As the only points of contact that your vehicle has with the road surface, keeping your tyres at the optimum pressure, tread depth and general condition is of the utmost importance.
In this episode we guide you through the checks that you should regularly perform on your car…. Tyre pressures, where to find the manufacturer’s recommended pressures, and how to pump up your tyres when needed…. Tyre tread depth to help you stop in an emergency… and looking for cracks and damage…
Your car’s tyres are one of the simplest things that you can check for yourselves. You need minimal toolkit and you don’t even need to lift the bonnet!
So, why is it so important that you car’s tyres are kept in good condition?
Your contact patch with the road in ANY weather conditions is just four hand spans of rubber… like that. That’s all there is keeping you and your family safe at motorway speeds in your vehicle. Well maintained tyres will keep you both safe and legal. Poorly maintained tyres could cause steering problems… braking problems… could even end up upside down in a ditch. You want to be both SAFE and LEGAL.
The law requires that each of your tyres, including the spare, has at least 1.6mm of tread depth. Now, that has to be for the 75% of the central area of the tyre and around the complete tyre A fine and points can apply for each tyre that fails that test. The deeper the tyre tread the more quickly the car will stop in an emergency. Conversely, the less tread you have, the longer it will take to stop.
RoSPA, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, recommends that a safe minimum tread depth for your tyres is 3mm. Now, how do you gauge that? Well, a lot of people will suggest that a 20 pence coin is a good way because the rim on a 20 pence coin is about 2mm give or take a little. So, if that’s safely hidden in your tyre tread, then you’re still legal. Various tyre tread depth gauges are easily available, they cost just a few pounds and they allow you to measure the tyre tread depth safely, precisely and accurately.
The general condition of the tyres is equally as important as tread depth. Any cracks or damage to the side walls or to the tread itself… Cuts in the tread… Remember that kerb you nudged while parking at the supermarket? These things happen. If you find any damage at all go to a tyre specialist. Let them take a look at the tyre. They can tell you whether it’s safe or not.
Ideally you should make these tyre checks at least once a month. Better still, if you check your car on a weekly basis, as we’re recommending, check them then as well.
As a brief aside on selecting tyres, there are a huge range of tyres on the market, so check your handbook to ensure you buy the right size and the right speed rating for your car. We would always suggest that you buy the best tyre you can afford. They will always prove to be worth every penny. We would also recommend that when considering tyre choices you don’t buy remould tyres. Yes, they’re cheaper…. but all of those bits of rubber you see strewn around the motorways, those are remould tyres that have failed in use. Don’t risk your life on those tyres.
So now we know our tyres are safe, they’re legal… The next thing we need to do is check the tyre pressures. Why do we need to do that? We need to make sure that the pressures remain correct, the contact patch we present to the road is the best we can achieve, and the rolling resistance gives us the best fuel consumption.
Your car’s manufacturer will have worked out what the best tyre pressures are for your car. Depending on the make of your car, you will find this information in your car’s handbook or on a label on the vehicle itself, usually on the driver’s door edge or surround or inside the fuel filler flap. These figures are for when a tyre is cold, so checks are best done when the car hasn’t been used within the last half an hour.
First check the tyres’ size that is fitted to your car. In this case, 195/55 R 15 V. So, now we know the tyre size let’s go and try and find the label just inside the door, which will indicate, somewhere usually on the door surround, the correct tyre pressure for your load and for the size of tyres fitted to the car.
So, this is a typical tyre label. You note that it shows front and rear tyres. Be careful, sometimes they’re different pressures. It shows your tyre size, so you’ve got a double check there, and it shows, for the load, the pressures you want… The pressures are, for example, 2.1 BAR, 30 PSI, 210 kilopascals. Not too many people use the last one, the first two BAR and PSI reading are very common. And the small label just recommends… “Read the book”.
You can check your tyre pressures at home quite easily using either a digital or a mechanical tyre pressure gauge. And then, if you need to, you can inflate to the correct pressure using an electric or manual footpump.
But, there is a much easier way!
So, typical garage forecourt, typical garage forecourt machine. Ideally, pull up along side it, and as close to it as you can. Makes life a little bit easier. And don’t forget, Switch off engine.
So, typical tyre forecourt machine. The first thing you’ll notice is that you’re going to need some money. Rarely are these things free anymore. This one, very reasonably, starts at 20p for 2 minutes. A lot of them are minimum 50p spend these days. You have to set your tyre pressures and there are a number of features on the machine. We’ll come back to those in a minute.
But, before we do that, time is money… Let’s go round and take all the dust caps off. Now, it pays to go round the car and take them all off in one go, and to put them somewhere safe. Put them in your pocket. Put them somewhere in the car. Most of these machines are both tyre pressure and water which means they often have a drain nearby and these things have a habit of disappearing down the drain. Keep them somewhere safe.
So, noting the pressures we’ve looked up earlier we need 30 PSI. So, + or – is fairly easily set. Just press the button to the pressure we want. Now, if you have no other information I think for small cars we would suggest 28 PSI all round. For medium sized family cars perhaps 30 or 32 PSI. And for a much larger car 34 or 36 PSI. But, if you have to do that, check the proper tyre pressures as soon as you can afterwards.
You can set either BAR or PSI, whichever you’re familiar with. If the tyre is almost flat, push the button which overrides the pressure setting and will just fill the tyre to its capacity. But, if you have a flat tyre due to a puncture we’ll guide you through what to do in a separate video.
So, before you put the coins in, a little tip. You might want to take one of the rubber car mats out of the car and use it to kneel on. It’ll save the knees a little bit. It might also save your best clothes picking up all the dust off the forecourt.
Right, time to put some coins in. Compressor started… Draw the hose out to where you need it and place it quite firmly onto the tyre valve. You’ll need to push so that it doesn’t hiss and then the air is going in and there’s a beeper when it reaches the pressure. You don’t need to be able to see it. It’ll beep. There we are, it’s beeped so we’re up to 30 PSI and we can come off.
Do remember that the tyre pressures on your front tyres and your rear tyres might be different. As you move around the car adjust the tyre pressures on the machine accordingly.
Well, that’s taken about five minutes. Now, don’t forget the spare tyre even if it’s a space saver check it in the boot. Bare in mind if it’s a space saver, the pressure might be a bit different so do check in your car maker’s handbook.
When you’re finished, return the nozzle to the machine and replace all of the dust caps.
So that’s taken, as I say, just a few minutes. Your car is now safe because all your tyres are at the correct pressure. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.