Tyres are a safety critical element of every vehicle on the road. For this reason, they are also one of the most highly regulated automotive components. Tyre manufacturers exercise great care in producing safe, reliable and compliant products. However, the vehicle operator is responsible for the tyre’s in-service condition.
Tyre performance can be heavily compromised by poor maintenance and under-inflation. Tyre condition should be checked at least monthly and before long journeys. Leaving it for the annual MOT test is far too long and the test does not check for correct inflation.
Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems can provide useful warning of pressure loss but they can’t check for damage, nor can they re-inflate your tyres.
All new and retreaded tyres are required to meet international minimum performance standards. However, in the wet the best-performing tyres (A-rated) stop in three-quarters the distance of those just meeting the minimum standard. That may be the difference between pulling up short and a collision, between receiving a stiff neck and life-changing injuries, or worse. For you or for others.
Tyres with the lowest rolling resistance may cost more than those that just meet the minimum standard. But the extra cost is soon recovered in improved fuel economy. After that it’s savings all the way and the CO2 savings start from day one. Vehicle manufacturers fit low rolling resistance tyres as original equipment for their important contribution to reducing vehicle emissions. All tyres are not all equal. Make sure you specify replacement tyres with the same performance as the original equipment in order to maintain the performance of your vehicle.
Buying better tyres is like having an insurance policy that pays for itself. It’s good to have that shorter stopping distance even though you hope you’ll never need it. And the fuel savings pay for it. What’s more, you’ll be doing the right thing for the planet. What’s not to like?
Tyres are a safety-critical part of every vehicle. They aren’t a fit and forget item: a little attention from time to time will save cost, breakdowns or worse.
Cars and vans
Correct inflation is vital to the tyre’s intended function. Even if your vehicle has a TPMS system, check the pressure monthly against the values given by the manufacturer. While you’re there, take a look at the tyres themselves and check for any embedded foreign objects.
Impact with kerbs or potholes can damage the tyre’s internal structure, causing a bulge in the sidewall. Tyres showing bulges should be replaced urgently.
Wheel mis-alignment leads to uneven wear, shorter tyre life, increased fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Have the alignment checked and corrected at the earliest signs to save a packet for yourself and the planet.
Don’t forget to check the spare tyre for correct inflation and signs of ageing. Don’t have a spare? Check the Mobility kit is complete and, if there is one, that the can of sealant hasn’t passed its expiry date. If it has, the puncture may not be sealed or the tyre may not be re-inflated correctly.
Heavy commercial vehicles
Tyres are no less crucial on heavy commercial vehicles and as there are more of them, they need more managing. Industry and government have collaborated to produce the authoritative Guide to Tyre Management on Heavy Commercial Vehicles.
Improved tyre stewardship would bring significant improvement to both the environmental impact of mobility and road safety.
Tyre neglect is widespread: 27% of MOT test failures are tyre-related.
Highways England report over 3600 tyre-related incidents a year on the strategic road network causing personal inconvenience, traffic disruption and risk to roadside repair personnel. Many of these incidents could be avoided through improved tyre care.
Surveys show repeatedly that 25% of vehicles have at least one tyre 25% under-inflated. Over 600,000 tyres and 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 are wasted in the UK every year due to tyre under-inflation.
Changing consumer behaviour requires concerted action by numerous stakeholders in government, industry and the 3rd sector. Recognition of the impacts, direct and indirect, of our actions is a first and necessary step on the journey towards improved road safety and increased resource efficiency.
Defra reports that over 5 million salvaged partly-worn tyres are supplied in the UK every year. Although this contributes to increased resource efficiency, many used tyres are not suitable for further use; of almost 500 blind purchases of second-hand tyres made by Trading Standards Officers in recent years, 58% did not comply with the minimum safety standard required by regulations.
Demand for second-hand tyres is longstanding and resilient. Market research shows that consumers are principally the young and economically disadvantaged. Those of modest means should not be obliged to compromise on road safety, for themselves or for other road users.
The present market for second-hand tyres is failing to protect the motorist. A better functioning market is needed to satisfy demand with safe product whilst contributing to improved resource efficiency.
Tyres can deteriorate with age which may show as cracking or crazing on the sidewall or in the grooves of the tread pattern. If in doubt consumers should consult a tyre specialist to establish whether a tyre needs replacing. Deterioration may not always be visible and may also become apparent through increased noise or vibration.
Tyre ageing is not a function of the passage of time alone but rather the cumulative exposure to adverse environmental and operational factors. Prolonged exposure to ozone or ultra-violet light can affect the natural and synthetic rubbers used in tyres. Tyre manufacturers incorporate additives to reduce this phenomenon. The flexing of the tyre in normal use helps the diffusion of these additives to the surface of the tyre where they act against the adverse effects of exposure to ozone and ultra-violet light. This diffusion process is greatly reduced in tyres fitted to vehicles that are used infrequently. Consequently, such tyres are more susceptible to degradation caused by adverse environmental factors than tyres on vehicles that are frequently used. Spare wheels and tyres on trailers and caravans are a case in point. Older or infrequently used tyres should be regularly inspected for early signs of deterioration.
Since tyre operating conditions and environmental exposure vary so widely, it is not possible to establish a universal age limit beyond which tyres are not suitable for further use. However, some tyre manufacturers recommend that car or van tyres over 10 years old should be withdrawn from service.