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How to check tyre pressure

Correctly inflated tyres are essential for keeping you safe on the road. Now's the perfect time to take a look at our straightforward step-by-step guide and see how simple it is to check your tyre pressure.

When did you last check your tyres?

According to Highways England, one in five motorway breakdowns are caused by tyre problems. In fact, failing to regularly check tyre pressures can have a direct impact on their performance and safety – which means you run the risk of reducing your grip and increasing your braking distances. Driving with underinflated tyres also means you'll use more fuel, making the cost of motoring even more expensive.

As far as car maintenance goes, the good news is that checking your tyre pressure is one of the simplest things to do. So, it's easy to make sure your tyre pressure is correct all year round. In this handy guide, we'll show you how to carry out a tyre pressure check and tell you how often you should do it.

What should your tyre pressure be?

When it comes to the recommended pressure for your tyres, every vehicle is different. Your car's manufacturer will set what the tyre pressure needs to be and you can find this information in various places:

It's generally good practice to check your tyre pressures at least once a month and before any long journeys. It's also important to check the pressure when the tyres are cool, as the reading can prove inaccurate when they're hot.

You'll find different pressure guidance depending on whether your vehicle is 'laden' or 'unladen'. In other words, if you're carrying a heavy load (laden), the recommended tyre pressures will typically be higher.

Where can I check my tyre pressure?

For some people, they are more likely to check their car's tyre pressure on a regular basis if they have their own tyre pressure gauge and pump at home.

Powered tyre inflators have come a long way in recent years, making the job of checking and inflating tyres a quick and easy job. For a decent powered tyre inflator, you're probably looking at around £30.

If you don't want to buy your own tyre inflator, you can check your tyre pressure at a local garage when you fill up with fuel.

Here's how to successfully complete your tyre pressure checks at a petrol station:

  1. Stop your car close enough to the inflator so that you can see the pressure reading and so the hose will be able to stretch to the front and back tyres.
  2. If it's not free, you will either have to pay (usually 20p or 50p) or get a token from inside the petrol station. You will only have a limited time, so it's a really good idea to remove all your valve caps in advance and put them somewhere safe.
  3. Once it's up and running, choose the correct pressure on the inflator, in accordance with the manufacturer's guidelines – remember that the front and back pressure limits might be different.
  4. Push the inflator onto the valve on your tyres. The machine will then do the job for you, inflating the tyre to the specified limit – once it's been reached, the inflator will beep. Remove the inflator from the valve and move on to the next tyre.
  5. Once you have checked each tyre, replace the valve caps until they're finger-tight.

What other tyre checks do I need to carry out?

Checking the pressure is just one element of essential tyre maintenance. If you don't keep your tyres in a roadworthy condition, you could face a fine of up to £2,500 plus three points on your driving licence, for each illegal tyre. So, if you're caught running on four illegal tyres, could be looking at a £10,000 fine and 12 penalty points.

It makes sense to inspect your tyres at the same time as you're carrying out your tyre pressure checks.

Check the tread

For most vehicles, the minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm. But it's good practice to look into replacing your tyres when they go under 3mm. Adequate tyre tread is crucial for maintaining a strong grip on the UK's often wet and slippery roads. As the tread deteriorates, stopping distances get longer and the grip becomes weaker.

All you need to check your tyre tread is a 20p piece. A 20p fits nicely into the tyre's main grooves, plus it has an outer band which is roughly 1.6mm. Once the coin is inserted in the groove, if you can see the outer band of the 20p, the tread may be both unsafe and illegal.

If you would prefer a more precise reading, you can pick up a tread gauge relatively cheaply.

And if you have any concerns about the tread on your car's tyres, you should get them checked by a specialist.

Look for wear and tear

The UK's roads aren't the most forgiving for tyres, with potholes and poor maintenance in places. Over time, these can take their toll on the condition of your tyres.

You need to be on the lookout for any tears or signs of wear, such as bumps and lumps. If you spot any, ask a tyre specialist for their expert opinion.

Things to remember

  • To find the correct pressures for your tyres, look in the handbook, the fuel cap or driver's door sill or go online.
  • Tyre pressures vary from car to car.
  • You can pump your tyres at home or visit a petrol station.
  • You have a legal responsibility to make sure your tyres remain appropriately inflated and in a roadworthy condition.
  • The penalty for illegal tyres is a fine of up to £2,500 plus three points on your licence, for each illegal tyre.
  • Regular tyre maintenance helps to reduce the chance of a breakdown.

We want to make sure you never find yourself stranded on the side of the road. So, ask our team about adding breakdown cover to your car insurance policy when you get a quote.

Find out more about staying safe on the roads with our handy guides.

All information is correct at the time of publication. Hastings Direct cannot be held responsible for any misinformation displayed.

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