According to Michelin, 36% of UK drivers have dangerously under-inflated tyres. During a single national roadshow, over 4500 cars were checked, and just 34% had correctly inflated rubber – 6% had punctures.
Incorrectly inflated, bald or damaged tyres can lead to crashes and cost owners a fortune in wasted fuel – which is why you must check your tyres regularly.
How do I check my tyres?
In another survey by Continental Tyres, drivers under 25 are the ones least likely to ever bother checking their car’s tyre pressures; almost half of under-25s never bother. But get caught with illegal tyres and you could be stung for a £2500 fine and get three points on your licence – and that’s for each defective tyre. Plus sub-standard tyres leads to increased fuel consumption.
In your car’s handbook you’ll find what pressure your tyres should be; the info is often on one of the front door shuts, inside the glove box or on the back of the sun visor. Spending five minutes checking your tyres every couple of weeks might just save your life.
- Make sure your tyres are cold by doing these checks before you drive it anywhere. Start by parking the car on level ground.
- Finish by checking each tyre’s pressure when ‘cold’ – that is, when you’ve driven less than two miles. You’ll need a gauge for this; you can buy one for a tenner or the air machines at garages have one built in. The correct pressures will be in the car’s handbook, or may be on a sticker on one of the door jambs. Don’t forget to check the spare wheel, too.
- Check all the way round each tyre for damage such as cuts, bulges and nails or screws. For this it might be easiest to have a friend drive the car slowly backwards and forwards.
- Look for uneven tyre wear, which could be a sign of a problem. You can always drop in and ask for advice at a reputable tyre fitter, who will normally give advice for free.
- Next see how much tread is left – if the tyre has worn unevenly there’s a problem that needs expert attention. Look for the small blocks set every so often within the tread; when these are flush, the tyre needs replacing as it’s down to the 1.6mm legal limit. You should replace tyres in pairs ideally.
- To quickly check a tyre’s tread depth, insert a 20p coin into the tread grooves. If the outer rim of the coin is covered by the tread, your tyres are OK, but if the outer rim is visible, you need fresh rubber.
For more tips on tyre safety, log on to tyresafe.org.
How to change a wheel
You just know that if you get a puncture, it’ll be at the most inconvenient time, when you’re in a mad rush to get somewhere. The last thing you’ll want to have to do is hang around, waiting for somebody to come to your rescue – which is why you need to get to grips with doing the job yourself.
Of course the best thing to do is to avoid getting a puncture in the first place; maintaining your tyres properly could make all the difference. But if you do get caught out, here’s what to do. Start by ensuring that the items below are in your boot. Get a puncture in the middle of nowhere, and if you’re missing any of these, you’re stranded:
- A jack
- A wheelbrace
- A spare wheel with a correctly inflated spare tyre
- It’s also worth carrying some hand wipes or rubber gloves, plus a bin bag to carry the damaged wheel and tyre in your boot. Keeping the owner’s manual in the car could also be useful, and we’d recommend carrying a hazard warning triangle too.
Step one: safety
Park your vehicle on level ground as far away from traffic as possible, and if you’ve got a hazard warning triangle, place it 20-30 feet behind your car. If it’s dark, ensure you’re wearing a high-vis jacket and using a torch. If near traffic, turn on your hazard lights. Any passengers should also get out of the car, and any heavy luggage will need to be removed.
Step two: removing the wheel
Remove the wheel cover or centre cap (if fitted), to gain access to the wheel nuts, and give each one a couple of turns with your wheel wrench, to loosen them. Then place your jack under the jacking point nearest the wheel – these points vary from vehicle to vehicle and will be indicated in your owner’s manual, so it’s important to know where they are ahead of time. Failure to place the jack properly can cause damage to the car and may provide an unstable lift. Turn the jack handle clockwise until you’ve raised the wheel completely off the ground. Remove the wheel nuts and remove the tyre.
Step three: fitting the spare wheel
Fit the replacement wheel and tighten all the wheel nuts with your fingers. We’ve assumed there are five wheelnuts, but if there are just four, ignore nut number 5 as shown here. To ensure perfect alignment, you should tighten the nuts further (but not fully) in the following order either clockwise or anti-clockwise: first, third, fifth, second, fourth (if drawn out, the order looks like a five pointed star, as shown to the left).
Step four: finishing up
Lower the car by turning the jack handle anti-clockwise until the wheel is resting on the ground and the jack can be removed. Give those nuts a last turn (using the same pattern above) to ensure everything is secure, and make sure you pack everything back into the boot.
This article was brought to you in association with Nationwide Vehicle Contracts.