A car’s tyres are the only parts of a car which are physically and constantly in contact with the road. As a result, those four wheels – paramount to changing the direction of our travels, absorbing road shocks, transmitting traction, torque and braking mechanics to the road – are exposed to constant labour and of course, general wear and tear.
Unfortunately, the condition, maintenance and care of a car’s tyres are often neglected by South African motorists. Considering that South Africa has one of the highest road accidents rates in the world, with tyre failure contributing nearly 20% to all accidents according to the CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research), motorists simply cannot afford to neglect this very important component of their overall driving experience.
“Even if your car has the best braking system in the world, if your tyres are worn and neglected, it would be far more difficult to avoid an accident,” says Kerry Cassel, MotorHappy Managing Director. “The good news is that there are many measures motorists can take and simple checks they can do to ensure their tyres are in tip-top shape before they go on their next journey.”
Ensuring the Wheels Align
Wheel alignment helps your tyres perform at their peak, and also helps them to last longer. Alignment is not an adjustment of the tyres or wheels themselves, but rather the adjustment of a car’s suspension (the system that connects a car to its wheels). If your wheel alignment is out, the tread on your tyres will wear unevenly, your car will either pull to the left or right, your steering wheel will be off centre even when driving straight and your steering wheel will vibrate. If you notice or experience any of these indicators, it’s a good idea to have your wheel alignment checked by an authorised service provider.
Maintaining the Correct Pressure
Not only is maintaining the correct pressure an important factor for the performance and general care of your tyres, but it is also essential for a safe driving experience. When under-inflated, tyres can easily overheat. They will also have a decreased contact surface with the road, which can lead to uneven tread wear. As a result, you will need to replace your tyres more often. Under-inflated tyres have increased rolling resistance, which means you will need to use more fuel to maintain the same speed. On the other hand, over-inflated tyres can lead to poor vehicle handling on the road. In general, maintaining the correct tyre pressure helps with your car’s fuel efficiency, which equals lower CO2 emissions. Your car’s manufacturer will often suggest different tyre pressures for your rear and front tyres, and these guidelines can be found in your car’s manufacturer handbook, in the sill of the driver’s door or inside the fuel flap.
Checking for External Damage
Driving over an object on the road, hitting a pothole or impact between the tyre and a kerb can often cause cuts, lumps or bumps on your car’s tyres. This type of damage needs to be checked by a tyre specialist as soon as you notice it, as it can result in sudden tyre failure like a blowout. It is also a good idea to check your car’s tyres after sudden or heavy braking, or any other emergency manoeuvres.
Keeping an Eye on Tread Depth
You might regard the tread on your tyres simply as patterns, but the fact is that your car relies on the tread to grip the road and brake in the shortest space possible. This means that braking distance increases as the tread on our tyres wear out, which is why you should inspect your tyres regularly to ensure they still have sufficient tread. In South Africa, the legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tread width and around its entire circumference. It is against the law to drive with worn tyres, and by doing so, you’re potentially putting your life and that of those around you in danger. If you’re unsure whether your car’s tread is still in good condition, you can visit your nearest dealership and they will gladly measure it for you.
“Looking after your car’s tyres should be the priority of every South African motorist,” concludes Kerry. “By doing so, you’re prolonging the lifespan of your tyres, and also ensuring a safe, happy and carefree journey for you and those around you.”