Top Tips for Taking Care of Your Tyres
If the average motorist was asked about how to reduce the cost of running a car, the chances are that they would immediately mention petrol costs and insurance costs. They might well be surprised to learn that taking care of their tyres could help with both, as well as reducing repair bills.
Tyre Pressure is Crucial
Many people underestimate how quickly a car can lose tyre pressure, with the result that it is only checked when (if) the owner remembers or the car goes in for a service. As a minimum tyre pressure should be checked at least once a month and more often if the weather is hot. Ideally tyre pressure should be checked every day, particularly with today's potholed roads. That way if you get a slow puncture, you'll find out about it quickly. The easiest way to do this is to buy a digital tyre-pressure gauge. These are very cheap and are small enough to put in a glove compartment or even on a keyring. They're quick and simple to use and will easily earn their keep by ensuring you drive with your tyres at the correct pressure.
There are two reasons why tyre pressure matters. The first is safety. In a nutshell, tyres which are either over- or (more commonly) under-inflated, affect the handling of the car, which can lead to accidents. The second reason is cost. Over-inflated tyres are liable to uneven wear, which is a major cause of tyre cracks as well as other damage. Contrary to what some people believe, over-inflating tyres do not improve performance, in fact it just increases the risk of the tyre literally bursting if the car goes over an obstacle such as a pothole or stone. Under-inflated tyres tend to overheat, which causes tyre degradation. They also lose their ability to roll well, which means that they need more petrol to keep the car moving.
Minor Repairs are Cheaper Than New Tyres
But new tyres are cheaper than new cars. Another advantage of checking tyre pressure regularly is that it offers an opportunity to check the tyre itself. Driving on tyres with significant bald patches is illegal because it's dangerous both to whoever is in the car and to other road users and very few drivers would knowingly do it, but the only way to be sure that tyres still have a good tread on them is to check. There are other points to check, particularly if you have any sort of impact, however minor, (for example kerbs). Scuff marks on alloy wheels and hub caps are, in themselves, purely cosmetic and can be safely ignored. The key point to check is whether the impact which caused the damage also caused any sharp or rough edges on the tyre (usually where it fits on the rim). Picking up debris (which is particularly easy in towns and when driving in winter) can have the same effect. If the tyre shows any sign of damage, no matter how insignificant it may seem, it's important to have it professionally checked immediately. A reputable garage should be able to give an honest opinion on whether the tyre can be used as is or repaired or whether it needs to be replaced. Even though it may seem excessive to replace a tyre for what appears to be minor damage, when driving, safety should always be paramount and replacing a tyre costs far less than writing off a whole car.
Invest In A Proper Spare Tyre (And Learn How to Put It On)
These days it is becoming increasingly common for the traditional spare tyre to be replaced by a tyre repair kit. Basically this is a pump (powered by the cigarette lighter) and a can of goo, which, in theory, will make the tyre usable for long enough to get the driver to a garage for the tyre to be replaced. Many drivers have horror stories about trying to use these, so even though a spare tyre takes up valuable boot space, it's worth carrying one and knowing how to put it on. Obviously the spare tyre itself needs to be checked regularly for pressure (and to ensure that it has not been damaged), but since you'll be checking your other four tyres regularly, it'll only take a few extra moments to check a fifth.
Kit MacLean is a freelance writer based in Scotland, she has a keen interest in cars and makes use of the Pro Valets car valeting service to keep her own motor in good nick!