Checking the pressures of your tyres regularly is a simple and effective way to help look after them. If tyres are underinflated, they can overheat; if they’re overinflated, a car’s handling can be adversely affected.
The wrong pressure can also mean tyres wear more and unevenly, needing to be replaced more often, while more fuel will be used up. Both of these add up to extra costs for owners, while CO2 emissions can also increase, leading to more environmental impact.
So check your tyre pressures every week, or ahead of a long trip when your car might be loaded down with people, luggage or both. Your car might have a tyre pressure monitoring system which tells you the pressure of each tyre on the dashboard display, but it’s still worth physically checking them, as a back-up.
The correct tyre tread is legally mandated in the UK, with a tread depth of 1.6mm – measured across the central three-quarters of the tyre’s width and around its full circumference – required by law. Not adhering to the law could cost you three penalty points on your licence and a £2500 fine. That’s for each faulty tyre, so having four faulty tyres could lose you your licence in one fell swoop and cost you £10,000.
To check that you’re within the law, you can just use a 20p coin. Place it inside the main tread groove of the tyre and, if you can’t see the outer band of the coin, there’s enough tread. Do this at three different places to make sure that the tyre’s tread is even all the way around.
It’s also important to drive with the right tyres for the time of year. That means switching to winter tyres for the coldest months. Winter tyres are safer once temperatures drop to 7˚C, not just when there’s snow and ice on the ground. Our dealers can store your summer tyres for you until the time comes to switch back, and look after your winter tyres in the summer.
Tyres can become damaged in any number of ways: rubbing or pinching when parking at a kerb and driving over a pothole are two obvious ones. Sidewalls can become cracked, while bulges or blisters can hint at serious damage that could potentially lead to a blowout. Regular checks can help spot these and avoid problems.
The law says that you must change tyres before the tread gets to 1.6mm. Many motoring organisations, however, err on the generous side of caution and suggest that you make the switch at 3mm. That’s all well and good as a way to promote safety, but it could be a policy that results in a lot of decent rubber being thrown into landfill unnecessarily – and will cost owners a lot of money in buying new tyres when they don’t need to.
If you do have to change tyres, try to buy them in pairs, or as a complete set of four. It’s not necessary to stick with the brand of tyre recommended by the manufacturer, but the two front tyres or two rear tyres should match (same brand, tread pattern, dimensions and ratings), enabling you to drive around, safe in the knowledge that they perform identically.