The wheels on your car are perhaps one of the most important parts of the vehicle, especially where safety is concerned. Conducting regular wheel checks are crucial to maintaining your car, and ensuring everyone inside is in a safe and legal vehicle.
Why is tyre safety so important?
Your wheels, or tyres, are critical in several important car functions. This includes: the braking system, the suspension, the surface grip and the speed.
Good tyres (and by that we mean ones that are at the correct pressure, correct alignment and correct tread-depth) will allow your car to perform properly, reach optimum speeds safely, brake safely and can even help you car be more fuel efficient.
When Should you Check your Tyres?
It’s recommended you check your tyres at least once a month, but perhaps more during bad weather. It’s also wise to check your tyres before taking on any long journeys – as you’ll want you car to be in peak performance if you plan on driving for more than 2-3 hours in a row.
During your MOT, your wheels will be checked – but don’t just rely on your MOT. Checking your tyres each month could help prevent accidents and could stop any nasty surprises such as a flat tyre. A visual inspection is good, but you should also try and get a feel for how your wheels feels when they’re in good health, so that you can identify if something feels wrong.
If you’re not confident checking your tyres, then trust a professional to do it. It’s always better to be safe, than sorry, especially where car safety is involved.
How do I Do Wheel Checks and What Should I Look for?
There are several tyre checks you can do at home – and we’ll talk you through them here. These are small, quick checks you can be doing regularly to ensure your car is safe…
You’ll often be able to tell if your car’s tread-depth is too low just by looking, as the tracks and dents in the wheel will seem too shallow or maybe even ‘balding’. If your wheel looks smooth and flat – this is a sure sign they need replacing.
If you think your wheels might be getting old and near the legal tread-depth limit (but you aren’t completely sure) then you can do the 20p test. When you insert a 20p coin into the tracks of your tyres and if the ‘border’ of the 20p coin is still visible, then your car needs new tyres. You’ll want to test each tyre individually, as they can wear-out at different rates.
It’s an easy, quick tips but it could save you hundreds in call out fees, or thousands in repairs if the worst should happen and your tyres fail you because they were too old or worn out.
The next thing you’ll want to check is the pressure of your tyres. Tyre pressure can affect how your vehicle handles, and maintaining the right wheel pressure is critical for braking and ensuring you have maximum grip or wheel torque on the road.
You’ll need to do each tyre individually, because the pressure could be less in the back two, or the front two (for example). When checking what inflation pressure to aim for, there should be a guide in your car’s handbook (if you want to be precise) but the main thing to look for at home is a firm wheel. What you don’t want are soft tyres that feel deflated.
If you can visit a petrol station – you’ll be able to check your official pressure using the self-service air pressure pumps available. This is highly recommended as it’ll give you a much more accurate reading.
Here are some quick steps for how to check your tyre pressure:
- Remove cap from tyre valve and insert the air pump into it.
- On the gauge window, make a note of the current air pressure. If it doesn’t match the recommended one in your handbook / manual – then you’ll need to adjust it accordingly.
- Should the tyre pressure reading be too low, then inflate the tyre slowly (you do this by squeezing the trigger in short bursts).
- If the tyre pressure is reading as too high, then you’ll need to deflate the tyre slowly. You can deflate it by pulling the pump valve away from the tyre valve (remember to do it gradually and slowly).
Puncture or Damage check
You’ll likely know if your tyre has a puncture because it can make handling the car very difficult. Some signs you have a puncture are often felt whilst driving:
- If car is pulling in a certain direction
- The car wheels feel wobbly
- If car is having difficulty steering
If you’re unsure though, you can conduct a visual puncture check yourself. To do this you’ll want to inspect the wheels for any rips or tears, or any items lodged or stuck in the ridges.
Are Illegal Tyres Dangerous?
Yes, there is a reason why cars have a minimum allowance for things like tread-depth. If your cars wheels aren’t safe, or don’t pass their MOT, you won’t be allowed to drive your car until they’re replaced or fixed.
Last year, over 340,000 tyre tread depths were surveyed across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and it was discovered that more than a quarter of people were driving with illegal tyres. This is dangerous not only for you (the driver) but for people and cars around you too. It’s your responsibility to ensure your car is safe, so carrying out regular checks is crucial.