The cold snap’s here – don’t get caught short!

06 February, 2018

It had to happen some time but the cold snap’s here so, wherever you’re going to be, please take steps to ensure you have a safe motoring experience. This sounds obvious, but if you’ve got a long-ish journey ahead, it’s worth making sure you’re prepared for hold-ups and an extended stay in your car. Gloves and a warm blanket are always worth keeping in the boot as a ‘just in case’; your tank should have enough fuel in it so you can keep the engine on to stay warm if you’re stuck on the motorway; your screen wash should be full, as it’s so easy to run out in cold and frosty conditions; your torch should be working and your phone is fully charged. Check your tyre pressures too; if you’re not used to doing this, you could always take your car into a garage and have a mechanic do this; if you have the time, please read on as you never know when you might to DIY!

Tyre pressure

Tyre pressure affects your car’s handling, turning, braking and fuel efficiency. A tyre at the wrong pressure will wear out faster and might put your safety at risk. Checking tyres pressures regularly (once a month is ideal) is a good habit to get into as tyres lose pressure all the time. Even in ideal conditions they lose about 0.69 bar or one pound a square inch (psi) a month – and that figure that rises with the temperature. If you don’t know what the recommended pressure is, you can find it in your owner’s manual and, usually, on a sticker inside the driver’s door/on the door sill.

One of the easiest ways to check pressure and top up your tyres with air is at garages and supermarket petrol stations. It’s simplicity itself; once you’ve removed the valve caps from each tyre, put your money or tokens in the machine, inputted the pressure you need, you should then push the nozzle onto one of the valves and the machine wil do the rest, stopping when the pressure has been reached.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to check your pressure:

  1. Use a pressure gauge. Either buy one of your own or use one at your local garage.
  2. Do it when tyres are cool because tyres heat up as you drive and that can affect your reading. First thing in the morning is a good time to do this.
  3. Unscrew the valve cap and place the gauge over the valve. Don’t worry if you hear a bit of hissing – that’s normal.
  4. Read the pressure on the gauge and compare it with your tyre’s recommended bar or psi.
  5. Add air if you need to, either using your own foot pump/machine at garage or supermarket.
  6. Re-check your pressure with the gauge and check against the manufacturer’s specifications.
  7. Replace the valve caps on each tyre.

If you feel you’re losing tyre pressure, there may be a fault with the valve or there’s an ill-fitting rim.

Tyre treads

Checking the tread on all four of your tyres is just as important and can help diagnose potential problems. Check them once a month, as well as before and after long journeys. Here are the signs you should be looking for:

  • Visible tread wear bars: You can only see these bars of hard rubber when your tyre’s tread has become worn. If you can see them, your tyres need replacing. If you’re not sure where they are, you’ll see a mark on the sidewall that indicates where to look.
  • Your tread is less than 1.6mm: Under European law, your treads must be at least 1.6mm deep around the tyre’s circumference. Make sure you measure both the inside and outside of your treads.
  • Something’s lodged in the tread: Things get stuck in treads all the time. Usually they’re easy to remove, but if you spot something that looks as if it’s gone through the rubber, like a nail, leave it in until you can get to a garage otherwise you’re likely to end up with a flat tyre.
  • Tyres are worn on the outside: If they’re worn on both of their edges, you might need to inflate them or check for leaks. Driving on underinflated tyres uses more fuel and puts you at greater risk of accidents. If you notice that only the front tyres have worn edges, you might be taking corners too quickly.
  • Tyres are worn in the centre: If the centre of the tread is wearing more than the outer edges, you might have overinflated your tyres. This can increase the risk of a tyre blowout. Get a pressure gauge and then deflate to the recommended pressure level.
  • Uneven wear across a single tyre: The wear patterns on your treads might indicate problems elsewhere. If you notice uneven patches of wear, or bald spots, you might need your wheels balanced or aligned.
  • Uneven wear across all the tyres: Your tyres won’t wear out at the same rate. The front of your vehicle carries the engine and does most of the steering work, so tyres on your front axle will wear out more quickly. If they seem to be wearing more than normal, you should have your suspension checked. If wear is greater on one side of the vehicle than the other, it might be time for an alignment.
  • Saw-toothed pattern on tyre edges: If you notice that your tyres have a saw-toothed or feathered appearance around the edges, the likely cause is erratic rubbing against the road. That’s a sign that you may need an alignment.

If you notice that your vehicle isn’t handling as well as usual, perhaps there’s excessive vibration for example, then please come and see us, or your local garage, as soon as possible. You can reach us on 01206 211483.