Your tyres are the most important part of your car. Turns out, they’re also the most neglected. From a safety perspective, just millimetres of rubber tread sits between you and the road. If there is a bald spot on just a fraction of your tyre, it could spell disaster. From a budgeting perspective, you might be surprised by how taking care of your tyres will save you in the long run.
We’ve put together the tips and tricks to save you money, save your tyres and, potentially, save your life.
MONEY SAVING TIPS
For most car owners tyres are thought of only when a mechanic says they need a new set. However, just a few simple things can save you loads of money.
- Check your tyre pressures
Running your tyres at just 5psi below the recommended minimum increases fuel consumption by as much as 10%, according to GT Radial. The recommended psi in your logbook is the minimum recommendation. This means that after driving for a few days the tyres pressure lowers, so you will soon be driving around with underinflated tyres. Keeping them 5–10psi above the recommended rating means your tyres will be fine for a few weeks until you check them again.
- Reduce bad driving habits and avoid road debris
The life of your tyres is directly proportional to your driving style. Driving at high speeds, flying around bends, heavy braking and driving on bad roads will all significantly reduce the life of your tyres and, if left unattended, could put your safety at risk. Tyre damage due to road debris is also very common. Always try your best to avoid driving over construction material (especially nails), bottles, cans and other rubbish.
- Insist on a tyre rotation every service, and a wheel alignment every time you change your tyres
A tyre rotation is when a mechanic switches your wheels from front to back, and left to right. This allows the tyres to wear down as evenly as possible. Your tyres should be rotated every 10,000 to 15,000kms, or every service. A good mechanic will do this as a matter of course.
Over time, your wheels will also start to come out of alignment. You will notice your car begin to “pull”, causing uneven tread wear on your tyres and lowering your safety on the road. You should book in a wheel alignment with your mechanic at a minimum every time you change your tyres as part of your general maintenance schedule. For better results and for heavier driving conditions, every two years.
REPLACING YOUR TYRES
As a typical guide, you can expect to replace your tyres every 15,000 to 30,000kms under poor conditions (every one to two years), or every 60,000 to 75,000kms in extremely good conditions (every four to five years).
Mechanics should recommend a tyre replacement when needed during your routine services. However, to ensure you’re not getting ripped off and replacing tyres unnecessarily, it’s a good idea to arm yourself with some basic knowledge to stress test what you’re being told…
Method 1: Tyre wear indicators
Tyre wear indicators are built into all new tyres. The indicator is a series of small square bumps on the rubber between the tread. When your tyre tread is at the same height as the indicators, then it’s time to change your tyres.
Method 2: Matchstick test
If you can’t find the tyre wear indicators, you can use the tried and tested match stick method. Simply insert a matchstick, head down, between the tyre tread. If the match head is exposed above the tyre, then it is time to change your tyres.
WHAT TO BUY AND WHY YOU SHOULDN’T SKIMP
When it comes to tyres, safety and handling on the road is key, not cheap and cheerful. Your tyre shop and/or mechanic should be able to recommend a suitable tyre based on your budget, your driving conditions and your driving style. Typically, the more expensive the tyre, the quieter it is on the road, the better it handles in the rain, the quicker it is to brake, and the longer it lasts. As a general rule spend the money on the known brands (Bridgestone, Michelin, Dunlop, Goodyear, Pirelli) on the upper end of the load-to-weight ratio weighting indicated by your logbook and/or recommended by your mechanic for maximum safety and performance.
BEWARE YOUR SPARE
Ensure your mechanic checks your spare during your service (any decent mechanic will do this anyway) and to ensure your spare tyre is replaced at the five-year mark. The other thing to keep in mind is whether your car is fitted with a space saver spare wheel. Space saver wheels are a fraction of your car’s normal wheel size and weight. They are designed to take up less space in your boot and increase fuel economy by lowering the overall weight you’re hauling. While it’s great for day-to-day driving, if you need to use your space saver it’s important to remember they are made to get you to your closest mechanic or tyre shop only. In fact, the NRMA now has a policy that all space saver tyres must be fitted to the rear of the car only, as many cars in Europe have skidded off a cliff as a result of driving at excessive speeds around bends fitted with a space saver!! Therefore, when using one, reduce your speed, be extra cautious on the road, and replace it with a full-sized tyre as soon as possible. For long road trips where you may be stranded in the middle of nowhere, it’s worth considering replacing your space saver with a full size spare tyre.
THE FINISH LINE
While tyres can feel like one of the more expensive items on your maintenance schedule, doing little things to take care of them on an ongoing basis can save you money in the long run. Tyres have come down in price so it’s really a no brainer to spend on quality for safety. Your tyres may be the difference between life and death, so take care of them and don’t skimp.