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7 tell-tale signs your car needs new tyres

calendar Published on: Friday, 4th October 2019 | female icon Author: Aminta Gagnon

When did you last replace your tyres? This is an often overlooked but very important part of car maintenance, and not all drivers know how to check their tyres or how often to buy new ones.

Why is it so important to keep an eye on your tyres?

Your tyres need to be in a sound, roadworthy condition at all times. This is not only so that your car will pass its MOT each year, but also for your own safety (and everyone else’s). Overly worn tyres give you less control and a poorer grip on the road, as well as increasing the risk of aquaplaning in wet conditions. It takes much longer to stop when your tyres are worn, and you could even be at risk of a blowout.

Obvious signs your tyres need replacing

So, what tyre issues should you be looking out for? Take a close look at your tyres, and pay extra attention the next time you drive. If you experience any of the following, it’s time to buy new tyres:

1. There's not enough tread depth

Brand new tyres come with at least 8mm of tread to help them maintain good contact with the road. Over time however, this will wear away. It’s your responsibility to ensure that the tread doesn’t drop below a certain depth.

There’s a simple way to check the tread depth on your tyres, and you don’t need a tape measure. Take a 20p and place it in the main groove of the tread. If you can see the outer ring of the coin, it means that your tyres are too worn. Repeat in a few places around the circumference of the tyre, just in case the tyre has worn unevenly.

Your tyres may also have tread depth indicators. These are very useful, as they allow you to check tread depth at a glance.

Remember that it is a legal requirement to have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm. This should be in a continuous band around the tyre. If you’re caught driving with tyres that are considered dangerous because they don’t have enough tread, you could end up with a fine and points on your licence. You’ll be penalised per tyre, so if all four are overly worn, you could face a maximum fine of £10,000 and 12 points.

2. Your tyres are 10 years old

You should be keeping an eye on the condition of your tyres on a regular basis as part of your standard car maintenance checks. However, your tyres should be inspected by a professional once they’re five years old.

Once your tyres reach their tenth birthday - from the date they were manufactured - they will almost certainly need to be replaced. Even if they seem usable, it’s still a smart idea to get a new set. You can also tell when it’s time to replace your tyres by their mileage. Have a look at the manufacturer’s recommendations for how many miles they can travel before they need changing. On average, tyres should last for 25,000 miles, but it does depend on your car and driving style.

3. You're experiencing a shaky drive

Can you feel more vibration than usual from the road when you’re driving? There are a few potential causes of this, from faulty shock absorbers to problems with wheel alignment, but it could also be your tyres. If there’s not enough tread depth, you’re in for a bumpy ride.If you’re not sure whether the level of vibration is normal, see if you can find a newly resurfaced section of road. If it’s still shaky and loud when you move onto the smooth tarmac, you need to get it checked out.

4. You're hearing squeaks, whines and other strange noises

Odd noises are always worrying while driving, and you should get them checked out in case of a serious problem. A whining, creaking or squeaking sound could be a warning sign of a tyre problem. It happens when a tyre gets a puncture or starts to crack. The sound is produced by a change in air compression. Don’t ignore this noise if you hear it, as if it’s down to a tyre problem, it could increase the risk of a blowout.

5. You can see cracks

When you’re inspecting your tyres, look out for any visible cracks. A crack in the sidewall of the tyre is an early warning sign for a potential blowout, which can be frightening if not highly dangerous when travelling at speed.

Cracks happen due to deterioration in the chemicals and oils in the rubber material the tyres are made of. There are a range of risk factors to be aware of. For example, tyres on cars that are left outside can suffer deterioration caused by exposure to the sun. The good news is that cracks are usually easy to spot, but you need to be looking.

6. You've noticed bulges and blisters

If you can see obvious defects in the outside of the tyre, from splits to bulges, it means that there’s something seriously wrong internally. If you notice anything unusual, get your tyres checked out or changed right away.

7. There's a hole in the tread

If there’s a hole in the tread and it’s larger than about 6mm, it’s recommended to replace your tyre. This kind of damage can worsen, as well as causing problems for your grip, traction and control.

So, how often should you be checking your tyres? Ideally, you should carry out an inspection around once a month. If you’re planning a long journey, always check your tyres along with windscreen wipers, lights, engine fluids and other key elements.

It’s especially important for your tyres to be in good condition before winter sets in. Harsh driving conditions such as snow and ice can make existing tyre problems worse, as well as making the roads more hazardous in general. If in doubt, always get your tyres checked out.