How to look after your tyres
In 2019 the Department of Transport found that there were 459 road accidents in the UK where poorly kept tyres were a contributing factor.
As well as being unsafe to drive on, not taking care of your tyres can make you more likely to suffer tyre punctures, blowouts, and suffer damage to your car’s suspension.
To help ensure that this does not happen to you, here are the key ways that you can look after your tyres, as well as some ways that you can diagnose tyre problems early.
There are three key ways that you can properly maintain your tyres. These are:
- Regularly checking the pressure of your tyres and keeping them fully inflated.
- Keeping an eye on your tyre tread depth, and ensuring that this does not fall under 4/32 of an inch.
- Having your tyres rotated every 3000-5000 miles.
We are now going to explain how to do each of these three things.
Checking your tyre pressure and keeping them properly inflated
Having underinflated tyres lowers your vehicle’s stopping distance and makes your tyres more prone to punctures and blowouts. You should therefore check your tyre pressure once a month and keep them inflated according to your car’s manual.
The only way that you can accurately check your tyre’s pressure is with a tyre pressure gauge. These can be purchased for around £15. Just stick the gauge into the valve stem of the tyre to check its pressure.
Tyre pressure should always be checked when tyres are “cold” (meaning that they have not been driven on in the last hour), as heat can increase the pressure inside a tyre, leading to an inaccurate reading. For the same reason, you should check your tyre pressure if there has been a dramatic (over 5 degrees Celsius) increase or decrease in pressure.
If your tyres have become underinflated, there are air pumps at most petrol stations where you can inflate them. Remember to take your tyre pressure gauge with you to ensure that you have pumped your tyres to the optimal inflation.
Keeping an eye on your tyre tread depth
Tyre tread depth refers to the vertical difference between the top surface of your tyre’s rubber and the bottom of the tyre’s grooves. The depth of these grooves is what determines the grip that your tyre offers you, so if these grooves become too shallow, then your tyres will be dangerous to drive on.
Tyre tread depth is measured in millimeters, with the minimum recommended depth being 1.6 millimeters.
There are two ways that you can measure the depth of a tyre’s tread. They are:
- The 20p test. Put a 20p coin in the shallowest groove of your tyre. If the outer band of the 20p is covered by the tyre, then you have enough tread depth to drive on. If not then your tyre needs to be replaced.
- Looking out for the tread warning bar on your tyre. Most tyres have raised rubber bars in the tread of a tyre that become visible when your tread is dangerously low. Look out for these when you inspect your tyres.
Illustration of a tyre with tread depth bars highlighted. Image source: https://www.kwik-fit.com/blog/tyre-tread-depth-take-the-20p-test
Rotating your tyres
Rotating your tyres means swapping your front and rear tyres over. This is done because front and rear tyres wear on different areas, and rotating them ensures that no one part of the tyre’s surface wears too heavily.
Rotating tyres is best done by a mechanic and should be done once every 3000-5000 miles driven.
The importance of inspecting your tyres and diagnosing issues
As well as performing basic tyre maintenance like keeping them at proper inflation and making sure that their tread is deep enough, you should also inspect your tyres once every three months, as this can help you diagnose if there are any underlying issues with your tyres before this leads to a problem like a blowout.
The best way to inspect your tyres is to park your car with the steering wheel turned so your wheels point either to the left or right. This allows you to see the full width of your tyre under the body of your car.
When inspecting your tyres, you want to look out for two things:
- The overall wear of your tyre, checking if the wear is uneven.
- Whether there are specific weaknesses in your tyre such as cracks or bulges.
There are certain types of uneven wear that you should look out for, as they indicate underlying issues with your tyres. These are:
Excessive wear in the centre of the tyre: If your tyre is more worn in the middle of the tyre tread than on the inside or outside, then this may indicate that your tyre is overinflated. Check your tyre pressure and cross-reference this with the recommended pressure in your car’s manual. A mechanic may need to help you let air out of your tyres.
Excessive wear on the outside of your tyres: Conversely, if your tyres are more worn on the outer edges of your tyre tread than in the middle of it then this generally means that your tyres are underinflated.
“Feathered” tyres: Feathered tyres are where the tread wear on your tyres is uneven across a whole tyre. It is hard to see but can be identified by running your hand across a tyre. If your tyre tread is rounded on one side, but sharp on the other side, then this likely indicates feathered tyres.
Feathered tyres can indicate problems with wheel alignment or suspension. It is worth taking your car to a mechanic if you notice this.
“Cupped tyres”: Cupped tyres refer to tyres that have large, irregular patches of uneven wear. This differs from feathered tyres as feathered tyres have uniform uneven wear across the tyre. If your tyres have patches that are clearly more worn than the majority of the tyre then this can indicate problems with your suspension and you should take your car to a mechanic.
Example of cupped tyre. Image source: https://anewwayforward.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/What-causes-tire-cupping-1.jpg
Damaged tyres are both a danger in themselves and can act as a “canary in the coalmine” for other issues with your car.
Regular maintenance and inspection of your tyres can therefore make you a much safer driver and save you money by nipping other problems with your car in the bud.
This article was written by Mike Skoropad, Co-founder and CEO of tyre retailer United Tires