People tend to underestimate the importance of tyres, and that’s silly. It’s like ignoring the importance of shoes. You wouldn’t wear a nice pair of size nines if you were actually a size eleven, would you? You wouldn’t wear the same shoes for decades. No, you wouldn’t. But shoes, like tyres, are that important bit between you and the ground. You want them to be good, to be comfy and to protect you while not letting you fall over. A car’s tyres, with the exception of the falling over bit, do the same. So, don’t abuse them. Just follow these five rules for happy tyres.
1) Get the right size
Size matters. Stop laughing. It does, at least in the context of tyres. You see, the size of your tyres dictates the rolling radius of your wheels. If you go for a tyre that is too small, you will decrease the rolling radius, meaning the wheel does more revolutions. If you go too big, the opposite happens. This then throws your speedometer out of whack, it hurts the gears and final drive and it’ll probably look a bit silly, too. And if you go for tyres that are too narrow, you’ll crash. It’s that simple. They’ll have a contact patch too small for the weight of the car, so in a ditch you.
2) Keep them in date
Much like your £3 meal deal, tyres have an expiration date. And much like the sandwich within your meal deal, this is because age equals hardening. But while you can spit out stale bread, it’ll be the car that spits you out if the rubber goes hard. If they’re hard, they’re less flexible, and that’s bad because tyres need to move a little in order to grip the road with ease. If they get hard, they’ll simply scrabble for grip and your car will ignore whatever you’re telling the steering wheel to do.
To check the date on your tyre, look on the sidewall for a four-digit code, it will be in a separate little oval or bubble. Say the code is 1719. That means the tyre was made in 17th week of 2019. If it’s 4515, the 45th week of 2015. Simple.
3) Tread isn’t everything
“Oh yeah mate, loads of tread left” says the optimistic seller. Yeah, that’s all well and good, but tread isn’t everything. Are the sidewalls cracking? Have the tyres been slammed into a curb? Are chunks missing out them? Are they mismatched across the axles? Are there any bulges? Tread is not the be-all, end-all of tyre health. Tyres, like your favourite pair of Clarkes, need to be looked after. Abuse will weaken them, and then it’s game over.
4) Don’t put them under pressure
We’ve covered this in our other tyre guide, but it’s important so we’re saying it again. Tyre pressure is important. Your tyres are your connection to the road, and if one side is underinflated, or if the fronts have too much air, the way your car drives is going to be nothing short of horrid. Worst case scenario, it’ll be deadly. And the annoying thing is that there is absolutely no excuse to not keep on top of them. Your handbook has the pressures written in it, and every petrol station has an air compressor you can use for 50p. Get on it.
It’s easy to think that winter tyres are a marketing ploy, when with a decent set being north of £500. But trust, us, they’re not. Winter tyres aren’t for negotiating snowy hillsides. They’re for winder conditions, which means the cold. And you know it gets very cold here in Blighty in the winter. Summer tyres may have the wrong tread to deal with adverse precipitation, they may go hard in the cold, reducing their ability to grip. Winter tyres don’t do that. They’re engineered to cope in low temperatures, so they can still grip, and they can still perform, even in the worst of weathers.