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You probably don’t regularly check your car tyres. Well, actually, you might do it with religious fervour for all I know, but my guess would be that you probably don’t.
I mean, even with the best will in the world, it’s going to slip ever further down the to-do list for most of us…
But figures from the Department for Transport might just make you change your mind about this particular aspect of vehicle maintenance.
Did you know, for example, that out of a total of 2,855 casualties caused by defective vehicles in 2013, dangerous tyres were cited as a contributory factor in 968 cases, or one third?
Worse, out of 43 deaths on the road from vehicle defects, 18 were caused by illegal, defective or under-inflated tyres – that’s more than 40%.
Nearly half of the tyre-related casualties were on A-roads and the highest number was recorded in the south east of England, accounting for 23%.
So it’s a really good idea to make sure your tyres are up to scratch. Which means…
- your tyres should be the correct size and type for your vehicle – check your manual
- they should also be in good shape, so use your common sense: no tears, gouges, scars, lumps or other characteristics that make you go “What the…?”
- they should also be pumped up to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure – and checked every couple of weeks. You’ll find the numbers in your manual, and there’ll probably be a chart at the airpump on the forecourt
- always check the pressure when the tyres are cold and make sure you modify the pressure if you are carrying an unusually heavy load
- depending on your car, you might also need to adjust your pressure according to the time of year (as air pressure changes according to the ambient temperature)
- the details of the correct pressure are usually found in the handbook or inside the petrol flap. Alternatively, you can search on websites such as www.kwik-fit.com.
There are several reasons why the correct tyre pressure is important. First, it can lengthen the life of your tyres, no bad thing when you consider the cost. Next up the right tyre pressure can also improve road handling and fuel economy.
Get a grip
You then need to get to grips with the tyre tread. The law requires car drivers to have at least 1.6mm of tread depth on their tyres, although you should ideally replace the tyres before the tread gets too worn down.
A car with a 1.6 mm tread will stop eight metres after a car with a tread of 3mm travelling at 50 mph in wet weather – and that eight metres could save a life.
Run for cover
If you drive with defective tyres, you could invalidate your insurance. It would not then pay out in the event of a claim. Plus, you risk a fine and penalty points if you don’t look after your tyres.
Anyone with defective or illegal tyres can be issued with a fixed penalty notice.
In the worst case scenario, you could end up a court with a possible fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points.
The 20p test is a quick and easy way to check your tyre tread. Simply insert a 20p coin into the main tread grooves of the tyre. If the outer rim of the 20p coin is obscured, then the tread is above the legal minimum depth. If you can see the outer edge of the coin, the tyre is possibly unsafe or illegal and should be inspected by a tyre professional immediately.
Spare a thought…
When it comes to your spare tyre, you don’t actually have to carry a one in your car – and if you do, it doesn’t have to meet the legal standards when it is stowed away.
However, if you want the fall-back of using your spare tyre in an emergency, perhaps following a puncture, it’s a good idea to check it regularly so that you know it will be roadworthy if and when you need it.
Some vehicles are fitted with mini spares, which are designed to take up less room in the boot. Beware though, as they are not intended to be driven for long periods or at high speeds.
Winter tyres are designed specifically for use in low temperatures and can improve road safety. However, there is no legal requirement to fit winter tyres in the UK.