Many drivers may think that tyre pressure and depth are not of great importance. In fact, according to the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association, 64% of drivers do not know how to check their tyres’ tread depth, and a further 85% do not know how to check their tyre pressure.
Checking and maintaining tyres on a regular basis is a quick and simple task and can greatly increase safety on the road. Government statistics show that 6% of all fatal motorway accidents in the UK can be attributed to under-inflated tyres.
Worn tyres with lower than the recommended tread depth, reduce the vehicle’s capability to brake, potentially doubling stopping distances and increasing the likelihood of an incident, particularly in wet conditions. When it is raining, tread grooves have to clear large amounts of water on the road’s surface. If tyres have insufficient tread depth or the car is travelling too fast for the water to be cleared, a layer of water may build up between the road surface and the tyre, causing the vehicle to aquaplane and be difficult to control.
It is important for all four tyres to have a similar tread depth, as a front-rear tyre tread imbalance can also affect handling of the vehicle.
Another key aspect to maintaining tyres is checking the pressure regularly. Having under-inflated tyres not only reduces the life span of the tyre, increasing wear, but it is also likely to increase fuel consumption and cause issues in handling the vehicle.
Tyres that are inflated too much or too little can easily lead to a tyre blow-out, particularly in hot temperatures, where the tyre punctures and effectively explodes, causing the car to unbalance and swerve. It is therefore of even more importance to check tyre pressure in severe temperatures, before a long journey or when carrying a particularly heavy load.
If a tyre blow-out occurs, it is generally best to hold the steering wheel firmly and let the car slow down by itself if there is space to do so. Pushing your foot harshly on the brake is likely to cause the car to spin.
If you notice that one tyre has a significantly lower pressure than the others, it may be a small puncture and you should seek technical advice. If you have suffered a tyre puncture, drive only a short distance to a safe place to stop. Drive slowly and cautiously as your car will lose stability, particularly as the air pressure lowers. It is also important to remember that repairable tyre punctures can become irreparable if driven on.
Maintaining safe tyres is not only important for your and other road users’ safety, but it is also a legal requirement. Having faulty tyres can invalidate insurance or lead to a fine being given by law enforcement.
Checking tread depth
- Check tread depth monthly;
- Check the tread depth of all four tyres, and your spare in two places along each groove;
- Remember the legal requirement is generally 1.6mm, though this can vary, particularly in winter models.
Checking your tyre pressure
- Check tyre pressure at least once a month, when the tyres are cold; and
- Consult your operating manual or the inside of your car door for the recommended tyre pressure for your make and model.
Safe driving tips
- Inspect wheel nuts and valve caps regularly;
- Do not overload your vehicle, consult your manual for recommended load limit;
- Have the wheel alignment checked regularly by a professional;
- Check for damage such a bulging, cuts or tears on all tyres;
- Seek advice from a professional, should you notice any irregular tread wear or damage as soon as identified;
- Keep two hands on the wheel, ensuring you are able to maintain control, should a blow-out occur;
- Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front, ensuring you can see any foreign objects on the road which could cause tyre damage; and
- If you must drive in icy or snowy conditions, have winter tyres fitted to improve tyre grip.