When you buy a new or used car, the salesperson will often guide you through its features so you know which buttons operate what. They may even sync your smartphone or save your favourite radio stations for you.
Yet the car’s tyres typically don’t get a mention at all.
We find this alarming.
The tyres on your car are its only link with the road, so that makes them its most important safety feature. And with many accidents caused by faults in tyres, you can lower the risk of making a car insurance claim simply by knowing how to care for them.
Here’s a back to basics guide…
Check the air pressure regularly
If your tyre looks a little flat, then the chances are it’s extremely flat.
It takes a lot for a tyre to look low on air because it has a tough construction designed to withstand all the forces acting upon it at speed.
The air pressure in tyres should be checked every time you fill the car with fuel, or more regularly if you don’t use the car much. Ideally, the tyre should feel cool to the touch, so check them after you’ve finished at the petrol pumps.
If you’ve never checked the air pressure in a tyre before (and you’re not quite sure how to) read the car’s handbook. It may not be a riveting read, but it will tell you what to do and lists the required air pressure for your car’s tyres. The size of a tyre is written on its sidewall, although this visual guide from Bridgestone may also be useful.
When you reach the local petrol station, unscrew the dust cap on the valve that is protruding from the car’s wheel. You can then attach the airline to the valve and a dial will tell you the current pressure of the tyre. Inflate it to the recommended setting, and once finished screw on the dust cap. It’s important you don’t lose the dust cap because they offer valuable protection for the delicate innards against the dust and dirt thrown up by the road.
Check the tyres’ tread depth
The tread of a tyre is rather like the tread of a running shoe or walking boot: the more tread you have, the better the hold on the surface you’re tackling.
As the tyres cover more miles, this tread will wear down. However, the car, driver, environment and weather conditions can all affect how long they last. One way to ensure they last as long as possible is to keep the pressure of the air at the correct level.
Tyre makers such as Goodyear say it’s a good idea to check the tread depth of a tyre once a month. First, visually inspect the points of the tyre that are visible, at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions. Then move the car forward slightly, switch off the engine, reapply the handbrake and look at the areas of the tyre that were hidden from view before.
Check there aren’t any screws, nails or other pieces of debris lodged that could cause a puncture. Then ensure that the tread has not dropped as low as the little ridges that sit in the channels between the tread. These ridges are there to warn drivers when the minimum legally permitted tread depth (1.6mm) has been reached.
However, you may wish to change the tyres before it gets to that point. In which case, take a 20 pence piece and insert it into the grooves between the tread. If the coin’s raised outer edge is visible, the tyre needs replacing.
How maintaining tyres can prevent accidents
You shouldn’t underestimate the importance of having good tyres.
The correct level of air inside them supports the weight of your car and acts as a spring when absorbing road shocks, while good traction improves your braking force and helps steer the vehicle correctly.
Keeping your tyres in good condition will help reduce the risk of an accident. So if you’re still unsure or don’t feel confident, just pop into your local garage or tyre fitters and ask them for advice on how to look after them correctly.