The tyres are the only parts of your vehicle that come in contact with the road yet for many of us, they are not high on the agenda when comes to our cars' safety and performance. However, making sure that your tyres are fit for purpose could be the difference in saving your life and the lives of other road users.
According to the Road Safety Authority's (RSA ) website, on average every year, 14 road deaths saw tyres as a contributing factor in the crash. By law, it is the driver's responsibility to make sure that the vehicle complies with all legal requirements and that it is roadworthy. Failure to comply with tyre safety regulations can result in a fine of €80 and up to four penalty points upon conviction.
With those statistics in mind, the RSA launched a tyre safety campaign on TV, radio, social media, cinema and online entitled 'Grip' on April 4 to highlight the dangers of driving with defective and worn tyres and to encourage members of the public to carry out regular checks. Tyres that are not roadworthy can result in reduced road handling whereby you have less control of your vehicle, increasing the likelihood of a collision. Defective tyres can also lead to increased braking distances, aquaplaning - where tyres lose their grip in wet conditions, and blow-outs.
But how do you know if your tyres are safe?
The RSA state for tyres to be considered safe they must be the right kind and size for your vehicle. This may seem pretty obvious but there are members of the public, in the interest of saving a couple of euro, who will purchase tyres that are not compatible with their vehicle. In doing so, they reduce their ability to control the vehicle.
Tyres must be properly inflated; correct tyre pressure is imperative as the pressurised air inside the tyre has to support the weight of the vehicle and its load. It is recommended that you check your tyre pressure on a regular basis which can be done at your local filling station. Inflation specifications can be found in your vehicle owner's handbook.
There must be no defects associated with the tyre; common defects for cars include tears, lumps and bulges. A tyre with any defect is not roadworthy and will result in the vehicle failing a NCT test. Remember defects can be internal as well as external so it is important to check your tyres regularly and closely.
A tyre's tread depth must be a minimum of 1.6mm, anything lower is illegal and dangerous. A tread depth indicator block is set into tyres at a depth of 1.6mm allowing you to see the tread wear on the tyre. This block should be checked to make sure that the tyre tread wear is not at the same or lower level.
Maintenance of tyres
Taking care of your tyres can result in them lasting longer and can save you money as well as your life. As noted above, regularly checking that tyre pressure is correct is important but looking after the wheel alignment and balancing are crucial for your tyres' health.
Wheel alignment and balancing are used interchangeably but they are separate issues. Wheel alignment involves adjusting the angles of the wheels so they are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground. Aligning the wheels can make sure your vehicle drives straight and true on flat surfaces. Misalignment of tyres can be experienced when the driver feels the steering wheel pulling to one side as well as the tyres wearing unevenly and rapidly.
Wheel balancing enables tyres and wheels to spin without causing any vibrations. If vibrations are felt through the steering wheel, seat or floor-pan, it may suggest the wheel balance is incorrect and must be investigated.
Safe, roadworthy, tyres are vital for the health and safety of all road users and they should be check regularly because as the RSA highlights "When your tyres lose their grip, you lose everything."