Figures released in September by the Department for Transport (DfT), have highlighted the need for drivers to check their tyres regularly. More than 40% of vehicle defect-related deaths in the UK in 2013 were found to have been caused by illegal, defective or under-inflated tyres; a total of 2,855 casualties were caused by defective vehicles, with dangerous tyres cited as a contributory factor in 968 cases.
Current UK law requires car drivers to have at least 1.6mm of tread depth on their tyres. Anyone found to be in breach of these regulations risks not only their safety on the road but also a fine of £2,500 and three penalty points for each illegal tyre.
2013 was the wettest winter in the UK on record and in wet weather, it's essential that your car's tyres have adequate tread depth. Without it your safety on the road will be compromised and you may not be able to brake, accelerate or corner properly. The tread grooves on your tyre help to evacuate the water from the contact patch between your tyre and the road surface so your car can grip the road properly.
In wet conditions, tyres with a good tread depth can typically clear enough water from the road to fill a bucket in around 7 seconds! Without sufficient tread depth your tyres may not be able to cope properly and you face an increased risk of aquaplaning. If this has ever happened to you, you'll know what a frightening experience it can be to have no control of your car.
Check for yourself: take the quick and easy 20p test by simply inserting a 20p coin into the main tread grooves of your tyres. If the outer band of the 20p coin is obscured when inserted into the tyre, then it is above the legal minimum depth, but if the outer band is visible, it may be unsafe or illegal and should be inspected by a tyre professional immediately.
To stay safe on the road your car needs to have the correct tyre pressure. If the tyres are under or over inflated then handling and grip will worsen, potentially causing irregular or unpredictable car behaviour. Tyres with insufficient air are also more likely to suffer from a blowout and will suffer premature wear on the outside edges of the tyre, plus wheel rim and tyre will be more susceptible to impact damage. Over-inflation results in a less comfortable ride, a reduced area of contact with the road giving less grip and accelerated wear on the tread centre.
The benefits of properly inflated tyres include reduced running costs and longer tyre life. The correct tyre pressure for your vehicle will be in the vehicle manufacturers' handbook, as well as inside the fuel filler cap or driver's door sill. Many tyre retailers will also be able to provide this information.
Tyres should be inspected at least once a month and before any long journey. Checks should include the air pressure, overall condition and tread depth. Don't forget to check the spare, or the compressor and sealant if no spare was fitted!
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