Make sure that you check the tyre pressures on your car every two weeks at least. You can either visit a petrol station / garage and use their air line to test the pressure, then inflate / deflate as neccesary, or you can purchase a quality tyre pressure gauge and check it before you set-off. Doing this before a long journey is best, as the tyre pressure when the tyres are hot the reading isn’t as accurate as when the tyres are cold. Make sure you read your car’s manual for the correct tyre pressure for the load you are bearing. Sometimes you can find notes on tyre pressures either in your fuel cap flap or on the inside of the driver door, near the lock catch.
Tyre Condition and Tread
It’s very important to check your tyre tread as frequently as your tyre pressures – every two weeks. Your tyres are the only contact with the road and if not properly maintained could lead to a serious accident, especially in demanding weather. Look for obvious signs of wear to the tyres, such as cuts, lumps (like rubber-eggs – bulbous, bubble-like defects in the tyre) or tears and of course a low tyre tread. To check the tyre tread’s depth a good and easy way of doing this is to use a 5 pence piece. Place the 5p inside the centre grooves of your tyre and check all the way around the tyre. If you find at any point there is a gap between the top of the Queen’s head and the tyre tread, then this is an indication that your tyre needs replacing. It’s recommended that your tyre should be replaced if under 3mm, although it is still deemed safe at 1.6mm for cars.
It’s not required to carry a spare tyre in your car but if you do it’s sensible to ensure the tyre is just as safe as the other tyres, in case you need to use it in an emergency. Make sure that when you fit your spare that if the tread is facing the opposite way to the flat tyre’s tread, then you should limit your speed to less than 50mph and visit a tyre garage as soon as possible to get a suitable replacement tyre. Smaller, ‘skinny’ compact spare tyres should only be used to get you to the nearest garage and a label on the tyre should indicate the maximum speed to use when fitted.
Run Flat Tyres (self-supporting tyres)
Some vehicles are manufacturer fitted with ‘run flat’ tyres, or you can purchase them after buying your car. They are useful if you don’t have space for a spare tyre on your car or simply don’t like the idea of changing your tyre if you have a flat on a motorway or busy road. The idea is that should you encounter a puncture, your tyre is still safe to use at a slow speed for a short distance, designed to get you to the nearest garage for a replacement. Check the recommended speed and distance for your tyre should it run flat when you have it fitted. The general rule is that you should go no faster than 30mph and travel no more than 50 miles on a deflated run flat tyre. Plenty of time for you to get to a tyre garage.
Tyre Fines and Penalties
Driving with a defective and illegal tyre could lead to a fixed penalty in England and Wales, or a Conditional Offer Notice in Scotland if a Police officer stops you. Fines can be anything up to £2,500 and three points on your licence – more if you are driving a goods vehicle or vehicle for 8 people or more. Depending on the circumstances you could face not only fines but also disqualification.