Checking your tyre pressure regularly for safety and to save money
Many drivers only concern themselves with the condition of their vehicle if it fails to start or the engine begins to make worrying noises. The approach of an MOT test may also make you check your lights or windscreen wipers.
Checking the point of contact between you and the road, your tyres, is often some way down the list of maintenance priorities.
Considering that a spot check by the police could land you with a serious fine and the safety factors connected with them, it is essential to check pressures and wear. In the case of the latter the penalties are serious and yet it is often difficult for a vehicle owner to accurately check against the legal limit of 1.6mm. It is advisable to consider renewing tyres when they are showing an acceptable tread of approximately double that of the legal limit.
Known as a CU30, defective tyres carry serious penalties. The law requires not only a minimum tread but also that the tyres are inflated to the correct pressure and are free from any damage on the tyre walls. This includes any spare tyre you are carrying.
Falling foul of these regulations can mean a fine of up to £2,500 and a three-point penalty on your licence. This applies to all the tyres on your vehicle, meaning a potential fine of £10,000 and 12 penalty points. Under the totting-up system, this could mean disqualification from driving with the possible threat of losing your livelihood or loss of earnings.
Carrying out a regular tyre pressure check, at least once a month, will mean that you are keeping an eye on one of the key issues which could otherwise see you fall foul of the strict laws on vehicle maintenance.
One aspect of tyre maintenance which many drivers may not recognise is that poorly inflated tyres can cost money in other ways. Incorrect tyre pressures will mean that your car or van is underperforming, reducing fuel efficiency and adding unnecessary wear to other mechanical components on the vehicle.
An underinflated tyre will have more rubber in contact on the road surface, increasing friction. This is sometimes evident if your vehicle pulls to one side whilst in motion. Tyres can also be damaged by scuffing kerbs whilst parking and will lose pressure over time. Regularly checking them is essential to avoid safety issues.
If you are unsure as to the correct pressures for your front and rear tyres, check your vehicle's handbook or you may find a plate or sticker in the driver's door jam area or the inside of the filler cap.
Don’t wait for the emergency of a puncture to think of changing tyres. Any tyre can suffer from a slow puncture, which added to the natural loss of pressure over time, can result in a dangerous situation, making regular pressure checks essential.
Manufacturers have taken the issue of tyre pressure seriously over the last few years and have introduced technology which helps car owners. If you drive a vehicle manufactured since 2014 and sold in the European Union, you will benefit from a tyre-pressure monitoring system (TPMS). Sensors mean that any reduction in tyre pressure is detected and a warning light will appear on the dashboard when a certain pressure drop is indicated. The particular tyre location will usually be indicated.
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If your vehicle doesn't benefit from this technology, it can be retrofitted although this can be expensive. In any event, you can buy a manual pressure gauge or a digital version. You may prefer to carry out a check at your local service station where gauges are available, although there may be a small charge applied and the gauge may not be as accurate as a hand-held version but regular if marginally inaccurate checks are better than none.
The following is a brief explanation as to how tyre pressures are measured.
Tyre pressure is measured with two simple units bar and pounds per square inch. The former is a measure of the Earth’s atmosphere at sea level and the latter is often abbreviated to psi. Your owner's handbook will usually indicate both measures as will most tyre gauges.
In carrying out a manual pressure check, you will need to locate the air valve on each tyre and remove the screw-on cap before applying the air supply to the valve, holding it for a few seconds and taking a reading. Forecourt air machines will normally allow you to punch in the pressure required for your tyre and automatically inflate it to the correct pressure.
A 2018 survey by tyre manufacturer Bridgestone suggests that three-quarters of tyre failures on motorways were avoidable with suitable maintenance, with 18 per cent of failures attributable to issues with inflation. If this sounds a high figure, ask yourself the last time you checked your tyre pressures. The same survey showed that 8 per cent of failures were attributable to other vehicle maintenance issues.
Incorrect tyre pressure can mean decreased grip, increased braking distance, the risk of aquaplaning on wet roads and reduction in steering accuracy. Moreover, under inflation creates enormous stress in the internal structure of the tyre's sidewall, soon resulting in irreparable damage and the need for a replacement long before the tyre's expected lifespan.
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At Protyre, we offer a number of free checks to keep your vehicle running smoothly. Click the button below to book your vehicle in for a free tyre check and let our expert technicians check your tyres' tread, condition, wear and much more!
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None of us would happily sit at the wheel knowing that we are putting ourselves, our loved ones and other road users at unnecessary risk.
Here at Protyre, years of experience tell us that regularly carrying out a tyre pressure check means safer motoring. If you are in any doubt as to the safety of your tyres, why not visit the local garage you can trust and get one of our qualified fitters to check your tyres.
We also offer a range of other free vehicle checks, together with car servicing, MOTs and much more. You can also use our advanced tyre search function to identify a range of options for replacement tyres for your specific vehicle. All you need do is enter your vehicle registration number and let our systems do the hard work!
Jason was a motoring journalist and photographer for 12 years’ before he joined the PR world 11 years ago ...