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Staycation in the UK? Driving to your destination? Remember to check your tyres first.
31st July 2018
Take the time to suitably prepare – before you set off
Driving holidays, caravan holidays, and simply travelling by car to your holiday destination; they all require some preparation and organisation. So before you pack your suitcases, load up the boot, and set off on your journey, take a moment to consider the workhorse that’s going to take you to your final destination – your car. Remember, unlike aeroplanes or trains – which have someone else to maintain and manage them – car owners are responsible for their vehicle’s wellbeing and upkeep.
And while there are many vehicle safety and reliability considerations to bear in mind, such as ensuring your coolant, oil and windscreen wash levels are all topped off, and that your lights are working correctly (all of which the expert team at Merityre can help you with), first and foremost you need to consider the condition of your tyres.
That’s right. The well-being of your tyres is vital. Why? For starters, they are literally the only thing keeping you and your vehicle safely in contact with the road. Without the grip generated by the four small contact patches made between your tyres and the surface, driving safely would be impossible.
Central to ensuring your tyres provide the maximum grip is having the correct tyre pressures, and good tread depth. Tyre experts, like us, and Continental – one of the world’s leading premium tyre manufacturers – strongly recommend that you regularly check your tyres for both.
Your tyre pressures are important – for many reasons
Ensuring that you have the correct tyre pressures will not only keep you safer on the road, it will also reduce tyre wear and fuel consumption – providing you with both safety and money saving benefits. Having the correct holiday tyre pressures is a great way to start your vacation, and it’s very easy to get right.
Typically, you can find your vehicle’s tyre pressure values printed on the inside of the fuel cap, or inside the driver door. There should be two values – one for normal ‘unladen’ driving, the other for heavier loads – like when your car is weighed down with holiday luggage and equipment. It’s this pressure value that your tyres need to be at if your vehicle is laden.
Merityre know from experience that the best time to check your pressures is while the tyres are still cold – such as before you set off on your journey, or just after, having pulled into the nearest garage or petrol station. It’s relatively cheap to use the forecourt facilities. To check your pressures, simply unscrew the tyre dust cap and attach the air hose. The hose automatically measures the pressures, so you’ll instantly know whether your tyres are under or over inflated. Whichever yours are, either top up or release air until the pressures are correct for all wheels at the laden weight.
There are consequences with driving on under inflated tyres
If your vehicle’s tyres are under inflated, they can’t be at their optimum shape. Why? Because they’ll be too flat at the bottom (with an enlarged contact patch) and this will lead to higher fuel consumption, and uneven wear at the tyre edges. Handling will often feel sluggish, resulting in a noticeable drop in vehicle responsiveness, or worse, a dangerous loss of control. At high speed this can be life threatening.
Under inflated tyres also increase the time it takes you to come to a safe stop when braking, significantly increasing stopping distances – particularly when the road is wet. Furthermore, softer, under inflated tyres are also vulnerable to damage from sharp objects.
Over inflated tyres can be problematic too
Just as with under inflation, if your tyres have too much air in them you’ll also sustain uneven tyre wear, but this time along the centre of the tyre. This is a serious concern, since it is this area of the tyre that provides you with the most grip – just when you need it most. Over inflation leads to a reduced contact patch with the road, another contributor to less grip. Again, as with under inflation, this can be very dangerous when the road is wet – something to bear in mind, considering how rainy the British summer can typically be (this year excepted, of course).
Tyre damage can also occur from impacts and jolts – such as when encountering potholes, bumps, or kerbs – since over inflation means the tyre is often too rigid, and lacks the flexibility to absorb sudden shocks. This is dangerous, since it can ultimately result in a tyre blow-out – particularly at high speeds, such as when travelling to your holiday destination on a motorway.
Don’t forget, your vehicle typically has five tyres, not four
Maintaining good tread depth will keep you and your loved ones safer
One of the problems arising from incorrect inflation is uneven tyre wear. This is a double whammy, since it is this wear – uneven or otherwise – that reduces tyre tread depth – the vital grooves that run along the length of your tyre. Your treads are vital for successfully dispersing water from wet surfaces. Without good tread depth, you may not have enough grip – and this can be especially dangerous if you’re driving a laden vehicle.
When you buy brand new tyres from Merityre, they come with a full 8 mm of tread. This tread depth, when combined with the superior rubber compounds of a premium tyre – such as the award winning Continental SportContact™ 6 – provides superb, optimal grip for drivers, especially on wet surfaces.
And in exact like for like driving comparisons, premium tyres will wear down slower than cheaper budget tyres, because of their higher quality rubber compounds. However, over time, through normal usage, all tyres gradually wear down, and this results in a reduction of tread depth.
With the loss of tread depth, less water can be cleared from the road surface quickly, resulting in less grip. And while the UK road legal minimum tread depth is 1.6 mm, many tyre and road safety experts – including Merityre, Continental, and TyreSafe – believe that all UK motorists should change their tyres when the tread is down to 3 mm.
Why? Simply because independent braking tests in wet weather conditions conclusively demonstrate that stopping distances are greatly increased when tyre tread depth is down to 1.6 mm, compared to 3 mm. How far exactly? Research shows up to twice as far to come to a safe, full stop. On a fast moving motorway, that doesn’t bear thinking about, does it? Without sufficient tread – and the resultant loss of grip – the possibility of you experiencing aquaplaning is dramatically increased. So is your chance of having an accident.
Checking your tyre tread depth is easy – here’s how
While tyre tread depth gauges are easily available to purchase, an alternative is the easy to do “20p Test”. Simply place a 20p coin into the tread grooves – at various points – that run across the length of your tyre. If the coin’s outer band is obscured, you know your tread is above the legal minimum. If you can still see the top of the band, your tyres may be illegal.
If you’re unsure whether you have enough tread depth, pop into your local Merityre centre for impartial, expert tyre advice. Remember, if you’re stopped on a UK road by the police with illegal tyres fitted to your car, in all likelyhood you’ll be prosecuted, and when convicted incur a fine of £2,500 and 3 penalty points for EACH offending tyre. It’s not worth the risk, is it?
Sustaining tyre damage can also be costly – and dangerous
You’re also likely to recieve a fine and points on your licence if you’ve sustained tyre damage, as well as jeapardise your driver safety. If you’re on a long journey to your holiday destination, the chances of both possibilities are more likely. And remember, with a heavily laden vehicle, or if you’re towing a caravan, there’ll be a lot much more stress on your tyres, again increasing the chance of tyre failure. Nobody wants to ruin their holiday with an accident, do they? You can minimise the chance of tyre damage by being aware of what to look out for, and how to avoid it in the first place.
Your tyre sidewalls are vital, so protect them
Your sidewalls are designed to absorb the majority of the stress and forces that your tyres endure. And just as with the treads, it’s vital to maintain sidewall integrity, otherwise your tyres can’t perform optimally. Tyre pressures play a significant role in achieving this, but there are other factors to be aware of too.
Regular tyre inspection, as well as checking before you set off on your holiday, will help you spot any tears, cuts, nicks, bubbles or bulges in the sidewall. If you find any of these, it’s usually a prelude of serious damage to the tyre’s structure. Worse still, the damage may already have been done, and that’s dangerous. As a result, you and your loved ones are at risk of a serious accident, caused by a tyre blowout.
And if that happens at high speed – such as when travelling on a motorway – the consequences could be catastrophic. If you spot any of this kind of tyre damage, make sure you get it checked immediately by an expert, like Merityre, and if necessary get the tyre replaced.
How to better avoid tyre damage
While we know that it’s not always possible, if you can avoid the following situations you’ll greatly reduce the chances of tyre sidewall damage:
If you scuff your tyres it can lead to long-term tyre problems.
Bangs and scrapes with potholes can seriously damage your tyres.
Under and over inflated tyres
Incorrect inflation puts additional, unnecessary stress on your sidewalls.
Oil and dirty water
Clean off any spilled petrol, and oil or dirty water from your tyres with a little water and washing up liquid – otherwise prolonged exposure to solvents and oils softens the rubber.
Glass, nails, and other sharp objects
Tears, cuts and nicks can appear on sidewalls through contact with sharp objects. Over time, what appears as minor damage can escalate to something more serious, often resulting in a tyre blowout.
Minimising the chances of sustaining a puncture
Contact with sharp objects can also result in punctures. In this day and age, there’s a high probability of coming into contact with unseen debris on the road – which you only become aware of once you’ve hit it – such as glass and metal fragments, or stones. All of these can do serious damage to your tyres, often resulting in a puncture.
Make sure you inspect your tyres before you set off on your holiday, and if you find any of these – or similar – objects lodged in your tyre’s tread, or pressed into the compound, carefully prise then away. A set of pliers should do the job. This will help to minimise your chances of having a puncture.
ContiSeal™ minimises the effects of a puncture
While these objects are best avoided, the reality is you’re going to make contact with debris at some time or another. Punctures are a fact of everyday driving which none of us want to experience – especially when we’re on the way to our holiday destination, or returning home. So what can you do to minimise the effects of a puncture?
Continental’s superb ContiSeal™ technology immediately negates the consequences of sustaining a puncture – such as having to stop driving, and changing tyres. Their extended mobility solution automatically seals any damage – up to 5 mm in diameter – from the inside of the tyre, thus stopping the outflow of air and maintaining your ability to continue driving. There’s no need for an immediate stop, or roadside tyre change (which, as anyone who has had to do so will know, can be a very difficult and intimidating experience).
There’s also the additional benefit for holiday makers with a heavily laden car – you won’t have to remove your luggage to get to the spare tyre (typically housed in the recess situated beneath the floor of the boot). Just imagine being compelled to do that while stopped on the hard shoulder of a fast moving motorway, or pushed up against an incline along the side of a narrow country lane…
ContiSeal™ is just one of Continental’s invaluable tyre safety and comfort technologies that are ideal for UK drivers undertaking long distance travel by road to their holiday destination. You can find this ‘lifesaver’ across many products in their tyre range, including the ContiPremiumContact™ 5, the ContiSportContact™ 5, and the ContiEcoContact™ 5.
ContiSilent™ – reducing interior cabin noise
While driver safety is paramount in all of Continental’s leading tyre products, driver comfort is important too. Making sure the tyres bring out the best handling and ride characteristics of a vehicle are essential, and it’s something Continental achieve time after time. It’s a reason why one in every three new cars that roll off European production lines are fitted with their “OE” – Original Equipment. This dedication to delivering an optimal driving experience is also realised through Continental’s highly regarded ContiSilent™ tyre noise reduction technology.
ContiSilent™ is specifically designed to noticeably reduce interior cabin noise, no matter what road surface is being driven on, and is effective in all weather conditions – rain or shine. But an improved driving experience doesn’t mean any compromise when it comes to vehicle performance characteristics, or any change in mileage and load/speed capability.
How is this achieved? ContiSilent™ reduces noise because of an inner tyre absorber – made from polyurethane foam – which is attached to the inner surface of the tread area. Less sounds gets out, and so the driving experience is quieter. When you’re travelling a long way for your holiday, this technology can seem heaven sent.
ContiSilent™ is so effective, many of the world’s leading automotive manufacturers have approached Continental for this solution. It’s not surprising, since cabin noise is a common problem for many vehicles. ContiSilent™ technology can be found in many of Continental’s premium summer tyres and are compatible with all commonly sized wheel rims. You’ll find the technology in variants of Continental’s latest high performance SportContact™ 6 tyre.