They’re probably the most neglected yet most important safety-critical item on any motor vehicle.
Any F1 fan will attest to the fact that tyres are an integral part of any race winning car. I do know that you may never reach F1 speeds or even drive like Sebastian Vettel, but checking the condition of your tyres is as important as having fuel in your vehicle.
If you look at the size of your palm, and then imagine that the same amount of tyre tread on each of the four wheels on your vehicle is what is keeping you on the road, your attitude toward tyre inspection may just change.
The law requires you to have a minimum tread depth on your tyres of 1.6mm. However, recent studies conducted by some of the leading tyre manufacturers have discovered that when braking with locked wheels on wet roads, a tread depth of 8mm almost halves the braking distance compared with the legally required minimum tread depth. This would suggest that tyres really should be taken out of service when the tread depth reaches 3mm.
If you don’t possess a tyre depth gauge the head of a matchstick is quite a reliable reference point. If your tyres are smooth they offer no water displacement on wet roads and this results in aquaplaning. If this has not happened to you yet, you really don’t want to experience it.
GETTING IT RIGHT
It’s estimated that around 20 percent of all minibus taxi accidents are caused by poor tyres or incorrectly inflated tyres. Tyres are load rated and as such the correct tyres need to be fitted to your vehicle. Having said that, checking your tyre pressures is free, so check them when you’re filling up at a petrol station. And don’t forget about the spare tyre. Many drivers forget to check it, only to find it’s flat when they need it.
Over-inflated tyres can result in premature tyre wear as well as affect the handling of the vehicle. The ride also is hard and uncomfortable. Under-inflation is just as bad. This can result in burst tyres as the sidewall of the tyre is put under undue stress. Here again, poor roadholding and tyre roll is evident.
With many of our roads being in a state of disrepair, one can never expect the wheel alignment and balancing of the tyres to always be good. Hitting a pothole can result in serious tyre and rim damage.
Tyres that have been through such an incident must, or should be, replaced at the recommendation of a tyre expert.
The recommended time to do wheel alignment and balancing is 7500km to 10 000km. The cost of the latter should not be more than R500 a time. What this does for you, the driver, is that it eliminates steering shake and makes driving a pleasure. What it does for the vehicle is to reduce any more stress on the suspension and suspension components making the ride in the vehicle a lot more pleasant.
Tyres are what keep you on the road and alive, and with the rainy season soon upon us it’s a good time to check your tyres now.
Remember to look out for the following:
1) Tread depth
2) Cuts on the side wall and tyre surface
3) Uneven wear due to worn shocks
4) Over inflation
5) Under inflation
6) Tyres that are aged and brittle
7) Take note of the depth indicator that some tyres have in the tread.
* Sagie Moodley is a workshop owner and presents a radio motoring show with Adam Ford on Midrand’s Mix FM (93.8) from 7-9pm every Wednesday. If you’re having trouble with a repair or need some used-car advice, he’ll be happy to try and offer a solution. Email your query to the motoring editor, email@example.com.