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by Matt Brogan

Our recent track day at Eastern Creek, focusing on new tyre technology, has highlighted once again the need for a serious look at tyre safety.

So naturally we thought it timely that we focus on keeping your rubber moving on the roadway.

It may sound simple, after all gravity will do quite a bit of the work, but neglected tyres are the leading cause of defect related accidents in this country and, given a little upkeep and knowledge, proper tyre maintenance can be a very simple task.

First up we invite you to think for a few moments about what your tyres actually do, for in addition to supporting the weight of your car, they help you drive, steer, stop, brake, disperse water (up to six litres a second in fact) and absorb bumps and ruts in the road – and this happens rain, hail or shine over any number of different road surfaces.

The other poignant fact to keep in mind is that although they look rather big and impressive, at any one time the maximum area in contact with the road is, at best, the size of a small postcard.

So, with all of that in mind, we hope the following may just be worth a read.

Tip 1: Tyre Pressure. This is without doubt the most important element of healthy and safe tyre maintenance, so don’t think for a moment this is something left for service time.

Tyre pressure is one of the leading causes of tyre wear, poor fuel economy and tyre performance, which in turn effects your safety. By the same token it’s the simplest, yet most valuable, check you can carry out in not only preserving the life of your tyres, but in giving you a more comfortable and safer ride.

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So how do you check your tyre pressure?

Well it’s quite simple really, grab a gauge (buying your own is the best way to ensure accuracy) and check your tyres by placing the gauge on the tyre valve. It’s as simple as holding the gauge on the valve for a few seconds until you get a reading.

As a general rule, 32psi (or 220kPa) is about right for the average family car but it’s best to check your tyre placard (usually located in the door jamb) or owner’s manual for specific recommendations for your car’s needs.

Tip 2: Tyre Condition. Tyre age, wheel alignment, wheel balance, scrubbed sidewalls, bulges, nicks, cuts,and tears can all affect your tyre’s performance so a quick visual check periodically will help address any concerns before they become serious safety issues.

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The tyre does have a couple of built in helpers that can assist you in checking on any longevity issues you may have such as the tread wear indicator and Build Date Stamp.

  • The tread wear indicator is a small bump located across the grooved section of the tread (see above). Quite simply if the tread has reached this level, typically 1.5mm, then it’s time to replace your tyres. You can also be fined for having tyres that are worn beyond this limit. For safety reasons CarAdvice suggests replacing your tyres when the depth is about 2mm.
  • The Build Date Stamp is located on the sidewall of the tyre, often close to the rim, and states when the tyre was built in week and year (eg. 0805 would mean the 8th week of 2005). For safety reasons CarAdvice suggests that tyres regardless of apparent condition should be changed before the five year mark.

If you’re unsure about how old your tyres are or indeed if they’re in need of replacement, please visit a reputable tyre retailer as soon as possible.

Tip 3: Tyre Rotation. To extend tyre life, and save a few dollars, it is a good idea to rotate your tyres front to back every 12 months.

This is especially crucial in Front-Wheel-Drive (FWD) cars that place a lot of emphasis on front tyres in terms of vehicular motion using them to drive, steer and brake.

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However tyres can, and should, be rotated on all kinds of cars* whether they be FWD, RWD or AWD and the best way to have this taken care of is to simply visit a reputable tyre retailer – most will do this free of charge if you originally purchased your tyres from them.

*For specific tyre rotation recommendations for your car, including those for directional tyres, please refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual.

Tip 4: Correct Fit. You should always make sure that the tyres fitted to your car correspond with the vehicle’s tyre placard (usually located in the door jamb) or manufacturer’s recommendation as specified in the owner’s manual. This can be particularly important when purchasing a used vehicle.

For safety and roadworthy reasons it is also important to check that a tyre of the same size and tread pattern is uniform across the same axle.

To know what tyre should be fitted to your car it can help to understand what the markings on your tyre’s sidewall actually mean, so let’s take a look at a typical modern tyre and translate some of the gibberish.

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  1. 205: Tread width across the tyre in millimetres
  2. 45: Sidewall height as a percentage of the tyre’s width
  3. R: The tyre is of radial construction
  4. 17: The diameter of the inner rim in inches
  5. 84: Load capacity index (in this case 500kg)
  6. V: Tyre speed rating (in this case 240km/h)

Tip 5: Spare Tyre. To prevent being left stranded, it’s a good idea to make sure your spare tyre is in the same condition as those touching the ground.

As the spare may have been “out of sight out of mind” for quite some time, you may want to check it is indeed inflated to the correct level and is in good working order. There’s no point having a spare if it’s flat when you go to use it.

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In short, apply the tips above to your spare and you shouldn’t have a problem, or have a reputable tyre retailer take a look for you. Space saver and temporary spare tyres should also be checked to ensure correct inflation.

If you’re unsure of how to change your spare tyre, click here.

Tip 6: Road Hazards. When you think of road hazards the obvious nails, screws, bolts, glass and loose gravel seem first to spring to mind but it’s worth remembering that tyres can be damaged in other ways too.

Severe potholes and gutter strikes can cause bulges and other types of structural damage to the tyre which may in turn mean it needs to be replaced.

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Similarly leaving tyres in the one position for a very long time (say the long term car park when overseas) or a sudden stop can lead to flat spots on your tyres which mean less effective road contact and an unbalanced ride.

In either case it is recommended you visit a reputable tyre retailer to have the tyre inspected (both inside and out) for any structural damage. Replacing one tyre is a lot cheaper than the alternative.

Tip 7: Understanding your tyre needs. In addition to having a tyre that fits properly, it also helps to select a tyre that is suited to your needs, especially with so many “cross-over” vehicles being available.

Having the wrong tyre on your car can adversely effect your vehicle’s performance in certain conditions, so in addition to adhering to the manufacturers directions, a reputable tyre retailer can assist you in choosing a tyre that will best suit your needs – and your driving style.

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Don’t be afraid to discuss what it is you want from a tyre. Some people may prefer longevity (or wear) over performance, a quiet ride over handling, or comfort over outright performance. So know how and where you intend to drive then choose accordingly. It’ll make a great difference to your enjoyment of your vehicle, the life of your tyre and your hip pocket.






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