Let's face it, buying new tyres for your car isn't the most thrilling of tasks (unless you're a car fanatic), but it is a necessary one. After all, your tyres are the bit of the vehicle that actually touches the road and makes movement possible, so they’re a pretty fundamental part of the driving process – which means you should pay a lot of attention to their performance and capability. So what are the tell-tale signs of tired tyres?
Checking your tyres
Tyres become unsafe when they are worn and the tread falls below the legal requirement – this is 1.6mm across three-quarters of the tread width and around the entire circumference of the tyre. However, the tyre will actually become less effective at gripping the road before this point, so you're better off checking for when the tyre's tread gets to around 2mm to 3mm. To give you an idea of how this compares to a new tyre, the tread depth on a new tyre is around 8mm. Ideally, you should measure the tread every two weeks. It's important not to rely on guesswork though when doing this. Instead, the best and most accurate way of measuring the tyre's tread is to use a tread depth gauge.
Simply use it to check the depth of the main tread grooves in a number of different places across and around the tyre. This will only take a few minutes. If you don't have a gauge, you could use a 20p coin instead, but this method is less accurate. Place the coin into the tread and if the border around the edge of the coin is visible, the tyre needs replacing. It's also worth noting that most tyres now have tread wear indicators moulded into the base of the main grooves. Once the tread surface has worn down to the level of these indicators, it means the tyre has reached the legal limit and you'll need to replace it. You should also check your tyres for any other signs of wear and tear – such as bulges or cracks. If you spot any of these signs, get new tyres! If you’re having to pump up one of more of your tyres on a frequent basis, you’ve probably got a leaky valve or a slow puncture – again, this is a cause for action.
The dangers of bald tyres
If your tyres are bald – in other words, they are so worn down there is barely any tread left - get them replaced as soon as possible. If you don't change them, traction and braking ability will be reduced – particularly when it's raining or snowing. Driving with bald tires is very dangerous and it's simply not worth taking the risk.
Replacing your tyres
When it comes to buying new tyres for your vehicle, it's important to stick with the same size and type of tyre your car already has. You're also better off going with the same brand and tread pattern. Try to keep the tyres the same all around the car rather than having a mixture of brands. Check your car's handbook for guidance. It's usually a good idea to fit the best tyres on the rear of the car. If you're replacing the front tyres, you're better off moving the rear ones to the front and fitting the new tyres to the rear. You can buy tyres from an online seller, a car dealership or a specialist tyre supplier. It's a good idea to get quotes from a number of places to compare your options. Be aware, though, that while dealerships will often have the tyres your car requires, they may be more expensive.
Specialist tyre suppliers, on the other hand, are usually more open to haggling and you may be able to find an even better price online – although bear in mind that, if you need a tyre quickly, this might not be the best option. It's worth noting that on November 1, 2012 new European regulations came into force that mean most new tyres now carry a label to inform you about the tyre's wet grip, fuel efficiency and noise performance. The aim behind these changes is to improve road safety, reduce fuel consumption and reduce noise levels of traffic. The labels also help consumers to know which tyres are more economical before they buy. What's more, it's hoped that the changes will encourage manufacturers to produce tyres with better ratings - tyres are rated between A and G, with A being the best.