Tyres, are an often forgotten part of the car. For a range of reasons they require the utmost care and maintenance. The reason being is simple. Tyres provide the contact between your car and the road you travel. As the kilometres/miles tick away, they wear and may be damaged. The performance of the tyre will degrade as it wears or becomes damaged. The wear and damage can be magnified if they are not properly taken care of.
Neglecting proper care of the tyres; like for example not checking the correct pressure, can lead to many tyre related issues.
Common Tyre Problems
When a tyre is under inflated it wears out faster; creates excessive heat in the rubber and air inside it. It also makes the vehicle much harder to handle, especially under braking or hard cornering. The car may feel to be travelling ok in normal driving, but in a situation where the driver must react quickly the loss of control caused by under inflated tyres can be catastrophic. If you have ever had this happen to you, you will likely be more attentive. I painfully remember having a tyre that was under inflated on one side and thinking I will get away with it for a bit longer. Only to lose control of the car going to work on a country road down a mildly steep hill that had a high speed bend. To my horror with me furiously working the wheel to try to save my life and avoid hitting anything, the car did a full 360 degree spin at around 100km an hour. The tyre had rolled on the rim under load causing the front end of the car to throw itself wildly toward the embankment. I managed to keep the car from going off the road, but used both lanes to spin myself to a stop, if there had been someone coming the other way, I don’t know what would have happened. I would have had to make a snap decision and probably hit the embankment at very high speed… It was a pure fluke that something far worse did not happen. As is was, it was 10 minutes before I could stop my knees shaking, I knew I was lucky to be alive. I changed the wheel and got to a tyre shop and got all the tyres replaced that morning. I now pay much more attention to everything about my tyres.
Another thing to consider, is that when driving a car with under inflated tyres, your fuel consumption can increase as the car’s engine need to exert more work to compensate for the increase in rolling friction. With the cost of fuel as high as it has become, dollars saved by keeping the tyres within pressure tolerance can be a real benefit. Not to mention the added cost of buying new tyres early. With some tyres under inflation can cut the life of the tyre to half or worse. High performance or wide profile tyres particularly, can wear very quickly when under inflated. Scrubbing of the tyre at the edges can be much worse on the front tyres due to the added forces of cornering and braking load placed on the front wheels. Lets say a pair of tyres cost you $200 for the front of your vehicle. That means that you can easily blow $100 worth of rubber life, with a pair of tyres that should have lasted 50,000 kilometres only lasting 25,000. You can generally find the pressure rating for the tyre on the tyre wall. You should not vary from this specification unless you really know what you are doing. If the tyre loses even a few pounds of pressure you should get it sorted out. If the tyre is needing to be regularly filled. Then you likely have a slow leak. You need to go to a tyre service station and get it fixed. Do not put it off. Putting off a leaky tyre repair can be a life and death decision. It is important to note that with a modern low profile tyre there is very little margin for error. The volume of air that is in a modern low profile tyre can be much less than the old style of tyre. Therefore a small leak can result in a tyre that is under inflated very quickly.
Over inflation can cause faster wear and tear and could lead to a blow out. A blow out is where the tyre actually fails and blows off the rim. Once again this is a life threatening situation. The modern car tyre is a lot less prone to this sort of issue, but will still fail if badly treated or worked outside its specification limits. It is worth remembering that in hot driving conditions over inflation will be made worse. The hot air in side the tyre will increase the pressure even more. It can lead to an accident that could mean damage to the car and a considerable amount of money for repairs or worst the lost of life. Similar to under inflation, over inflation will increase wear. The likelihood of wear in the middle of the tyre goes up. The over inflation can cause the profile of the tyre to become rounded rather than flat. Causing firmer contact in the middle than the outside edges of the tyre. Once again this is more pronounced with low profile wide tyres on many modern vehicles. It is worth remembering that the modern low profile tyre has a lot less air by volume in it than the old type of high wall tyres. It is very easy to over inflate them, due to the small amount of air needed to fill them.
Below are some tyre tips that could prevent or help minimise problems from occurring on tyres.
- Rotate the Tyres to even out wear. This simply means to change the position of the tyres to ensure all tyres wear evenly and lasts longer. Ask the tyre shop that fits your tyres when you should come back for a rotation with your type of tyres and vehicle. Make sure the right pressure are on the tyres after rotation. This will help you make sure that you get the most out every tyre. Even the best maintained vehicle will still wear tyres more on say the front than the back. This is due to the load that is placed on various parts of the car under braking and cornering.
- Check the tyre pressure regularly to make sure they are properly inflated. This can become part of your routine every few fills at the petrol station. If you identify one tyre is losing more air than the others, then get it checked for leaks. I have found over the years that as tyres get closer to the end of their wear cycle, you need to check them more often. They always seem much more prone to leaks as they get close to replacement.
- Replace Valve stem covers. These are not expensive yet they play a vital role in keeping dust out of the valve stem which could cause problems.
- Check the car’s alignment. Out of alignment suspension systems can cause uneven wear on tyres that could result to handling problems. Potholes and rough roads can quickly create an alignment problem. If you suspect you may have an alignment problem, make sure to get it fixed. Once again you can end up cutting the life of your tyres to nothing in just a few kilometres/miles.
- Where it is safe to do so, avoid debris on the roadway and drive as smoothly as possible.
- Avoid spinning the tyres, hard stops and turns wherever possible. Always follow speed limits.
- Do not overload your vehicle. Always check the maximum load your vehicle can carry to avoid unnecessary stress to the tyres or to other parts of your vehicle.
How to Check Tyre Pressure
- Purchase and Use a trusted pressure gauge.
- Check the pressure when the tyres are cold. Ideally in the morning when you have not driven yet. The reason is that when the car has already been driven, the air inside the tyre expands due to the heat generated and will give you an inaccurate reading of the pressure. If you have been driving, remember there may be a slight increase in pressure if the tyres are very hot.
- Unscrew the valve stem cap from the valve stem on the tyre. The valve stem is the black pencil-like extension near the hubcap(2-3cm).
- Press the air pressure gauge onto the valve stem and record the reading. Make sure though there is no hissing sound coming. If there is a hissing sound coming out the reading of the pressure may not be that accurate. To remedy this, adjust the angle of the pressure gauge until no hissing sound can be heard.
- Compare the the reading to the rating of the tyre. (Usually printed on the tyre wall.) If it is the same, then you are good to go. If it is lower, then you need to add air until the pressure is the same. If it is above the number specified, let the air out until it matches the specified pressure.