Tyre maintenance may not be the most exciting thing about owning a car, but you couldn't get from A to B without them, so it pays to understand the basics. And a few simple checks could mean you won't be left with a flat tyre and needing to call your breakdown cover
Essential car tyre advice
Let's talk about pressure. Not the 'I've got a deadline to meet' type of pressure, but tyre pressure. Make sure you know what your tyre pressures should be and check them regularly – every few weeks.
You can usually find your car's tyre pressures listed on the inside of the driver's door, in the glove compartment or owner's manual.
Underinflated tyres can be dangerous to drive on as they affect the handling of the car, especially when cornering. Low tyre pressure can also put extra strain on the wall of the tyre and cause it to wear or even split, leading to a puncture. They can also increase your fuel bills as underinflated tyres cause an increase in rolling resistance which impacts the fuel efficiency of your car.
To keep your tyres correctly inflated, check them when they're cold. When they warm up the air will expand which will give an incorrect reading.
Don't overinflate your tyres unless the car is heavily laden. The owner's manual will tell you what the correct air pressure should be for the weight being carried.
Know the law
It's your responsibility to make sure your car is roadworthy. This includes checking that your car's tyres are within legal limits. The law covers three main areas of tyre safety.
The legal minimum depth of tread for tyres is 1.6mm across the majority of the tyre and all around the circumference.
However, some motoring organisations suggest that you should look to change your tyres when the tread wears down to 3mm. To check the safe depth of tread on your tyres, purchase a tyre tread gauge or visit a tyre specialist as you could be fined up to £2,500 and receive three penalty points for each illegal tyre.
Check regularly for any lumps, bulges or tears in the wall of your tyres. And you should never be able to see the inside fabric of the tyre. If in doubt, get your tyres checked by a professional.
Each tyre on the same axle of your car must be the same size and specification. And they must be appropriate for the make and model of the car.
What to do about a puncture
If the puncture happens whilst you're driving, you'll probably feel the handling of the car change and even hear a strange flapping sound from the tyre.
Stay calm and try to find somewhere safe to pull over. It's okay to drive a short distance on a flat tyre rather than stop somewhere dangerous. Some cars have 'run flat' tyres that allow you to drive a short distance on a flat tyre without causing any damage to the car.