When should I replace my car tyres?

Author Name – Louise Helsby

    23 people

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. Want to know more about looking after your tyres? Check out our online tyre safety hub

when should i replace my car tyres?

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.

Tyre Damage

One of the most obvious reasons for changing a tyre is due to signs of damage. If your tyre is completely flat, you'll need an expert opinion on whether it can be repaired, if not then a replacement will be required.

Punctures can occur from objects penetrating the rubber and 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 the puncture is. Don't try and remove the objects yourself - for a safe repair every time, trust the experts.

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 have 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 that trigger when the pressure gets too low and 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.

Not all punctures can be repaired - if the tyre has sustained structural damage, it's unsafe to mend and you'll need a new tyre.

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

It's a good idea to replace your tyres periodically due to tread wear. The rubber tread will wear down over time from constant contact with the road, affecting your grip while driving. How fast it wears depends on your mileage, the road surfaces, your car's weight, and even the weather conditions.

Uneven tread wear is common, and can happen for several reasons - maybe your wheels are out of alignment because you've hit a couple of potholes or scarped the kerb, or because of incorrect tyre pressures. So, when checking your tread depth, measure across the tyre's circumference for an accurate reading. In the UK, the legal tread limit is 1.6mm; if the central belt measures below this, the tyre is illegal, risking a £2,500 fine and 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 several 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.

You can also use a dedicated tyre pressure gauge, or book a free tyre check and we'll inspect them for you!

Tread wear indicators:

Tyres are manufactured to include tread wear indicators. These are rubber nodes in the indents of the tread pattern across the central belt of the tyre. Once you can see these, the tyre tread is worn and the tyres need replacing.

Performance issues

Strong vibrations while you're driving can indicate a performance issue. This is either due to worn tyres or wheels that are off balance. When wheels are removed from a vehicle, they need to be rebalanced when put back on to keep an even distribution of weight across the wheels and tyres and stop 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.

Tyre Age

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 or 5 years 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's exposed to the elements, it can be prevented by storing your car in a garage.

The seasons

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.

Every year, dangerous tyres lead to around 5,000 convictions, 900 casualties, and 160 deaths or serious injuries. Not only that, but illegal tyres can actually end up costing you more than the price of a new set: you could face fines of up to £2500 and 3 points on your licence per illegal tyre, not to mention that if you're found to have illegal tyres in an accident, it can invalidate your insurance.

A free tyre check from National can make sure your four wheels are ready for the road, or let you know it's time for a new set of tyres. Book in now to stay safe on your journeys.

Book a Free Tyre Check

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