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How to check your car tyre pressure

A motorist checks their tyre pressure.

Want to keep your car as safe as possible? Maintaining optimum car tyre pressure isn't just economically savvy, it's also a vital safety precaution, especially in wet, icy conditions.

Correctly inflated tyres have a longer lifespan and help decrease fuel consumption, as well as CO2 emissions. Over or under inflated tyres can be extremely dangerous, affecting grip and braking capability. They also increase the chance of sudden rapid deflation, which could cause a serious accident on a busy motorway.

If your car tyre pressure isn't correct, your tread depth will be affected. Each year, a whopping 1,200 road accidents are caused by tyres with a tread below legal limits.

Protect yourself and your passengers by checking your tyre pressure at least once a month and before any long journeys. Follow our handy guide to ensure your tyre pressure is just right.

Where to find out your tyre pressure

Your first step is to check the recommended pressure for your tyres. This is set by the manufacturer of your car and is likely to be found in one of the following places:

  • Inside your car's fuel cap.
  • On the inside ledge of the driver's side door.
  • In your car's handbook.

If you can't locate your recommended pressure, try Tyresafe's online pressure checking tool.

Pressure also varies according to vehicle load. The heavier the load, the higher the pressure will need to be.

Avoid checking your tyres when they're hot, as this can affect the accuracy of the reading. Wait until they cool, then measure them.

What do I use to check tyre pressure?

You can either buy your own tyre pressure gauge or pop to your nearest petrol station. If you're pretty certain you'll need to re-inflate a little, it's worth going to a petrol station, as that way you can get two jobs done in one outing. If you've got a spare tyre, check that too.

Follow these steps to successfully complete your tyre pressure check:

  1. If checking at a petrol station, position your car close to the gauge's pump, so the hose will be able to reach your car's front and back tyres.
  2. Most petrol stations charge a small fee, so remove all your tyres' valve caps in advance, then pay via the gauge's coin slot/card reader.
  3. Confirm the correct pressure then enter the number into the gauge – bear in mind, the front tyre pressure limits may differ from those at the rear.
  4. Attach the pump to the valve. The gauge will start testing, beeping when it reaches the correct air limit. Once you hear the beep, move on to the next valve.
  5. After checking each valve, replace the cap, making sure each one is tight.

What else should a tyre check include?

Now you know how to check tyre pressure, be extra safety-conscious and make sure you know how to check your tyre condition and tread too.

Tread

For standard cars, the minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm, but 3mm is an ideal depth to maintain. Tyre tread is vital for a strong grip on the UK's often rainy roads. Poor tread means longer stopping distances and weaker grip.

Make your car tyre check an all-rounder and do the 20p test – it's a quick and easy way to check tyre tread. Put a 20p coin in each tyre's main tread grooves. If you can see the outer band of the 20p coin once it's inserted, the tread may be both unsafe and illegal, so take your car to a qualified professional straightaway.

If you prefer, tyre tread gauges are available to buy in car shops such as Halfords or online.

Condition

To complete your tyre checks, have a closer look at their condition. Watch out for any tears or signs of wear and remove any debris stuck in the tread. The rubber should not have bumps or lumps, so if you spot any, get them checked by a professional.

Irregular wear may be caused by scuffing against kerbs on a regular basis – good to bear in mind when parking.

Don't risk unsafe tyres

Driving with a dangerous tyre could leave you with a fine of up to £2,500, plus three points on your licence. Four tyres deemed illegal could set you back £10,000 and land you with 12 penalty points. In addition, if you have an accident while driving with illegal tyres, this could invalidate any insurance claims.

It's important to remember that it's your legal responsibility to make sure your tyres are safe. Learning how to check your car tyre pressure is a worthwhile pursuit, and helps lessen the chance of breakdowns.

Four top tips for tyre maintenance

  1. Check your tyre pressure every two to three weeks, and monitor car load.
  2. If you're towing another vehicle, make sure you check its pressure levels.
  3. Although it's not illegal, it's not advisable to buy used tyres – opt for new ones that haven't had any previous wear.
  4. Make sure you keep your car in tip-top condition, taking it for a service when needed.

Winter tyres

Tyresafe recommends switching to winter tyres from October to March, as these are the safest choice during this time of year. Low temperatures make icy and dangerous conditions on the road more likely, especially during the prime commuting times of early mornings and early evenings.

Winter tyres have a superior tread, which strengthens grip and shortens stopping distances on cold, wet roads. They are not a legal requirement, but they're a smart investment.

On the road

You can take all the precautions in the world, but accidents can and do happen. Seeking straightforward, affordable cover? Defaqto 5 Star rated and 2018's Car Insurance Provider of the Year, you'll be in good hands with Hastings Direct.

Third party, third party fire and theft, and comprehensive cover are all available, as well as optional extras like breakdown cover. Don't just look after your tyres, look after yourself and get reliable car insurance cover.

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