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Back to School Tyre Check

4th September 2018

Kids are heading back to school, so now’s the time to check your tyres

With the wonderfully sunny summer well and truly over, the back to school countdown is underway. Before you know it, your kids will be back in the classroom, the long hot summer soon to be a distant memory. With this change comes – for many parents – the return of an important responsibility – the daily school run.

As well as those children fortunate enough to be dropped off and collected, there will be many more walking the pavements and crossing the roads near school. And for the vast majority, this will be a repeated process given little or no special consideration. But not all children will be so lucky; many will have the misfortune to be involved in a road accident – some fatally

For this reason, it’s essential you think about an important aspect of your daily school run routine – the tyres fitted to your car.

The quality of the tyres you have fitted to your vehicle really matter

That’s right, your tyres. Believe it or not, the tyres fitted to your car, SUV or 4x4 are arguably the most important factor in ensuring your driver safety, that of your kids, and pedestrians too. Consider this; your tyres are the only part of your vehicle that are actually in contact with the road, right? But their contact patches – the part of the tyres that are touching the road at any given moment – are no bigger than your smartphone.

When you start to think about tyres like this, you begin to better understand just how vital it is to have good tyres fitted. If they’re not up to scratch, how can you possibly be confident of your kids being as safe as they can be when they’re being driven to and from school?

With this in mind, the team at Merityre, along with premium tyre manufacturer, Continental, have got together with some essential tyre safety advice for your consideration. It should help you become aware of the importance of fitting high quality tyres to your vehicle, and allow you to make fully informed tyre decisions in the future.

How important is having good tyre tread depth? It’s vital.

Your treads – those long grooves that run along the full length of your tyres – play a significant role in determining whether you have sufficient grip to stay in control of your vehicle, especially on wet roads. The recent hot, dry days aside – which, let’s face it, has been out of character for an English summer – we all appreciate that sooner rather than later we’ll be back in a pattern of regular rainfall, and that, as a result, we can expect the roads to return to their customary wet, slippery condition.

Why are your treads so important? It’s because they disperse any water that forms between your tyres and the road, providing you with the essential grip you need to drive safely. The only way they can do this both quickly and effectively is if they have enough tread depth. If the tread is too worn down, and lacking sufficient depth, your tyres will struggle to cope.

When you purchase a brand new set of premium tyres, they come with a full 8 mm of tread. But as time goes by – through normal, everyday usage – these treads will eventually wear down, and with it their ability to clear water from the road. The result is a gradual reduction in grip, most keenly felt when having to brake in wet weather conditions.

To minimise the chances of a loss of grip, both Merityre and Continental recommend that your tyres have at least 3 mm of tread depth. Don’t let them wear down to the UK road legal minimum of 1.6 mm. We suggest this because time and time again, countless independent braking tests have conclusively shown that it can take up to two car lengths further to come to a complete stop on 1.6 mm of tread, compared to tyres with 3 mm.

Two car lengths… think about that for a moment. Then imagine the potentially tragic consequences if a distracted child walking home from school should suddenly appear out of nowhere in the middle of the road – and your tyres don’t have sufficient grip for you to stop in time. It may not be something you want to think about, but it’s something you should certainly be aware of.

Ensuring you have sufficient tread depth so you can achieve the shortest stopping distances is vital. But how can you know when the tread is down to 3 mm?

TWIs – Tread Wear Indicators

If your vehicle is fitted with any Continetal series 5 or higher tyres – such as their award winning ContiPremiumContact™ 5 – you’ll already be benefitting from the 3 mm tread wear indicators that come as standard. These indicate when your tyres are down to this level of tread, and serve as a reminder for you to replace your tyres.

Alas, not all tyre makers so this, but at Continental they strongly believe in offering drivers as much driver protection as possible – part of their global Vision Zero safety campaign, the aim of which is to achieve zero fatalities, zero injuries and zero accidents on the road across the world. It’s a very ambitious goal, and one that may take time to achieve, and we all have a part to play.

So before you resume the daily school run, please make some time to check your tyre tread depth, and, if necessary, have new premium tyres fitted.

You can quickly and easily check your tyre tread with the “20p Test”.

Having the correct tyre pressures will make a difference to your safety – and your bank balance

If you haven’t checked your tyre pressures in recent memory, the time to do so – before the kids head back at school – is now. Pressures have a significant bearing on how well your tyres are able to perform. If they’re inflated correctly, your tyres will be the right shape, and that means they can perform as they’re intended to, and deliver the essential grip you need to stay in control of your vehicle.

Unfortunately, if your tyres are either under inflated, or over inflated, they’ll be misshapen, and it will be a completely different story…

The problem with under inflated tyres

If your pressures are too low, you’ll be at greater risk of having uneven tyre wear. This happens at the outside edges, and is due to the incorrect shape at the bottom of the tyre – which is too wide. Under inflation means the tyre’s edges makes contact with the road, while at the same time reducing the central area’s contact with the road. This is double jeapordy, since it not only results in uneven tyre wear, but also a loss of grip – just where you need it the most.

A softer, wider tyre also means that your vehicle needs to use more fuel to turn the wheels. That means spending more money on petrol – an additional expense that nobody needs, right?

Over inflation leads to problems, too

There’s also an issue of uneven tyre wear with over inflated tyres, but along the centre of the tyre – the area where your treads are located. With over inflation, the tyre sidewalls are forced outwards, resulting in the tyre edges being lifted from the road. As a result, the tyre footprint is reduced, forcing all the energy generated while driving through the central area of the tyre.

That means unnecessary wear on the tyre treads – just where you need grip the most. If you lose grip here in wet weather conditions, your tyres won’t perform optimally, and that will result in longer stopping distances. As we’ve already highlighted, this increases your chances of having a collision. With children heading back at school, there’s a chance it could be with one of them.

Over inflated tyres present another increased risk too – of having a blowout, or a puncture. This is because over inflation results in tyres becoming too taut. If they don’t have enough flex and give in them to absorb any sudden shocks and impacts – such as through contact with potholes – you’re at even greater risk of losing control of your vehicle. And if that should happen in a built up area, such as outside a school…

For all these reasons, make sure you check your pressures – before the new school year starts.

One last thing – keep a lookout for tyre damage

Your tyres undergo severe stresses and strains whenever you drive, so it’s inevitable that you may experience tyre damage. Maintaining the correct tyre pressures will help to reduce your chances of a blowout, as well as tears, cuts, nicks, bubbles or bulges in the sidewall.

But there’s also the possibility of having a puncture, through contact with debris on the road, such as metal and glass. These have become all too common on British roads, perhaps due to cuts in local road maintenance services. This means there’s a strong chance that objects cound become embedded in your tyres.

But it’s not too late to prevent serious tyre damage. Regular checks will improve your chances of spotting foreign objects embedded in your tyres, before the problem escalates. This will help minimise your chances of sustaining a puncture, but, at the end of the day, is no guarantee of avoiding one.

Can I do anything more to protect myself from a puncture?

Continental’s superb ContiSeal™ technology immediately negates the consequences of having a puncture – like having to stop driving, and changing tyre. Their extended mobility solution automatically seals any puncture from the inside of the tyre – up to 5 mm in diameter – thus preventing the outflow of air, and preserving your ability to carry on driving.

With a car full of kids on the school run, not needing to undertake a roadside tyre change is a godsend. If you’ve ever had to change a tyre before, you’ll already know what a difficult and intimidating experience it can be. You wouldn’t want to have to do this while worrying about any children in the car, right? To learn more about ContiSeal™ technology, and the tyres that have it, talk to the experts at your local Merityre specialist.

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