When you think about it, tyres are pretty much up there as one of the most significant parts of your vehicle. Why is that? Well simply put, you have four little contact patches that actually touch the road at any given time. Your tyres are it. Yet strangely they seem to frequently get neglected, with drivers doing nothing in the way of checks or understanding the basics behind a tyre. So, with that in mind here are some helpful hints and tips:
What types of tyre are there?
For most vehicles, you can get Summer tyres, Winter tyres, All weather tyres and even run flat tyres. Tyres for specific seasons are fine – as long as you have another set of wheels ready for when the opposite season hits. Run flat tyres have reinforced side walls allowing them to be driven on for a distance without the need to swap to a spare. They can however be expensive to replace and need to be paired with a TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System) by law.
You should aim to buy the best tyres that you can afford. It does not necessarily mean you should go for the most expensive tyre in the world however. You might find a speciality tyre (such as a Summer performance tyre) will cost a lot of money – but is that the right tyre choice for your family hatchback? Various websites will allow you to enter your registration to see what tyre was originally fitted (or indeed recommended). Alternatively, check the width, height and diameter listed on the side wall of your current tyres and you can then use a website such as Tyres Outlet to buy your new set. Consider an all weather tyre when you buy your next set – they might not last as long as specific Summer/Winter sets but it’ll save the faff of having two sets of wheels.
How to read the information on a tyre
The information on a tyre goes in a very specific order. It is as follows: width, height, type, diameter, load index, speed rating. An example on your side wall might be 195 65 R 15 79 H. For fitment of tyres, the part that you need to be concerned with is width, height and diameter. To make sure a tyre fits on your wheel/alloy, these measurements must be correct.
Where can I get tyres fitted?
It is not necessarily as straight forward as you think to get tyres fitted – not all garages can actually offer this service. An old school tyre fitter might use a tyre lever and some hard work, whereas some garages may newer machinery that will do the hard work without a fitter in sight. Either way, worry not. Kwik Fit and Halfords offer tyre fitting services and there are plenty of other companies that will even come to you to fit your new tyres. Your local mechanic might not be in a position to fit your tyres, but plenty of other garages or autocentres will do.
When and how should I replace tyres?
If it is apparent you have a puncture, if there is crazing or cracking or if the tread depth is below the legal minimum, you should replace your tyre(s). We would always recommend that you change both tyres of the same axle unless there are very specific circumstances. You may only replace one tyre for example if you have just driven out of the autocentre with a new tyre and find a nail in the sidewall. Otherwise, if general wear has taken place, replace both fronts or both rears. As a rule, we wouldn’t recommend going for a repaired/part worn tyre. Aside from it being a false economy, it just is not as safe an alternative to a new set of rubber. Damage may not be visble and you have literally no idea what sort of life the tyre has lived.
My tyres look ok but are old – should I replace them?
If you are running a car on very old tyres (say more than five years old) we’d recommend a replacement set. This may seem like an expensive indulgence, but rubber is soft. It degrades over time and can become prone to rips, tears and generally will lose condition. The last thing you want is to have a blow out on the motorway and a tyre is more likely to let go when it is under load/stress.
What do the EU markings mean?
Under the most recent EU directive, tyres have to display information relating to fuel efficiency, wet grip and noise levels. A higher fuel efficiency will mean better rolling resistance, hopefully saving you some pence per mile. Better wet grip will have shorter braking distances on wet roads. Lower noise levels will be indicated by fewer black waves on the chart. Less noise will mean more comfort on longer journeys.
If in doubt, please do have your tyres checked out. A good set of tyres will feel better on the road, provide greater fuel economy and ultimately due to better grip levels could even save your life. What price can you put on that?