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Check to keep the rubber side down

25.04.2014

I will be completely honest here: I have owned my car for almost two years now and apart from checking my tyre pressure every time I fill up, I have not really paid much attention to my wheels and tyres. It was only when I wanted to take to the track that a scrutineer inspected my rubber, only to find that not only were they not track worthy, but they were also not roadworthy.

This was not necessarily due to the tread pattern being worn, although all four tyres were close to being illegal. It was in fact due to bubbles in the walls of three of my tyres. This is most likely as a result of our pothole-infested roads. We become so acclimatised to driving down a road that feels like the first special stage of the Mpumalanga rally that we don’t really take the time to see the effects that the minicraters have on our tyres. 

I went to put a new set of bands that make her dance on and was told by the gentleman fitting them that all four of my alloys were buckled to some degree. Now I know that this is a result of the roads as I had all four wheels refurbished when I bought the car, so this got me thinking about tyre and wheel safety.

It sounds obvious, but those four rubber bands are the only things that keep your vehicle on the road and they already have such a small contact area on the road at any given point, meaning that their importance is never to be underestimated. 
If you are like me and check your tyre pressure at every fuel stop, then you’re halfway there in terms of tyre safety. The recommended tyre pressure for your vehicle is load dependent and normally depicted on the inside of each vehicle’s fuel cap. To be absolutely sure about your tyres’ health, you can take your vehicle to where you had the set fitted on a monthly basis.

Driving with underinflated tyres affects your vehicle’s handling quite dramatically. The vehicle is more likely to produce body roll and behave in an unpredictable manner. Deflated tyres can also decrease the lifespan of your tyre (and they are not cheap by any means) which can lead to tyre failure and a potential accident. Improperly inflated tyres will also increase your vehicle’s fuel consumption due to the increased rolling resistance they provide. It is strongly suggested that pressure be checked when the tyres are still cold, as during a journey they heat up, as does the air inside, which causes it to expand and provide a higher tyre pressure reading.

Mark Perbaums, marketing manager at Michelin Tyre Company SA says, “A tyre’s performance is compromised, particularly in wet conditions, and deteriorates dramatically once it gets below 2mm. If your tread depth is below this level, it is wise to start looking into buying new tyres.”

The other important thing about tyre tread depth is that your insurance company will not pay for damages should you be involved in an accident and your car is found with less than 2mm of tread depth. Insurance companies know that a worn tyre decreases braking, steering and accelerative efficacy and therefore amplifies the risk of being involved in an accident.

When maintaining your tyres, there are a few things to look out for:Always check the overall condition of the tyres, especially the inner and outer walls, as it can lead to a blow out when these are damaged. Check the tread depth by measuring it and ensuring that it is more than 2mm. Check your tyre pressure and for any signs of irregular wear in a particular area. The spare tyre must also be checked as this is often your last hope when suffering a puncture.

There is also the debate surrounding whether it’s safe to use a tyre after it has been punctured. To determine the extent of the damage caused by the puncture, the tyre must be checked internally to ensure that the diameter of the puncture does not exceed 0.6mm, as this makes it dangerous to reuse. The rest of the tyre must also be inspected to ensure that further damage has not been caused by the puncture. It is not advised to use a tyre that has had a puncture plugged for an extended period.

Overall I have to say that, after dealing with damaged tyres and how I had to suddenly replace all four as well as having my alloy wheels repaired, I now know that I should check my tyres more frequently to avoid another nasty bill. In and among the other aspects of our cars that require frequent maintenance, remember to check one of the most important safety features: those oval tubes that float us along the motorway every day.

Article written by Sean Nurse
25.04.2014
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