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Tyres for dummies: All you need to know

Knowing when to change your tyres will not only save your purse but your life too. It is very easy to overlook or even procrastinate when it comes to changing tyres but this is one simple way of inviting bigger problems into your motoring life.

The performance of your tyres is not only critical to the safety of your car but also the performance and efficiency of your vehicle.

Tyres are designed to run for thousands of kilometres but over time they tend to lose their efficacy in traction and braking ability.

Most of the time tyre wear will come from improperly inflated tyre and a few other aspects like  harsh acceleration, hard braking and wheel misalignment.

It is therefore important to know when to shop for new tyres to avoid spending money on issues associated with neglected tyres.

1. Check the tread wear bars

Wear bars are smaller markings  between the larger  tread pattern of the tyres. They grow larger as the tyre ages. The bars eventually become flush with the tyres’ larger treads and at this point the tyres should be changed.

2. Check the tyres side wall

When cracks start appearing on the sidewall of the tyre, it is an indication of ‘dry rot’ in the tyres. Dry rot happens when tyres are exposed to constant heat such as sunlight or storage near excessive heat sources.

Low  pressure  and lack of use will accelerate the effects of dry rot and thus ruin your tyres. If you spot these cracks then its time to replace your tyres.

3. Bulges and blisters

Tyres are constructed with numerous belts wrapped in the tread area and the sidewalls. When the belts break, weak spots are created resulting in bulges. These bulges bear the  potential of a dangerous blowout. If you spot any bulges, it is an indication that tyre replacement is long overdue.

4. Air pressure

Do a regular check on tyre pressure and make sure they are correctly and regularly inflated. Most car makers place a sticker on the driver’s side door panel to indicate the correct tyre size, pressure and weight recommended for your car.

Should your tyres keep losing pressure, visit a tyre expert and have them checked to make sure there are no serious problems.

5. Use a tread depth indicator or a depth gauge

You can easily purchase a tread depth indicator from an auto parts dealer and use it to measure the recommended tread depth. Generally if the treads are down to 1.6mm, the tyre is no longer safe to run on. If you are a regular customer at a tyre centre it becomes easier to have your treads checked.

6. Compare the treads

The treads of any two pairs of wheels will generally look the same. Compare and pick out any discrepancies that could be an indication of misalignment.

These should be repaired before more damage is done. If you have serious uneven wear — having certain parts intact while wires and cords appear on worn parts — change that tyre immediately.

It is good practice to change worn out tyres because the legal requirements of the Traffic Act require a minimum tread — in any roadworthy vehicle — of at least 1.6mm.

This is an international requirement. Worn out tyres can land you in big trouble with the traffic police because they are potentially dangerous to drivers and other road users.

It is recommended that you change your tyres in pairs because mismatched tyres will not give the same performance as a matched pair will. Tyres will also generally wear or deteriorate faster in warmer climates.

Did you know tyres have a lifespan? Determining the active life of a tyre is a tricky affair but many experts say the average lifespan is six years.

Tyres that have sat in a shop for long — or fitted but haven’t been used in a long time — can be dangerous.