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Tyre Buying Guide

When should I change my tyres?

A car's tyres are its only contact point with the road surface, so making sure your rubber is in good nick is vital for overall safety

Few things are more critical to the safety and performance of a car than its tyres. A car cannot be safe if its tyres are in poor condition.
As the only components in constant touch with the road surface, the tyres contribute not only to safe handling and braking, but also to the comfort and overall running costs of a car.
Major signs you need to replace your tyres area: Poor road grip when braking or cornering and Excessive vibration.
The following checklist should be followed every two weeks:

Tread Depth

All tyres have tread wear indicators (TWIs) - small blocks of rubber within the tread at certain points around the tyre. As the tyre wears, these blocks get closer and eventually become flush with the surface of the tyre.
Once that happens, the tyre is officially unroadworthy because by this time only 1.6mm of tread is left. The recommendation is that the tyre should be replaced once tread depth is down to around 2mm.

Uneven Wear

Uneven wear can be a sign of the car’s wheel alignment being out of adjustment, worn suspension, or under/over-inflated tyres.
To check for uneven wear, inspect the whole contact surface, including the inner and outer edges, of the tyre. Front-wheel drive cars normally show a greater degree of wear on the front tyres, so particular notice should be taken of the relative wear front to rear.
Rotating tyre pairs from front to back at regular intervals is recommended, for both front and rear-wheel drive vehicles, provided tyre size is the same at both ends.

Old Age

Generally, a tyre that has been fitted onto the vehicle for more than five years will need replacement. Even if the kilometres travelled are low, or the tyre isn’t even being used, it will deteriorate as the rubber loses its suppleness through the drying out of moisture and oils.
This applies to all tyres on the vehicle – including the spare.
It’s also worth noting that tyres deteriorate more quickly in hot climates.

Replace Full Set

It’s best to replace all four tyres. Once the tyres are due for replacement, it’s recommended that they’re all replaced at the same time, including the spare.
Mismatched tyres can interfere with the overall balance and road grip of the vehicle. It’s also necessary to note if your vehicle’s tyres have a specific rotational direction – many tyres today are designed this way and need to be fitted accordingly.

Choose the right tyre

It’s important for your car’s safety that you use correct-size tyres to replace the originals. A change in tyre profile will affect the rolling circumference of the tyre and may require changing rim size so the original circumference is retained.

man pulling tyre off the shelf

The importance of a wheel balance & wheel alignment

It's all very well to have a fine set of tyres on your car, but you can experience big problems if your tyres are out of balance, or alignment.

Just one affected wheel not only degrades the way the vehicle drives, but is also capable of compromising safety. If the suspension alignment is bad enough your car may feel like it is vibrating, or the steering tries to pull the car to either the left or the right and requires an extra careful hand at the wheel.

Everyday wear and tear takes its toll as well, which means that after even a few incident-free years the car drives with less precision.

It is therefore necessary that every vehicle has its tyres and wheels checked by a tyre centre at regular intervals (every 10,000km is the common recommendation), not just for damaged sidewalls, embedded stones and/or nails in the rubber casing, but also for signs of uneven wear that are a sure indicator of something being no longer quite right with the suspension.

Irregular tyre wear not only means earlier replacement of the tyre(s), but also increases fuel consumption.

An out-of-balance wheel can usually (but not always), be fixed quickly and without fuss, while suspension misalignment requires specialised equipment measuring essentials such as caster (the forward or backward tilt of the steering axis, when viewed from the side), camber (the angle between the centreline of the front wheel and the vertical) and toe-in or toe-out (the alignment of the front wheels closer together at the front than at the back, or vice versa).

What is an 'Eco' tyre?

Combining eco-friendly low rolling resistance with tenacious road grip was a problem for tyre designers until they discovered the magic ingredient silicone

Designing a tyre to assist fuel economy by minimising friction while providing the road grip required for optimised braking and cornering would seem to be mutually exclusive objectives. Yet that is the dilemma facing tyre companies as the focus of the auto industry in recent years shifts to assuage growing concern for the environment. On the road, tyre distortion generates heat and adds to rolling resistance. Energy loss from this heat build-up is responsible for 90 per cent of a tyre’s rolling resistance, so anything that minimises this heat improves fuel efficiency and performance. But although low rolling resistance tyres have been around for a long time it has been, until recently, accepted that such tyres might be good for saving fuel (and consequently reducing CO2 emissions) but they were not brilliantly effective in terms of road grip. Acceptable on a low-performance car but less so on a performance vehicle – which is undoubtedly the reason for low rolling resistance tyres, until recently, being relatively uncommon.

However in the 1990s the introduction of silica to replace the carbon black used in tyre compounds swung the balance and enabled tyre-makers to factor both low rolling resistance and road grip into a compatible mix. Hey presto, a seemingly impossible problem was solved.

Using silica as part of the tyre compound has brought higher degrees of flexibility and elasticity at lower temperatures, which result in improved grip and braking capabilities in cold weather. In a general sense, rolling resistance is typically reduced by about 20 per cent over a conventional tyre, with fuel economy benefits of as much as 12 per cent.

Other factors come into play of course when designing an eco tyre. For example Continental’s EcoContact 5 tyre has had a lot of design attention paid to the grip, flexing and load zones. The tread pattern is flatter than normal to reduce deformation in the contact area, and there are extra-thin sipes in the tread lugs that help remove and channel water to improve wet-weather performance.

The bottom line is noteworthy. According to claims made by eco tyre manufacturers, there are not only the emission reductions, but also a tangible effect on the wallet. For example Goodyear claims its Assurance Fuel Max tyre has the potential to save up to 320 litres of fuel during the life of the tyre (which is extended because of the design in the first place), equating to 320 litres, or as much as $480 at current petrol prices.

What is a 'space saver' tyre?

Like the rest of a new car's components, the humble spare tyre has come a long way...

As car designers ponder on ways of saving weight, or creating more boot space, the regular full-size spare started to become a bit of an inconvenience. Even an alloy spare wheel was quite weighty, and indisputably bulky.

So, sometime during the 1980s, car-makers alighted on the idea of changing the status of the spare wheel, downgrading it from “spare” to “temporary.”

Thus began the era of the space-saver wheel/tyre combination. Like the original spare, the space-saver was designed to replace a deflated tyre, but only as a temporary measure. Smaller and lighter, it opened up boot space in many cars, as well as reducing weight – but it was only to be used long enough to get to a repair shop.

Not only was the driver advised to limit speed (usually to a maximum of 80km/h), the space-saver was also only designed to be used for a limited distance. And because of its smaller cross-section and reduced road grip, it also compromised the car’s handling. All these inconveniences were considered to be a worthwhile sacrifice by the car-maker, and the space-saver remains the most common type of spare used today.

Still, today, a new car scores significant brownie points with us if it carries a full-size spare – and even more if it’s an alloy wheel the same as those already on the car.


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