How to keep your tyres in safe condition

Car tyre being pumped up

Your tyres are your car's point of contact with the road so it is vital they are in good order. Worn, over-inflated or under-inflated tyres can be dangerous and lead to accidents. Around 40 per cent of all Green Flag’s call outs are to do with tyres so it makes sense to spend a bit of time inspecting them.

Check tyre tread

Tyre treads are designed to provide grip on wet roads. If the tread is worn then your vehicle may skid across the road surface. Although the legal minimum tread limit is 1.6mm, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) recommends that tyres should be replaced as soon as the tread reaches 3mm.

Tyre tread depth gauges are cheap and widely available online. Alternatively, it’s possible to use a 20pence coin; if the outer band on the coin is visible when placing the coin in the groove between the treads, it means they’ve worn too low and the tyres need replacing.

Tyres also have their own built-in tread wear indicators. These are small blocks of rubber in-between the tread blocks. If you find that your treads are level with these little blocks, your tyres need replacing.

Check tyre pressure

Tyres should be correctly inflated according to your vehicle's handbook. Remember that the pressure will need to be increased when the car’s fully laden, such as heading off on holiday with a car full of children, luggage, bikes and the dog.

As well as affecting your car's handling and braking performance, over- or under-inflated tyres will reduce their lifespan. Under-inflated tyres will also reduce the fuel efficiency of your car.

It’s a good idea to check tyre pressures as often as you fill your car with fuel. However, bearing in mind that most garages now charge for use of a tyre pressure gauge, why not buy your own device? Good brands offer electric pumps that plug in to the car’s 12 volt socket for as little as £10. That will pay for itself in no time and allows you to adjust tyre pressures at your convenience.

Tyre pressures are always quoted for cold tyres, so check them before starting out on a journey, not afterwards. Also check for any bulges, cuts or debris embedded in the rubber – if in doubt, consult a tyre fitter.

Choose the best replacement tyres

If you have to replace tyres, bear in mind it is illegal to put different types of tyres on the same axle as this will affect the vehicle’s safe roadholding. So stick to the same brand, and do your homework before having them fitted. Motoring magazines publish tyre tests that name the best performers, and you can shop around online to find tyres at the best price.

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