those things on a monthly basis – but how many of us add tyres into that list?
The truth is, tyres can wear relatively quickly, and though we can all hope that we’re never going to have to foot that sudden £100 bill for a tyre, thanks to mounting a kerb by mistake, or running over something mysterious, there’s every chance that it's going to happen at some point.
Of course, every now and then there’s a need to replace the complete set because they’ve all worn down.
It’s not cheap, but it needn’t be unexpected – or too frequent. Having worn tyres is also illegal and comes with a hefty £2,500 fine and three unwanted points on your license.
How do you keep tyres in a good condition? It’s easy enough - here are seven different questions you can ask to help extend the life of your tyres.
1 – How do I know the right tyre pressure?
Check your owner’s manual to find the right tyre pressure for your car and commit the number to memory (or on a post-it note stuck in the glove box). Or, simply look it up on your phone (not when driving!). Got it? Great.
Regularly check your tyre pressure to make sure it matches the value you now have embedded in your mind.
If it’s wrong, it’s so easy to fix, and leaving your tyres over- or under-inflated can have horrible consequences, from poor fuel consumption to that horrible moment when a tyre just gives way halfway down the motorway.
Having the right tyre pressures can add many miles to the life of your tyres too, saving you precious pennies. Try to get into the habit of checking them every time you stop to fill up fuel and you can’t go wrong.
2 – What's the legal minimum depth of tread for car tyres?
In the UK, the minimum legal tyre tread is 1.6mm. Not that a number this precise is easy to measure for most.
Have you ever wondered how to check your tyre tread? Take a look at a tyre and in the grooves, you will see regular little bumps of the rubber – those are your tread wear indicators and if they are lower than the tread around them then you are still good, but if they’re level (or close to) then you need a new tyre. Do it sooner rather than later.
Unsure about your result – you can always just ask a garage as you pass and people there will be happy to help you. How regularly you check tyres can determine how often you need to replace them!
Having worn tread brings you to that £2,500 driving-with-illegal-tyres fine – not only that but it makes driving more dangerous. Remember that minimum tyre tread is 1.6mm – check the tread depth and don’t risk it.
3 – Do I need winter tyres?
You might have legal tyre depth, and perfect tyre pressure, but have you considered the advantages of winter tyres? – especially as we seem to be seeing longer, colder winters in the UK now.
For most general road use, changing tyres for winter in the UK isn’t seen as important as it is in continental Europe. In places like Germany and Sweden, for example, it’s a legal requirement.
The truth is, however, that by switching to a winter tyre as soon as the temperature drops to below 7 degrees Celsius on average will make you safer and save you money in the long run – sure, you have to pay for four new tyres but they tend to be cheaper than their summer equivalents and you will be giving those other (more expensive) tyres a break for a few months.
There’s also the matter of storage for the secondary tyres, which can be problematic for many, but if you can overcome that, it’s definitely worthwhile.
Winter tyres have wider and slightly deeper tyre tread (meaning you are pretty much guaranteed to be above the legal tread depth for the cold months) which helps improve on tyre grip on conditions such as snow and ice.
They start to lose their advantages as soon as the weather heats up, however, being less suitable in the summer months - so remember to switch back as soon as the thaw begins.
4 – What is tracking, and how does it affect tyres?
Poor wheel alignment (often called ‘tracking’) can cause an uneven wear to the tyres and result in poor performance and, ultimately, ploughing through tyre tread depth until you are outside the legal limit for tyres.
If you have done a lot of miles, or maybe had the odd pothole bump or kerb mount, the chances are you need to align the wheels.
Getting your wheels aligned and balanced is a quick job that can be regularly done for a minimal outlay in a garage, and it will help you look after your tyres in the long run.
5 – Should I put new tyres on the front or the back?
Sometimes it isn’t financially possible to replace a full set of tyres. If you are planning to replace tyres in pairs to help lower the impact on your bank balance, then it is recommended that you put the newest tyres on the rear wheels and move the rear tyres forward in the car.
This is because having the brand-new tyre tread on the rear wheels will favour understeer (the car tends to keep going straight when turning the steering slightly) rather than oversteer (the back breaks free and can cause a spin) in slippy road conditions. While neither is perfect, understeer is preferable for most drivers.
The new tyres are less likely to puncture too and controlling a car with a damaged rear tyre is harder than one with a damaged front.
6 – Does it matter what I’m carrying in the car?
The more you put into the car, the more weight you are putting on the tyres and the more wear they are going to suffer.
To maintain your car tyres, try to remember to remove unnecessary heavy objects from the boot to avoid overloading - you could save hundreds of miles on your tyres.
7 – Does my driving affect tyre wear?
While it might be fun to pretend you are a rally driver, unless you want to replace your tyres at the rate those on the rally circuit do, it’s best to drive at a more sensible pace. Similarly, doing donuts in the supermarket car park can really damage the tread.
Joking aside, your driving habits have a huge impact on your tyre life, not to mention your own.
Drive at an appropriate speed on the road and try to avoid unnecessary potholes, kerbs and other hazards.
Tyres should be changed every two to three years for the average driver, but many factors can make that replacement time come sooner.
Remember to keep a good eye on your tyres and you’ll get the most out of them.
As a final note - poor tyres can cause road traffic accidents. If you'd like more advice or if you've been involved in an accident that wasn't your fault, no matter the cause, call us now to see how we can help you. You are under no obligation with us and the phonecall is free!