RAC Cars News


Getting Tyred

By raccars Published

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As your car's only point of contact with the road, they are arguably its most important component. As such, your tyres deserve more care and attention than they usually get. With winter fast approaching, it's more important than ever to ensure your tyres are up to the job of navigating wet, slippery roads.

Your tyres undergo immense pressure to bring your car to a stop, so choose the correct model carefully and look after them well, starting with maintaining the correct pressure.

Tyres naturally lose pressure over time through a combination of ambient temperature changes and wear and tear. Running your tyres with the wrong pressure accelerates this process, reduces fuel economy and can compromise handling. Check your tyre pressure at least once a month - more if you do heavy mileage - and keep them inflated according to manufacturer specifications as found in your car owner's manual.

Check and fill your tyres while they are cold - so not after a long drive, as the heat generated on the road changes the internal pressure. You usually fill tyres to different measurements at the front and rear.

Speed ratings

If you look at the sidewall of your tyres, you'll notice they are printed with a speed rating. This is a set of numbers indicating the maximum carrying load of the tyre, followed by a letter which represents a speed rating. For example, 96V means each tyre can support 710kg at a 149mph maximum speed. Higher numbers and letters denote tyres which can support heavier loads and higher speeds.

Your tyre sidewalls also give numbers and letters indicating tread width, tyre wall height and the size of the rims.

A tyre marked 165/65 R14 79T has a tread 165mm wide, with a tyre wall height 65% of that width, is radial in construction on rims of 14 inches. The load rating of 79 equals 437kg and T means a maximum speed of 118mph.

Tread depths

In the UK, the legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm. If you don't have a ruler, you can measure your tread depth using a 20 pence coin - the border around the coin should be invisible when inserted into the tread. If you can see the border, your tread depth is too low. You can be fined up to £2,500 and receive three licence penalty points for each illegal tyre you drive on. Furthermore, tyres become dangerous without enough tread depth to disperse water, and braking distances increase.

When you check your tyre tread depth, keep an eye out also for cracks, lumps and bulges, which can denote damage.


Wheels need to be aligned and balanced by a professional with the correct tools for the job. Get your wheels realigned and balanced whenever you change a tyre, to ensure even wear and sharper handling.

If your car shakes at high speed and doesn't corner accurately, your wheels could be misaligned or out of balance. Take it to a tyre shop or a garage to get it checked and to try and determine the cause.

Winter tyres

If you decide to use a separate set of tyres in winter, store each spare set carefully when not in use in a dry, well ventilated space and at room temperature. Sunlight and moisture can degrade the tyre rubber. Try to avoid stacking the tyres one on top of another for too long.

Treating tyres

You can apply products such as tyre shine, which both makes the sidewalls look glossy and protects the rubber from UV rays, keeping it supple and preventing cracking. Check with your manufacturer which products are compatible with your tyres before applying, as certain chemicals can damage compounds in certain tyres.

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