When should I replace my car tyres?
All too often we don’t even consider checking and replacing our tyres until either our annual MOT raises an issue or the tyre sustains an irreparable puncture. Unfortunately, tyre replacement can be expensive but is vital for our safety on the roads. In colder temperatures, old tyres provide less traction preventing the tyres from gripping the road as well as they should.
So how do you know when to change your tyres? Below we explore the different factors that you should be checking for so you are not changing tyres unnecessarily.
One of the most obvious reasons for changing a tyre is due to signs of damage. If you find that your tyre is completely flat you will need to seek professional advice to see if it can be repaired, if not then a replacement will be required.
Punctures can occur from objects penetrating the rubber embedding themselves into the tyre or causing cuts. A replacement tyre is not always necessary as some objects can be removed and the tyre repaired depending on where in the tyre the puncture occurs. Do not try and remove the objects yourself, always seek professional help so the object can be removed and the tyre repaired safely.
Unfortunately, not all types of damage are obvious; slow punctures can cause air to leak from the tyres over time, if you find that you are having to increase the tyre pressures regularly then this could be a sign of a slow puncture and will need to be checked by a professional. Modern cars may have TPMS (Tyre pressure monitoring system) fitted which are sensors on the tyres which trigger when the pressure gets too low, this illuminates a warning light on the dashboard. Driving on tyres with incorrect pressures is dangerous as it affects traction, stability and wear as well as increasing fuel consumption.
Regrettably, not all punctures can be repaired, if the tyre has sustained structural damage this will be deemed unsafe and a replacement tyre will be required.
Related: Puncture repairs
Other forms of damage include bulges forming in the tyre, either within the sidewalls or within the tread area. This could be due to a manufacturing issue, low air pressure or overloading the tyre if this is the case, the tyre will need replacing.
Wear and Tear
Perhaps one of the reasons we should all replace our tyres at some point is because of tread wear. Eventually the rubber tread on the circumference of the tyres wears down through being in constant contact with the road. Tyres need to have a good amount of tread to grip the road when driving. The rate at which this wears will depend on the amount of miles you drive, the type of road surfaces you typically drive on and the weight of your car. Additionally, weather can also be a factor in how quickly the tread is worn down. Extreme weather conditions affect the rubbers flexibility which in-turn impacts the tread.
Tread often wears down unevenly across the tyre, there are a number of reasons this happens. It could be that the tyres are misaligned due to hitting pot holes on the road or bumping the kerb when parking or incorrect tyre pressures. It is therefore important that when checking the tread depth yourself that you measure across the circumference of the tyre to get a true reading of the amount of depth left. The legal tread limit in the UK is 1.6mm, this means that when you measure across the central belt of the tyre if the lowest measurement is 1.6mm then the tyre is illegal and you could risk a fine of £2,500 plus 3 penalty points per tyre!
How to check the tread depth:
Checking the tread depth is much easier than you might expect and there are a number of ways you can do this;
20p test: The 20p test is simply taking a 20 pence piece and standing it up in the grooves of the tyre, if the out band of the coin can be seen then the tread is too low.
Tread wear indicators:
Tyres are manufactured to include tread wear indicators. These are rubber nodes in the indents of the tread pattern, there are three across the central belt of the tyre. Once you can see these the tyres tread is worn and the tyres need replacing.
Performance issues in tyres can be denoted by a vibration while you are driving. This is either due to worn tyres or wheels that are off balance. When wheels are removed from a vehicle, they need to re-balanced when put back on the vehicle. This ensures an even distribution of weight across the wheels and tyres to prevent uneven wear. If a balance weight has fallen off the vibration can be felt. This could indicate that the wheels just need rebalancing by professional tyre technicians.
Providing you don’t experience any of the above issues then your tyres should last their expected lifetime. As a guide, tyres should last approximately 20,000 miles before they need changing.
Other signs of age on a tyre include cracking in the rubber, usually first spotted on the outer edges commonly referred to as the sidewalls. This is the side that is exposed to the elements, it can be prevented by storing your car in a garage.
Increasingly it has become more popular in the UK to swap tyres with the seasons, changing from summer tyres to winter tyres. Summer tyres can’t offer the same performance as winter tyres in the snow and ice making driving conditions treacherous. The slippery surfaces increase stopping distances even after the roads have been gritted. Switching to winter tyres will enhance the vehicle’s performance in poor conditions. Only using a set of tyres for half a year will extend the lifespan of the tyres as the tread will take longer to wear down. The downside to this is the initial outlay on two sets of tyres and the storage of a set of tyres when not in use.
Most tyre manufacturers now offer an all-season solution meaning tyres don’t need to be changed with the seasons, these will wear quicker though as they are being used all the time.
So when should I replace my tyres?
In short, responsible motorists should regularly check tyres for signs of any of the issues mentioned above. It is irresponsible and dangerous to drive on tyres that are unsafe and not fit for purpose.
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