POLICE officers will now carry out routine visual checks on tyres to crack down on the frightening number of them being used in a dangerous state.
Other than driver error the three things that can kill you in a car are the tyres, the brakes and the steering. Of these, the only one we can all easily check in less than a minute or two are the tyres.
You can have all the safety systems in the world but if the tyres don’t grip the tarmac they are worthless.
When a tyre is going around the contact patch, the bit actually touching the road, is about the size of the palm of your hand and it is only those four little areas of rubber keeping you safe.
Tyre faults fall into three categories – wear and tread depth, incorrect pressure and damage.
Wear and Tread Depth.
Let’s start with this. The law states that there must be 1.6 mm tread depth across the central three quarters of the tyre.
Tread depth relates to the depth of the grooves, those bands cut around the rubber, and to see if it meets the minimum standard just pop a 20p coin into one. If you can see that raised edge around the coin your tyre is illegal because the groove is not deep enough to take enough of the coin. If you can’t the tread is deep enough and you’re fine.
For the central three quarters part, begin at the centre of the tyre and imagine it being the middle of three quarters across the surface.
Why do we need a deep tread?
Those grooves let the tyre cut through deep puddles and disperse the water to get to the tarmac underneath. If they aren’t deep enough, or if you are going too fast, the car will “aquaplane” which is where the tyre floats across the surface and effectively turns your car into a boat leaving you with no control over the steering or brakes. You may have experienced this if you have ever gone too fast over a puddle and felt the steering go light. If it happens on just one side of the car (normally the one nearest the side of the road rather than the centre) it can very easily cause you to veer off course.
Incorrect pressure can be equally dangerous and can also waste fuel.
Under-inflation is by far the most common problem and checking it could not be easier. As you walk towards the car just get used to looking at where the tyre rests on the ground. If the bit between the wheel rim and the ground looks more squashed than the top half then it needs a closer look.
Because of the weight of the car there will always be a little bit of squashing but if one tyre looks flatter than the others then it needs more air.
Checking and adjusting pressure.
If you look in the car’s handbook or on a little sticker sometimes visible when you open the front door, you will find the recommended tyre pressures measured in psi (pounds per square inch) or in bar.
If you don’t have a pressure gauge or foot pump at home, just about any fuel station will have both with instructions of how to use them. It usually takes less than a minute to put enough air in.
Lots of things can damage a tyre but the three most common are potholes, `kerbing’ and something like a nail going into it.
Potholes can have sharp edges and these will easily rip the tyre’s sidewalls. Kerbing is where you pinch the tyre against a pavement when parking which can cause a bulge in the sidewall. Both are easy to spot and need checking immediately at a garage or tyre fitter.
A foreign object like a nail can be much harder to spot but assuming it doesn’t cause an immediate puncture it can lead to a gradual loss of pressure which can be detected by performing the checks described in this blog.
It’s not all bad news because some cases can be repairable but often a replacement can be a better option for avoiding any further issues.
Do’s and Don’ts.
Do get into the habit of doing daily checks with the “flat bottom” test or looking for bulges in the side of the tyre as you walk up to it.
Don’t let air out in cold weather. Some drivers mistakenly think that having lower tyre pressures give better grip in icy or slippery conditions. It doesn’t, it just badly affects the handling which could be dangerous.
Because tyres are such a safety critical component the courts come down heavily on people driving around with dangerous ones.
A magistrate can hand down a fine of up to £2,500 and three points on your licence for a damaged tyre. That’s per tyre by the way!
Get your tyres checked at any Swansway Group dealership.