Your tyres are your vehicle’s point of contact with the road surface, and you rely on them to keep you safe while you’re driving. They need to not only give you a comfortable ride, but also be able to grip the road, especially when cornering or in wet conditions. When did you last check your tyre pressures and tread levels? Experts say that we should check every 2 weeks to ensure the tyres are not under or over-inflated, and that there is plenty of tread left. If you’ve been unlucky enough to have a flat tyre while out on the road, your tyre tread depth is getting low, or you have any concerns at all about the state of your tyre sidewalls, you need to call on expert help.
The AutoMend network of car and van maintenance and repair experts covers all of the UK, and we have access to over 9,000 mobile mechanics and garages on our books, all of whom can take a look at your tyres and give you expert advice. Wherever you are located, there will be one of our network members in the vicinity who can come to you and change your wheel, or to arrange to safely transport your vehicle to their garage for repairs. With a commitment to high service quality and affordable prices, all the members of the AutoMend network are there for you.
Tyre pressure is expressed in PSI (pounds per square inch) or BAR pressure, and it is a measurement of the volume of air inside your tyres, measured when the tyres are cold. The air is pumped in under pressure to inflate the tyres, leaving just the right amount of tread in contact with the road surface. The ideal pressure for your vehicle will be specified by the manufacturer and will vary depending on the type of vehicle you drive and in some cases what you are using the vehicle for.
The recommended tyre pressures for your car should be stated in the handbook, and it is often printed on the driver’s door sill, or you may find it inside the fuel filler cap door. Sometimes, manufacturers recommend having different pressures on the front tyres and the rear tyres. If your vehicle is to be used to transport heavier than usual loads, the tyre pressure recommendation may change, so check out the handbook for guidance.
Keeping your tyres at the correct pressure is not only vital to the safety of your vehicle, it will help the tyres to last longer and make your vehicle more fuel-efficient.
Low tyre pressure
Your tyres are always losing a little pressure (up to 2 PSI per month), especially when the weather is hot. If the pressure is too low, there will be too much tread in contact with the road. Drive too far with under-inflated tyres and they will wear out more quickly, and your car will experience more road resistance, which means lower fuel efficiency and more carbon dioxide emissions from the vehicle.
You can also experience loss of tyre pressure on one or more of the wheels if you hit a bump or a pothole too hard, which causes uneven pressure. If you have a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) in your car, uneven pressure may cause a warning light to come on.
High tyre pressure
Over-inflating your tyres can cause problems too. When tyre pressure is too high, the width of tread in contact with the road will be too narrow. This can lead to a loss of traction on the road, longer braking distances, and the centre of the tyre wearing out too quickly, shortening the life of the tyres.
Because tyre pressure is so crucial to car safety, all new cars manufactured from 2014 onwards have a TPMS system fitted as standard. These systems have been in use in premium car brands for many years and can often be retrofitted to standard vehicles made before 2014 too.
TPMS is a constant monitoring system which operates via a sensor fitted inside each of the four tyres. It checks tyre pressure every few seconds and triggers an audible alarm or visual warning if a pressure change is detected. One of the big benefits of TPMS is that blow-outs or incidents due to incorrect tyre pressure can be avoided. The other benefits are down to the fact that having the correct tyre pressure reduces tyre wear, prolongs tyre life, improves fuel efficiency and reduces CO2 emissions.
The TPMS system is now included in the MOT test if the vehicle was registered from 2012 onwards, so it’s important to ensure yours is not displaying a fault when you put in your car for the test, or you will get an automatic fail.
The TPMS sensors themselves are subject to failure. They have an onboard battery with a finite battery life – the more mileage you do the quicker the batteries will wear down. They are also effectively operating in a hostile environment - the stems of the sensors are subjected to the same harsh road conditions as the tyre valves, so corrosion is a common occurrence. If your TPMS sensors are indicating a tyre problem, but the tyres check-out OK, it could be a sensor failure. You local AutoMend expert will be able to put this problem right for you quickly and easily.
Under UK law, the minimum amount of tyre tread allowed is to a depth of 1.6 mm. This tread depth needs to be present around the total circumference of the tyre. It also needs to be present across the central three-quarters of the tyre. In other words, bald patches, however small, are not permissible.
In reality, it is wise to replace tyres before you get to this minimum limit, as braking performance is reduced the nearer the limit you get. Experts actually recommend changing your tyres at a tread depth of 3 mm. On average, tyres with 1.6 mm of tread require an extra 2 car lengths of stopping distance in wet weather than tyres with 3 mm of tread.
If you fail to comply with tyre tread depth law, you risk a fine of £2.5K and 3 penalty points on your licence. It’s simple to check the tread, and worth the effort to avoid a fine and penalties. If you’re not sure whether your tyres meet the legal requirements, call on your local AutoMend tyre expert, who can carry out an inspection and recommend any action that may be needed.
You may be regularly checking the tyre pressure and tread on your main tyres, but don’t forget that the spare needs to be checked too. The thing about a spare tyre is that it’s usually hidden from view, and you probably don’t think about it until the time comes when you need to use it. If it’s not ready for use, you could be stranded at the roadside. You don’t need to keep checking the tread if it’s not been used, but you do need to keep an eye on the tyre pressure.
Spare tyres vary considerably between vehicle models and manufacturers. In some cars, the spare is a full-sized replacement for the normal tyres. In others it’s a temporary or space-saver tyre which is slimmer than your main car tyres and is a ‘get you home’ for emergencies only. With the smaller emergency tyres, unless they have a marking to say otherwise, you shouldn’t drive at above 30 miles per hour, and you should get your normal tyre mended or replaced and the wheel re-fitted as soon as possible.
Some manufacturers have done away with the spare tyre totally, and instead include a tyre repair kit as a ‘get you home’ measure. These usually take the form of an aerosol that injects foam sealant into the tyre through the tyre’s valve to seal the puncture. You can then drive carefully to the nearest garage. Be aware that if these kits are used, the garage will be unable to repair the puncture as the foam contaminates the inner tyre surface too much.
Where can I find my spare tyre?
It’s always a good idea to have a look at the spare tyre before an emergency forces you into action. The spare (if you have one) is often to be found in the boot underneath a floor panel. You should also make sure you know where the tyre jack is, and the locking wheel nut key. If you have difficulty locating these, check the handbook.
A puncture is never much fun, but if you are fortunate, your punctured tyre can be repaired rather than replaced, but this depends on certain circumstances. If you put your vehicle in the hands of an industry-approved AutoMend expert, they understand all the rules and regulations around when repairs are permissible (and safe) and when they are not. The mechanic will carry out a detailed inspection of your damaged tyre and give you the best possible advice to save you money and keep you safe on the road. For example, if the tyre is reaching the lower limit for tread depth, showing signs of bead or sidewall damage or is deteriorating due to age they will advise replacement rather than repair. On the other hand, if the tyre is in good condition other than a simple puncture, they can save you the cost of a tyre replacement and mend the puncture to make the tyre as good as new.
As mentioned above, if you have used an emergency puncture repair kit to get you to the garage, it may have rendered the tyre unrepairable.
Wherever you are, there is always one of our members available to lend you a hand with your tyre repair or replacement. Getting in contact for a free no-obligation quote or to call out a mobile tyre fitter is simple. Input your postcode or start typing your vehicle’s location, then pick the nearest one from the list. Tell us the make of the vehicle and choose ‘Wheel Balancing / Tracking / Tyres’ from the menu. In return, you will be able to see a list of all the local garages and mobile tyre fitters who offer the service you need. Call them direct or ask them for a quote if you’re not stuck at the roadside, and you’ll be delighted with the prices on offer. Get your vehicle safely back on the road with a new tyre or a puncture repair from the AutoMend network of vehicle maintenance and repair professionals.