“I didn’t realise that the four tyres of my car are the only bits of material that are touching mother earth at any one time when I drive. When you think what a small area of each tyre is actually touching the road surface, it brings home the fact how important it is for those little tyre areas not to be worn and smooth, but to have a good tread.”
“Sir, I have to inform you that the accident claim you submitted last week has been declined because your tyres were not roadworthy, and unfortunately you will have to pay out of your own pocket the damages caused to the other vehicle as well as that of your own.”
The first comment illustrates what we tend to overlook – the crucial importance of good tyres with regard to road safety. The second point is critical to our financial well-being – we don’t want to be in a position where a claim is rejected because the particular tyres were not roadworthy.
WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY ABOUT TYRES?
Regulation 212 of the National Road Traffic Act says that your tyres must have at least a 1-mm tread. If the tread is less than that, the driver is liable for a serious fine. There are tyres that have tread wear indicators positioned in the tread pattern, which will show when the tread depth reaches less than 1.6 mm. Such tyres are not considered to be roadworthy once the tread is level with these indicators.1
DAMAGED TYRES – WHY ARE THEY DANGROUS?
Smooth and damaged tyres not only cause tyre blow-outs, but can also increase the braking distance in the case of an emergency stop. All this can lead to serious accidents, injuries and even death.2
A tyre with very little tread is often talked about, but what about a tyre with an internal cut? The latter can be caused by a tyre hitting a pothole, which in turn allows air to enter the tyre sidewall. This in turn causes the tyre wall to bulge, which will lead to the total destruction of the tyre should it burst. Bald and bulging tyres must be replaced. The same applies to a tyre, where a nail, for instance, has pierced the tyre wall. Once the integrity of the tyre wall structure has been compromised, check with the dealership if the tyre has to be replaced.
Remember, a chain is only as good as its weakest link – your car may have the best brakes in South Africa, but if the tyres are smooth, it renders the brakes virtually irrelevant.
SMOOTH TYRES – SOME DANGERS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Let us have a look at some other dangers of driving with smooth tyres:2
- Smooth tyres don’t grip the road surface as they should, seeing they have lost the tread. That means that it will take longer to brake in an emergency, with the added danger of possibly skidding and sliding, depending on the road surface.
- Tyres with deep treads allow water from a rain storm to be quickly displaced when driving through a large puddle on the road. It means that such tyres will not be affected by lots of water on the road. A smooth tyre, nevertheless, has no more tread, and thus large amounts of water can no longer be quickly displaced. The result is a phenomenon called hydroplaning, which means that the car begins to “ski” on top of the water. This destabilises the car completely, and can cause it to go all over the place, with possible disastrous consequences.
- What is perhaps not so well known is that smooth tyres can cause irreversible damage to the car’s suspension. In other words, new tyres replacing smooth tyres won’t necessarily be able to make up for a damaged suspension caused by the smooth tyres.
WHAT ABOUT CHECKING YOUR TYRES REGULARLY?
When we pull up into the garage to refuel, we ask the attendant to check the oil and water, while filling up the car with petrol. The closest we get to thinking about the tyres, is by asking for the tyre pressures to be checked. But when do we ever carry out a thorough visual inspection of each tyre? It should be on a regular basis, even weekly. The obvious reason for not regularly visually inspecting our tyres is that it is physically not easy to do. The front wheels can be turned sharply, so that they come away from the mudguards, and can then be easily inspected. After looking at all four tyres, allow the car to go slightly forward or backward, so that the other areas of the tyres can be examined. Sometimes, a nail is discovered that has been there for ages, but fortunately did not cause a leak.
COMMON TYRE PROBLEMS TO LOOK OUT FOR
These are some of the usual problems encountered with tyres:3
- If both edges of the tyre are worn, it means that the tyres have been too soft or under-inflated. The correct tyre pressure, as recommended by the manufacturer, means that the shape of the tyre is at its optimum for maximum grip on the road, and thus providing maximum safety. An underinflated tyre has a changed shape, with an increased surface area of tyre touching the road. This leads to additional friction being created, which in turn leads to an increase in tyre temperature. In winter, the tyre pressures could be possibly be changed, according to the manufacturer’s specifications.1
- Remember, when the pressure in one tyre is suddenly quite low, it could mean that there is a leak somewhere in the tyre. Leaks can only really be located properly by going to a garage, where they take the tyre off the car and examine it carefully in water for any air leaks.
- Conversely, if the centre part of the tyre is worn, it means that such a tyre is too hard or over-inflated. In such as case, the grip of the tyre on the road will be reduced.
- If the tyre is worn only on the one side, it indicates that the wheels need realignment.
- If a clunking noise comes from the car whenever you go over bumpy parts of the road, it may well mean that the shock absorbers are gone.
- Uneven, bald spots on the tyres show that the wheel balancing or shock absorbers need to be checked.
This article was prepared by Eric Sandmann in his personal capacity. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views and opinions of Prime Meridian Direct (Pty) Ltd, FSP41040.The views and opinions in the article should not be attributed to anyone but the author unless expressly stated. Nothing in this article should be relied upon as advice, this publication is presented for informational purposes only. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found in this article, without first obtaining proper financial advice from the appropriate professional. The author makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, or completeness, of any information linked from, referred to, or contained in this article. The author reserves the right, to edit and change the content of this article.
— Arrive Alive (@_ArriveAlive) June 28, 2017