How important is tyre maintenance?

Many motorists don’t consider tyre maintenance when purchasing a car.

Often the replacement cost of tyres can far outweigh any maintenance costs and this is something to consider when on a budget. Most importantly the tyres are the only thing between you and the road and can save your life, so these are not to be taken lightly or neglected. It is never a good idea to compromise on safety. The quality and condition of your tyres should be your number one priority, equally as important as servicing your engine.

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When it comes to tyre maintenance, there are specific factors that can affect the lifespan and condition of your tyre wear. These consist of the following; tyre pressure, wheel balancing, wheel alignment, tyre rotation and shocks. If you follow these simple steps, you will increase the safety of your vehicle, increase the lifespan of your tyres and save money overall.

Tyre Pressure and inflation

Factory fitted tyres will be required to be inflated according to your owner’s manual and often these can also be found on a sticker on the inside of your fuel filler flap or on the doorpost sticker. Usual tyre pressures are around 2.2 bar or 220 Kpa but vary depending on tyre manufacturer and tyre sizes. These should be checked each time you fill up your car with petrol and should be checked before a long drive, while the tyres are cold. Never check tyre pressures after prolonged driving, as this will indicate inflated results and the pressure will most likely need to be let down, leaving you with softer tyres once you have parked and the air in the tyres has cooled down. Remember hot air expands. Next, you’ll want to make sure to inflate using pure Nitrogen, even though air is made up of 78% Nitrogen and 21% Oxygen, the molecules are larger in Nitrogen and thus allow for lease leakage in tyres than Oxygen. This ensures that there is less chance of loosing pressure in your tyres and your tyres will stay inflated at their correct pressures for longer. But, this does not exclude you from regular tyre pressure checks.

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Wheel Balancing

This should be checked when new tyres are installed and every time you rotate tyres or do wheel alignment. Your tyres will be unevenly weighted and the centre of gravity of the tyre around your wheel rim will be off centre, this will cause vibrations and uneven tyre wear, reducing the life of your tyres. Wheel balancing is fairly cheap, most places will charge around R25 per tyre and will even offer free balancing checks. This is essential and should never be excluded.  Tiny counterweights are added to your wheel rim in specific locations determined by a centrifugal machine that can identify where the wheel is unevenly weighted. If not properly balanced you will experience greater vibrations at higher speeds or under breaking and can become unsafe.

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Wheel alignment

This is used to ensure your wheels are aligned parallel to each other in order to travel in a straight line. Wheel alignment costs can vary from place to place between R200 – R300, you just need to shop around. This is again very important and if not done every time you replace tyres or do tyre rotation, the life of your tyres can be drastically reduced. This is probably the biggest contributor to uneven tyre wear. Many people often can’t afford to do wheel alignment each time they have to replace a blown tyre, but it is crucial you spend your money wisely otherwise you could find your self back in another few months forking out for a new tyre again. Wheel alignment can pull your car off the road under heavy emergency breaking or make your car veer off course and into oncoming lanes while driving, which is a serious safety risk. You will feel this from the steering wheel pulling to one side of the road or by vibrations. Wheel alignment will gradually decay from daily driving or when hitting a kerb or driving up onto a pavement, so it is wise to check this frequently every 3-6 months, most places will offer free alignment checks.

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Tyre Rotation

As you may have noticed, the road surface is uneven and slopes to the sides in order to ensure water runs off the road surface and into the gutters. This has an affect on your tyre wear too, because the weight of your car is unevenly distributed over your four wheels depending on the curvature of the road surface. Most cars also don’t have a 50:50 weight distribution between the front wheels and rear wheels, due to the engine and gearbox bring situated at the front, creating more wear of the front tyres. By rotating your tyres every 10 000km or as per the tyre manufacturer, you will ensure more even tyre wear and this can prolong the life of your tyres. Some newer cars will even allow you to set a tyre rotation service interval on your computer.

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Shocks

Lastly, your shocks need to be checked when doing tyre replacements or when servicing your vehicle, as worn shocks can have a negative effect on your tyre wear as well. Worn shocks will cause flat spots on your tyres by not absorbing bumps in the road effectively and this will cause your tyre to bounce and make your ride uncomfortable and lessen the life of your tyres. Flat spots can also occur from extended lengths of parking over a period of a few months or by driving with your hand break on, dragging your tyres. This is to be avoided at all costs as you cannot repair flat spots and your tyre will need to be replaced. Worn shocks are also dangerous and can reduce your road handling, offer poor braking due to bouncing, increased aqua planing and overall bad for wear and tear of suspension and steering. These will all result in huge costly repairs and can easily be avoided with regular check ups.

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Last but not least check your tyre indicator to determine how much life your tyres still have. Practice safe driving by keeping your tyre maintenance in order and ensuring your car is road worthy. By doing this you will not only save money, but may also save lives.

Always replace badly worn tyres immediately and never leave punctures unfixed. If you see a buble in your tyre, have it replaced. Also don’t neglect your spare tyre, have this checked regularly, you don’t want to be stuck with a flat and no good spare.


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