Your tyres are an essential and critical element of car safety. We ask a lot of them; they are the only part of your vehicle that provides contact with the road and they have to bear the entire weight of your car. As the tyre wears out the handling of your car and its grip will change and this will reduce your safety. It doesn’t take long or much skill to check your tyres and spot when they need to be replaced you just need to know what to look for. Certain types of tyre wear can indicate other problems with your car so learn how to spot them so you don’t get ripped off by a garage.
How often should I check my tyres?
It is recommended that you inspect your tyres for wear once a month as well as every time before you set off for a long trip and once you are back home. Every kind of irregular tyre wear points to a specific ‘deteriorating’ factor that you should sort out.
Signs of wear and how to sort them out
Both edges are worn – this means your tyres are kept underinflated most of the time. Adjust pressure in all four tyres according to the recommendations left by the manufacturer (see them in your car manual or on a sticker in the driver door jam or under the petrol cap). You should also check tyres for leaks to prevent under-inflation caused by air loss. At first, eliminate such common leak factors as a nail that has pierced the tyre or an ill-fitting wheel rim. If they are ruled out but you still lose air in a tyre, check your tyre valve for flaws.
One side is worn more than another – this means your wheels are poorly aligned. You should have a mechanic check your wheels and align them using special equipment.
Centre wear – it means the tyre is systematically overinflated. This condition is dangerous because of the risk of a blowout. Deflate the tyre to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Unevenly worn tyre with a saw tooth tread (when you look from the side) – points to a bad rotation performance and wheel misalignment, see a mechanic.
Bald spots randomly scattered on the tread – mean your wheels are misaligned and the shocks are worn. Get your car checked by a mechanic and inspect your shocks for wear (and make a replacement if needed).
Front tyres are worn on edges – you are probably a passionate driver loving fast turns. Just slow down on corners!
Sidewall is damaged. Although they don’t directly contact the road, sidewalls often get damaged by kerbs and road debris. Look for signs such as bubbles, bulges, scuffed areas, holes or slits. Also, check if the tyre is fitted snugly and evenly on the wheel rim.
Treadwear indicators are noticeable. These indicators (bars of hard rubber embedded into the tread) are normally invisible, so if you see them, it means it’s high time to get this tyre replaced with a new one. Although some tyre manufacturers insist that a tyre must be replaced when its tread depth reaches 3mm, the law sets the minimum treat depth at 1.6mm in the UK. The tread must meet this requirement in the central 75% of the tyre’s width along the whole circumference. You can refer to the government’s tyre safe website to see how to use a 20p coin to check your tread depth.