The importance of tyres is often overlooked, the only contact with the road is through the tyres. They must be free from damage, correctly inflated, and must have enough tread to give the necessary grip.
Don’t forget the spare tyre just because it’s out of sight. Inflate this to the highest of the pressures quoted for your car. Check the correct pressures with your car’s handbook. Note that pressures should be checked when the tyres are cold (not driven for at least 30 minutes), and that the pressures may be different for front and rear tyres, and also for fully loaded conditions. The pressure marked on the side of the tyre is the maximum, not the running pressure.
How to check the tyre pressure
- A tyre pressure gauge to check your tyre pressure – either a mechanical type or an electronic type can be used, or you could get a pump with a built-in gauge which would also let you inflate tyres without a trip to the filling station.
- You can also buy small compressors powered from the cigarette lighter socket in the car. These can save a lot of effort, but avoid the very cheap versions sold in filling stations and market stalls – they don’t work well and quickly break.
1 Taking each wheel in turn, unscrew the valve dust cap and put it somewhere safe. Check the tyre pressure by pushing the nozzle of the gauge firmly on to the valve so that no air can be heard escaping. Remove the gauge from the valve and check the reading.
2 If the pressure needs increasing slightly, you can drive to the nearest garage, or use your pump according to the instructions.
3 Check the pressure again. If it’s now too high, gently press the pin in the centre of the tyre valve to release a small quantity of air at a time. Re-check the pressure with the gauge. Refit the dust cap when you’ve finished.
4 Check around the tyre for cuts or bulges, and seek professional advice if you find any defects. All tyres must have at least the minimum legal amount of tread – that’s 1.6 mm in the UK, although in practice it’s better to change tyres well before they become this worn. Use a tread depth gauge according to the instructions to check the tread remaining.
- If a tyre needs inflating frequently, it may have a slow puncture. Consult a tyre specialist without delay.
- If a tyre is not punctured but is still losing pressure, the air may be escaping from the valve or through the wheel rim.
- Over-inflation causes abnormal wear in the centre part of the tread; under-inflation has the opposite effect. Both can also cause internal damage to the tyre.
- Under-inflated tyres increase fuel consumption because of their higher rolling resistance.