Tyre maintenance basics

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. 

Get caught with illegal tyres and you could be stung for a £2500 fine and get three points on your licence

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. 

How to check your tyres

  • 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.

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Top tip
For more tips on tyre safety, log on to tyresafe.org.