Tyres are vital to the safety of the driver, passengers as well as other road users. Therefore being tyre-savvy is important; that means understanding how to choose the right tyres, how to care for them properly and when to replace them.
There is a particular temptation to continue using worn tyres just a little bit longer. After all, a few extra kilometres won’t really matter, will they? That’s short-term thinking. When it comes to tyres, it’s far better to take the long view and consider all the factors.
One thing to consider is that delaying the replacement of worn tyres can mean having to pay a fine on top of the replacement costs. The National Road Traffic Act (Regulation 212 (e) states that it is illegal to operate a vehicle with worn or decayed tyres. The law stipulates that tyre tread should not be less than 1mm deep. The fine for contravening this regulation is a maximum of R500.
One should also bear in mind that worn tyres would likely invalidate any insurance claim—insurers (quite understandably) stipulate that insured vehicles should be roadworthy.
Even more important is the safety question. Remember that worn tyres are unsafe and could actually cause a serious accident as these tyres puncture more easily or could burst while you are driving. Insufficient tread also means that braking and road-holding performance are greatly impaired, thus increasing the chance of accidents. This is true for all road conditions, but the danger is particularly heightened in wet conditions as worn tyres will not displace water and will thus tend to aquaplane.
The first step to becoming tyre-wise is to check tyres regularly. Make it a habit to check your tyre pressure weekly, and at the same time inspect for wear and tear. Find out how to read the tread wear indicator. If the tread is too shallow or any other signs exist that the tyres are not in tip-top condition, they should be replaced after consultation with a reputable tyre dealer.
Never forget that tyres provide the small, vital surface where the rubber, quite literally, meets the road. Your tyres are your passport to safe driving and high performance—it makes every kind of sense to care for your tyres, and to replace them when they are no longer fit for purpose.