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Why it pays to check your tyres

Spare tyreOctober is National Tyre Safety Month so what better time to make sure your wheels are in tip-top condition - vital for road safety and for protecting your licence.

With the UK's increasing pothole problem and with winter's challenging driving conditions on the horizon, now is the ideal time to take tyre safety seriously.

That’s why Tyresafe, one of the UK's leading road safety organisations, is promoting National Tyre Safety month throughout October.

Its site has information on how to check your tyre pressure and tread and whether winter tyres might be right for you.

And if you're not sure of the correct pressure for your tyres because you've mislaid your car’s handbook, simply enter your car registration number on the website and it’ll be flagged up for you.

Stay safe, stay legal

A faulty tyre can pose a serious safety risk and could invalidate a car insurance policy if you ever needed to make a claim, so it's important to make sure your wheels are properly inflated and have the correct tread.

With worn tyres, the stopping distance in your car will be increased and you're far more likely to get a puncture, which is especially dangerous if you're driving in wet weather or at high speed.

Worn and defective tyres can also result in you being fined and points on your licence.

The penalty for one illegal tyre is a fine of up to £2,500 and three points on your licence, rising to £10,000 and twelve points if all four tyres don't reach legal standards.

42% have dangerously worn tyres

However, a survey by tyre chain HiQ revealed that 42 per cent of motorists are driving on dangerously worn tyres – a significant increase on the last audit in 2009 when the figure was 27 per cent. 

Garage owner Ali McGill says: "Due to the economic climate people are buying budget tyres and trying to make them last longer.

"Worryingly, some people are purchasing part-worn tyres, which is a really bad idea.

"You don't know the history of the tyre, which could have been involved in an accident, be close to the legal minimum standard or might even be substandard when you purchase it."

Confused.com spoke to top tyre engineer Sven Kraus who says opting for budget tyres can be okay but only if motorists do their research before buying. 

Meanwhile, here’s our to-do list for checking your tyres.

Tyre pressure

The correct pressure for your front and rear tyres will be in your car handbook or available online from Tyresafe.

Petrol station forecourts often have equipment to check your tyre pressures but they're not the best option, mostly because tyres need to be tested from a cold temperature.

If you need to drive for over a mile to get to the garage they'll have warmed up, affecting the reading.

The best option is to get a tyre pressure gauge and pump combined to use at home.

There are manual ones where you inflate the tyre with the footpump, and the digital variety which are powered by the 12v car socket. Don't forget to check the spare tyre as well.

Tyre tread

The legal minimum is 1.6mm but many manufacturers recommend going no lower than 3mm or more for the best performance.

The average new tyre tends to come with about 8mm of tread but performance deteriorates rapidly in the second half of its life and it can go from being absolutely fine to dangerously low quite quickly.

How long a tyre lasts depends very much on the car, the particular type of tyre and your driving style but they should last on average for 30,000 miles. 

You can buy inexpensive tread gauges from shops and online retailers.

Tyre appearance

Give the tyres a general visual inspection as well, looking for any nails, dents and general signs of wear and tear.

How often should you check?

Ideally, you should check your tyres on a weekly basis, according to the Institute of Advanced Motorists.

Tim Shallcross, head of technical policy at the organisation, says: "But realistically, it should happen at least once a month and definitely always before a long journey."

Watch our video to see some tyre horror stories and learn how to check your tread depth.

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Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy is a motoring and lifestyle journalist and author of The Girls' Car Handbook and The Girls' Guide to Losing your L Plates published by Simon and Schuster. She's also a regular on BBC Breakfast news, and local and national radio, commenting on motoring matters. Her pet motoring hates are potholes and high fuel prices.

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