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How to check tyre pressure

When did you last check your tyres? If it's more than a month ago (which will be the case for most drivers), then it's time to take a closer look.

Good quality, properly-inflated tyres last longer and boost your car's fuel efficiency, meaning more money in your pocket. There's also the important issue of safety. Worn tyres increase stopping distances and are far more likely to puncture, while under or over-inflated tyres are at high risk of a blowout, which could be extremely dangerous at high speeds.

The stats

Worryingly, research from the AA found 65% of female drivers and 36% of male drivers put their lives at risk every day by running worn tyres. Rather than carrying out checks themselves, they rely on garages for information on when to change them.

Tyre related incidents lead to thousands of casualties every year and cost the economy millions of pounds. According to statistics cited by TyreSafe, tyres account for the most casualties caused by a vehicle defect (36%). Over the past five years, 5,677 casualties have been caused due to the defective tyres. Of these, 989 people were killed or seriously injured.

Over the past three years, there have been more than 15,000 convictions for tyre-related offences. If you're caught with illegal tyres, you can receive an on the spot fine of up to £2,500 plus three points on your licence — and that's just for one tyre. Not only that, but driving with illegal tyres can invalidate your car insurance if you were to make a claim.

Ensuring your tyres are safe and legal is no one's responsibility but your own — read our guide for some handy tips and advice.

Did you know?

  • Tyres are the largest contributing factor in accidents that cause injures at 36%.
  • 2.2 million cars fail their MOT every year because of their tyres.
  • One in four vehicles on the road in the UK have illegal tyres.

Source: tyresafe.org

Checking your tyres

Tyres need to be checked once a month at the very least, as well as before any long road trips. It's best to check tyres every fortnight during winter, ensuring they're in tip-top condition to handle cold, wet and icy road conditions.

There are three things you need to inspect: pressure, condition, and tread depth.

Pressure

Your recommended tyre pressures can be found in your owner's manual — failing that, it could be printed on the inside ledge of the driver's door, or on the filler cap. The TyreSafe website also has a free pressure check tool you can use.

Bear in mind front and rear tyre pressures might be different, and the limit will depend on whether the car's partly or fully loaded. For an accurate reading, test the tyres when they're cold and use a quality gauge (you can buy a combined pump and gauge). Inflate tyres if necessary and don't forget to check the spare while you're at it.

Condition

Now the tyres are the right pressure, it's time to inspect their condition. Look for wear and tear in the rubber, and remove any stones or debris lodged in the tread. If you spot any unusual lumps or bumps in the rubber, it's best to have a professional check them.

Tread depth

The legal limit for tread depth is 1.6mm for standard cars. You should aim for at least 2mm of depth, and 3mm during winter to make sure the car has good traction on the road. A simple trick is to run a 2p coin in the groove of the tread, as the distance from the bottom of the coin to the bottom of the '2' is 2mm. If the '2' is partially covered up, then the tyre's within the legal limit.

Using a petrol station pump

If you don't have a pump at home, pop to your local petrol station. It will need to be nearby, as travelling more than two miles will warm the tyres up and will affect the pressure reading. Here's what you should do:

  1. Pull up to the pump, close enough so the hose can reach all of the tyres that need inflating —this will save you having to move the car.
  2. If the pump has a timer or is coin operated, remove the dust caps (twisting anticlockwise) on the tyres before putting your money in.
  3. Set the digital display to the correct pressure, remembering front and rear tyre limits might be different.
  4. If you haven't already, remove the dust caps, then take the pump and push it into the valve — this will start the testing and airflow automatically. You don't need to keep an eye on the pressure as the pump will stop and beep when it reaches the limit, at which point you can replace the dust caps and move on to the next tyre.

If you're using a foot pump, the steps are the same but you'll need to put the lever in the 'lock' position once the pump's attached to the valve. You can then check the pressure gauge yourself and add air if necessary.

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