Everyone knows there are running costs connected with buying any vehicle – insurance, road tax, fuel and any repairs which the vehicle might require. Tyres don’t last forever and will eventually wear out and have to be replaced. But there are so many choices when it comes to tyres that it’s understandable when drivers aren’t sure what works best for their vehicle.
The law won’t tell you what specific brand of tyre you should put on your vehicle. The choice of brand is up to you, as is how much you choose to spend. The law is just concerned with making sure that your tyres are roadworthy, which means having sufficient tread depth. Tread is pattern or ridges and grooves on the surface of the tyre. The law says that the depth of tread on your tyre has to be at least 1.6mm all the way across the surface of the tyre. Coincidentally, this is the depth of the border on a 20p coin. If you press a 20p into your tyre and can still see the edge, it’s time for a change.
The other legal requirement when it comes to tyres is not to mix the two main types of tyres on the same axle. Although cross-ply and radial tyres might look the same, they are constructed in different ways. Cross-ply and radial tyres have their own advantages and disadvantages, depending on your style of driving and make or model of vehicle. Many drivers choose to use just one style of tyres on all four wheels of their vehicle. Others choose to use one type on the front and the other on the back, which is perfectly legal. If you’re not sure which style of tyres you have on your car and need to buy new, the safest option is just to choose the same brand and size as you are currently using. Alternatively, any mechanic will be able to quickly identify the correct tyre for a replacement.
Front tyres should last around 20,000 miles, and the tyres on the rear could last even longer. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your tyre tread depth and start looking for new ones before you’re at the very legal limit and rushed into a decision. Tyres come in all shapes and sizes, and have the size written on the inner wall nearest the wheel. Your owner’s handbook should also give you information about the size of tyres needed for your vehicle, or you can even search using the registration number on the DVLA website. Once you’ve identified what size of tyres you need for your vehicle, you can start shopping around. Check the big national chains as well as local garages, and remember to factor in the cost for fitting and disposing of your old tyres.
If you’re on a real budget, it’s also possible to cut costs even further by choosing part-worn tyres, which are essentially second-hand tyres removed from another vehicle. Although the tyre might be cheaper, the fitting and disposal costs will be the same, so you might not save as much money as you’d think. You can also buy retreaded or remoulded tyres, which is a way of recycling old tyres to attach a new tread and allow them to be reused. These tyres can be substantially cheaper than new, but always buy from a reputable dealer. When you are comparing prices for tyres ensure that you are comparing like for like, not just the headline price of buying the tyre. +
In other countries which experience more severe winter weather than the UK, it is standard practice to swap tyres twice a year and have a separate set of special tyres to use in the coldest part of the year from October to March. Winter tyres are designed to offer extra grip and traction, not just in snow and ice but on wet roads too. When the temperature outside drops under 7C, winter tyres might improve t he handling of your car. On the other hand, there is the cost of buying the winter tyres in the first place, and then having them swapped on and off the car twice a year. For people who live in cities and drive on roads which are usually treated with grit, it’s probably an unnecessary expense. However, if you live in a rural location with less traffic, it’s definitely something to think about. All-weather tyres are perhaps a better option, as these are designed for use in the ever-changing British weather.
Even the most careful driver will get a puncture at some point in their driving career. A stray nail in the road, or any other sort of debris, can cause a puncture. In some cases, a garage might be able to repair a minor puncture, but in more serious cases the only option might be to buy a new tyre. If you have a very slow puncture, then you might not have to change the wheel at all, just drive to the garage and ask them to replace or fix the tyre. If you do have to change the wheel, then there should be instructions in the owner’s handbook walking you step by step through how to do this. If you have a “space saver” spare wheel, then this should only be used at lower speeds and for short periods until you have the wheel replaced.
Keeping your tyres pressurised to the right level can make your car run more efficiently too. Checking the tyre pressure on your car is a simple task and most filling stations will have an air pressure gauge to help you. The correct pressures will be written in the owner’s handbook, and are often on the inside of the petrol cap flap too. Just set the air gauge to the pressure you want, then use the air to top the pressure up to the required level.