Car tyre maintenance: Winter-proofing your tyres to drive safer
Published on 2nd November 2015 in Tyre Tips
Winter can be the ultimate test on tyres, with ever-changing conditions constantly challenging the skills of the driver when accelerating, steering and braking. So to ensure the safest ride on the roughest roads when the weather is particularly challenging, car tyre maintenance is a critical factor.
Conscious as ever of maximum safety for drivers, we’ve put together some surprisingly simple car tyre care checks below, all of which will help preserve tyre longevity, reduce fuel consumption, meet the legal requirements, and prepare you for when the temperature dips.
According to statistics released earlier this year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the fatalities in car accidents have fallen by more than a third over the past three years. Yet sadly, tyre-related accidents are increasing. Industry experts agree that the key contributor is the lack of car tyre maintenance by drivers, many of whom think that their vehicle’s ability to glide over roads in the ice, snow, rain and fog is a given.
Fatalities in car accidents have fallen by more than a third over the past three years. Yet sadly, tyre-related accidents are increasing.
Safety-conscious motorists are all too aware that just four strips of rubber are all that stand between them and the road, so driving with a low-quality, worn out or under-inflated tyres poses a serious risk. But as well as reducing the a car’s comfort ride quality, a tyre (incorrectly inflated or worn) can have a huge impact on stopping distances, grip levels, fuel efficiency and fuel consumption. Being caught by the authorities with one or more defective tyre is also a criminal offence.
Checking vehicle tyres regularly is an absolute must to improve road safety as well as comfort for both driver and passengers. Here are some simple tips to put into practice as winter approaches.
Check pressure regularly
As it gets colder, the temperature will affect tyre pressures. Too much or too little air pressure will affect performance and durability, as well as increasing the chances of your tyres being punctured - especially when exposed to bumps, potholes or unexplained dangerous objects on the road. When checking tyres, always refer to the drivers handbook or look on the inside of the fuel-filler / door shuts for the exact pressure requirements for your car. It’s also worthwhile investing in a digital tyre pressure gauge, as they’re typically more accurate than those found on petrol station forecourts. Ideally, check your tyre pressures at least once a week as part of your car maintenance or cleaning routine.
Seek out cuts and bulges
It should be noted that tyres have no average life span; it solely depends on usage, load, maintenance, pressure, speed and driving style. A simple check on each tyre is all you need to spot problematic cracks, cuts or bulges in the sidewall or tread. Should you notice any type of damage, or discover whilst driving that the steering wheel vibrates or the tyres slip when accelerating, braking and cornering - address these concerns with a local expert listed on the IMI Professional Register. Equally important is checking your spare tyre - you never know when you may need it.
Measure tread depth
The tread of the tyre helps to disperse the water on the road and reduce the chance of your car aquaplaning when driving in wet conditions. Whilst the legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm, many industry experts suggest replacing tyres when the tread depth reaches 3mm or lower in order to stay safe. Tread wear indicators, which are used to visually inspect the tyre tread for wear, are typically located in the main tread grooves, however, a dedicated tread depth gauge is an easy-to-use and inexpensive tool that ensures the tread depth is measured accurately and your tyres are legal. Checking tread on a monthly basis as part of your car tyre maintenance plan will increase performance and avoid possible prosecution.
Keep balanced and aligned
Wheel balancing plays a key role in car tyre care by preventing premature wear to components of the suspension, the steering and wheel bearings. Wheel balancing can also affect the steering (normally felt by the driver as a vibration) and improve the comfort of your vehicle for both driver and passengers. One of the best times to have your wheels balanced is when you are replacing tyres, especially tyres that will see you safely through the winter. Equally relevant is checking that your car wheels and axles are correctly aligned; if not, your car could pull to the left or right, cause wearing of the tyres, and compromise you and your passengers’ safety. Both wheel balancing and wheel alignment problems can normally be solved quickly, so visit a specialist listed on the IMI Professional Register if anything appears troublesome.
Be fuel aware
Tyres are contributable to the ‘rolling resistance’ of a car and therefore its fuel consumption. Any energy lost when a tyre is rotating directly impacts fuel consumption, the CO2 emissions, the environment, and also your wallet. In a bid to steer motorists towards so-called low rolling resistance tyres, legislation introduced by the EU in November 2012 states that all road vehicle tyres must display a label identifying three key areas: wet braking performance, noise (measured in decibels) and fuel efficiency (measured as rolling resistance) on a scale from A (best) to G (worst). If you need to buy new tyres, this car tyre guide could save you around 80 litres of fuel each year.
Be winter tyre savvy
Probably the most buzzed-about two words in the tyre world are winter tyres. Winter tyres make driving at temperatures of below 7°C considerably safer and aid driver car control. Here’s the techie bit – designed with a higher content of natural rubber that allows them to retain flexibility in cold weather, they have deeper tread grooves and handle vastly better than other tyres in thick snow, slush, ice and frost. Whilst winter tyres (sometimes referred to as snow tyres) are compulsory in other parts of Europe, they’re not mandatory in the UK and viewed by many as a luxury item. Granted, it is an additional expense initially to own two sets of tyres (winter as well as summer), but as the temperatures dip, winter tyres can be a real game-changer in helping drivers in difficult winter driving conditions.