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Your tyre FAQs answered by Merityre and Continental

4th September 2018

Your tyre FAQs answered by Merityre and Continental

A Person scratching their head

As a leading provider of tyre expertise and solutions – along with many other vehicle-related services – the experienced team at Merityre are answer many, many questions that members of the public have, regarding driver safety, and good practice. Providing impartial, expert tyre advice is something that our team are very happy to do.

And we’re not the only ones. Leading global tyre manufacturer, Continental, have an unrivalled track record of not only providing excellent driver safety advice and tyre solutions, but of also campaigning tirelessly to ensure all motorists are as safe on UK roads as is humanly possible.

So with this in mind, we’ve got together in the first of two tyre safety articles to answer some of the most frequently asked tyre-related questions.

Should I check my tyres, and if so, how often?

Yes, absolutely. Checking your tyres will help ensure you’re safer on the road. Why? Because your tyres are so vital for your driver safety. Think about it; they’re the only part of your car, SUV, 4x4 or van that are in contact with the road, and the only thing keeping you in control as you drive.

Your tyres generate the essential grip you need, for accelerating, cornering, and of course braking – all achieved with contact patches that are approximately the size of a modern smartphone. For these reasons, and more, both Merityre and Continental recommend that you check your tyres regularly – not just now and again.

Regularly inspections of your tyres should include checking for tyre wear – especially tyre tread depths – and tyre damage. You should also keep an eye on your tyre pressures too. If you get into the habit of doing so on a regular basis, you’ll help ensure that the tyres fitted to your vehicle are in good shape, and this in turn will help to keep you safer on the road.

Continental stopping distance diagram

Why are my tyre tread depths so important?

We cannot understate the significance of having good tread depths. Without them, your tyres will struggle to generate the maximum grip possible, and that can be potentially dangerous. It’s the tread grooves – that run along the central length of your tyre – that are responsible for dispersing any water that’s between your tyres and the road.

So what is good tread depth? Brand new premium tyres come with 8 mm, but over time this will wear down. Both Merityre and Continental recommend a minimum tread depth of 3 mm. If your tyres have good tread depth, they’ll be better able to cope on wet roads.

Less than 3 mm of tread depth on your tyres – even when worn down to the UK legal minimum of 1.6 mm – and you won’t be able to generate as much grip. This will put you at risk of losing control in wet weather conditions, as well as needing much longer stopping distances. That means there’s a greater chance of having an accident, such as a collision.

That extra tread depth may not sound like very much, but time and time again, independent braking distance tests conclusively demonstrate that it can take a vehicle up to twice as far to come to a stop when its tyres have only 1.6 mm of tread depth – when compared to tyres that have 3 mm of tread depth – in wet weather conditions.

And – god forbid – in the event that your tyres have less tread depth than the UK legal minimum, you’ll not only be endangering your own driver safety (plus that of your passengers, and other road users) but also risking a very large fine and penalty points on your licence.

If you break UK tyre law, and are caught by the police, expect a court appearance, and when convicted – which you inevitably will be – a fine of £2,500, and three points on your licence, for EACH tyre! That’s got to hurt, right? Seen like this, it simply isn’t worth the risk, is it?

Auto express winners with a image of a tyre

How can I tell what my tread depths are?

All modern tyres come with a tread wear indicators (TWIs), but typically only for 1.6 mm. However, all Continental 5 series and above premium tyres – like their award winning PremiumContact™ 6 – have TWIs set at 3 mm too.

They practice what they preach, since – as outlined above – Continental believe that changing tyres when the tread is down to 3 mm is much better for your driver safety. And now that you know what a difference this extra tread depth can have on your stopping distances, it makes sense to look out for the 3 mm TWI when you regularly inspect your tyres, right?

Top Tip: You can also get an idea of your tread depths with the simple to do “20p Test”.

20p coin tyre tread test

Why do I need to check my tyre pressures?

Having the correct pressures makes a huge difference to how your tyres perform. They’re really important, since your tyres can only work optimally if they’re inflated properly. The correct tyre pressures will vary from vehicle to vehicle, and also whether your car is laden or unladen –loaded up, or not.

There is no single tyre pressure value to suit all makes and models of vehicle. Each vehicle has a value for both laden and unladen weight, and these are usually found on the inside of the driver door, or under the fuel cap. If either under inflated or over inflated, you won’t get the best out of your tyres, and in either case there are consequences – some economic, some life threatening, but both negative.

Continental tyre pressure diagram

If you drive with under inflated tyres, you run the risk of sustaining uneven tyre wear, typically at the outside edges of the tyre. This is due to an incorrect shape, which is overly bulged on either side. As a result, more wear occurs in these areas, as there is reduced contact with the central part of the tyre.

This in itself presents a serious problem, since this is where you get the most grip from. This wider ‘footprint’ also results in more friction between the tyre and the road surface, and that means more energy is needed to turn your wheels – leading to an increase in fuel spend.

Drivers will also experience uneven tyre wear if their tyres are over inflated, but in this instance it would take place along the central heart of the tyre – the area where the main tread is located. This occurs because the shape of an over inflated tyre focuses the contact with the road at a point, rather than evenly across the full width of the tyre. Tyre wear is increased – just where you need the most grip.

With over inflated tyres there’s also an increased risk of tyre blowout and puncture. This is because over inflation results in the tyres lacking flex, and being too taut, and being unable to cope with shocks and impacts that correctly inflated tyres can typically absorb. For all these reasons, checking your pressures as part of your regular tyre inspection makes a lot of sense.

If you’re unsure about tyres, speak with Merityre

At Merityre we’ve been providing leading vehicle services and solutions – including impartial tyre advice – since 1961. We have an experienced team of expert tyre professionals that can answer all your questions. With twenty-four locations throughout southern England, find your nearest location here.