SAFETY ALERT: 5 steps to safer tyres

The state of our tyres can save lives. But, having good tyres can also save money!

Our tyres are important! Good tyres keep us safe on the road by helping with braking and grip. Bad tyres increase our chance of having an accident and put our lives and others at risk. But, what makes for good tyre maintenance? How can we be sure that our tyres are in top notch shape for the road ahead, when the road itself can be brutal on the rubber that transports us.

Arrive Alive reports that nearly 20% of all accidents involving minibus taxis are because of tyre failure, and that could be drastically decreased if we follow these important safety tips; all of us, no matter who we are or where we are from, should look to maximise the safety of our journeys by following this important tyre safety alert.

1. Make sure you have the right tyres for your car

Yes, it seems like a given, but making sure you have the correct tyres fitted to your car is important for safety, but also saves money by prolonging tyre life. Tyres can be expensive and they are investment worth looking after. Make sure you know which tyres are meant for your car by checking you driver's manual or doing a little research. Make double sure that those who replace your tyres have given you the correct set.

Never buy secondhand tyres, no matter how tempting their price might be. Secondhand tyres, or retreaded tyres, are more likely to burst. Think of it this way: Buying new tyres will last longer anyway, and be safer for you and your family over a longer period of time.

2. Check your tyre pressure often!

Perhaps the most regular thing you can do for tyre safety is to check your tyre pressure. Why not do so at least once a week, or every time you fill up? This way you can also see if you have a slow puncture. Make sure that the pressure is right for your car by checking its manual, but often the required tyre pressure for your car can be found on the inside of your fuel cap.

Remember, under-inflated tyres wear quicker and are more likely to burst. This is because the tyre wall stretches and heats, and wears with a soft and bouncy tyre. Over-inflated tyres also wear quicker, especially in the centre, and can substantially decrease steering ability. Over-inflated tyres are more likely to skid when you brake, are more likely to get damaged if you hit a pothole.

Remember to consider your load too. Heavy loads mean you may need to increase your tyre pressure.

3. Check your tread. Make sure you have enough.

This one is a bit more difficult to keep an eye on, but is still exceptionally important. If your tyres are looking worn, visit a tyre expert to get an assessment. Do so every 6 months anyway as a matter of habit. All tyres with less than 1mm tread should be replaced.

Often, tyres can be swapped around, sending poorer tread tyres to the back and better tread to the front. This is to prolong tyre life and help your wallet. But, if this is not possible, new tyres might be in order: Remember new tyres are an investment and should never be a compromise.

Remember, it's better spending money on new tyres, than not arriving at your destination safely and spending more money on car repairs and medical costs!

4. Check wheel alignment and balancing - and all that other niggly stuff.

If your car steers slightly left or right without you doing so, it's probably because your wheel alignment is out. If your steering wheel shudders when you drive, it's probably because your wheels are unbalanced. To avoid tyre wear that will ultimately be more expensive for you in the long run, get both sorted ASAP.

Certainly, do both when you get a new set of tyres or when you change your tyres around. When doing so, also have an expert assess some of your other wheel components that also contribute to safety and wear. Your ball joints, wheel bearings, shocks and brakes, and other important components also guide tyre safety and prolong tyre life.

Driving tip: If your tyre bursts while driving, avoid braking. Rather ease off the accelerator and change down until you come to a stop. Braking may cause you to lose control.

5. Check for loose wheel nuts and missing valve caps

This may seem more common sense than anything, but we often take for granted that our wheel nuts are tight. Are they? Make sure that they are by checking them every month. Perhaps some have run loose over the course of driving, which is possible. Tighten those - but make sure not to overtighten them. When wheel nuts are too tight, they may stretch and snap.

A good judge is to turn them tight enough with reasonable enough power so that they feel safe. Tyre experts will be able to appropriately torque them when changing your tyres.

Also keep a look out for missing valve caps - those are the small, removable plastic caps that close your valves after pumping your tyre. Lost caps can lead to damaged valves that ultimately lead to air-bleeding tyres.

Remember, driving slower prolongs tyre life. As is reported in Arrive Alive driving 70km/h for example, as opposed to 120km/h, doubles the distance you can drive on your tyres.