Each winter we hear that we should check our tyres. But do you know exactly what to look out for and how to go about it? Many drivers don’t understand the importance of ensuring that tyres are in good working order, but the reality is that they have 4 critical functions:
- Maintaining steering and direction
- Acting as a shock absorber between you and the road
- Supporting the weight of the vehicle
- Providing grip on the road when braking and accelerating
So, what checks should we make?
Grooves in the tyre create tread and this helps to ensure grip between the wheel and the road. This is especially important when the road is wet and slippy as it helps to clear the water which builds between the surface of the road and tyres. A new tyre can clear as much as a bucket full of water every seven seconds! The legal minimum depth of tread is 1.6mm, however when this reaches 2mm or less you should consider renewing your tyres. The lower the level of tread, the less water that can be cleared from the tyres, and the more chance of skidding on the road.
You can check your tread depth simply at home, regardless of if you have a specific tread depth gauge or not. The outer rim of the 20p is approximately 2.6mm, so drivers can insert the coin into the tyre’s tread and gauge how much of the border remains exposed. If the border is completely hidden, tread depth is likely to be above the legal limit; if any more than the slightest amount of the coin’s rim is visible, the tread needs to be checked by a professional.
To ensure your vehicle has good contact with the road it is vital that tyres have the correct amount of air pressure. Incorrect tyre pressure can result in excessive wear and tear, poor fuel efficiency and general vehicle safety concerns.
You should check each tyre with a pressure gauge when the tyres are cold. The amount of air required depends on the make and model so check your vehicle handbook to learn the necessary level.
Damage to the inner or outer wall of your tyres is cause for serious safety concerns. It can be caused by many things including, potholes and uneven road surfaces, as well as extreme weather and temperatures. The vehicle sitting idle for long periods of time can cause just as much damage as long and frequent journeys so make sure to regularly check each tyre, including the spare wheel if you have one.
While it’s very important to check your tyres all throughout the year, tyres see more wear and tear in the winter due to the cold and wet road conditions.
Stuart Jackson, Chairman of tyre safety charity TyreSafe commented “Tyres are put to their ultimate test during winter and more than ever we depend on them to stay safe while driving. Regardless of whatever technological systems are fitted to the vehicle, it is only the tyres which are in contact with the road and provide the grip to turn braking, acceleration and steering adjustments into a change in speed or direction. If tyres are unroadworthy, the best driver in the world will be unable to stay in control of the vehicle in wintery conditions. No matter which type of tyre your vehicle is equipped with, during winter it’s essential you check they are all in good condition and you adjust your driving to the conditions.”