Although only a small portion (the size of your palm) of a vehicle’s tyre makes contact with the road surface, the technology and science which ensures that it can withstand extreme conditions and stresses, and enable the driver to move safely across variable surfaces, is just amazing.
Of course, all of this comes at a price – both in terms of fitting new tyres as well as paying for the sometimes deadly results of neglect.
Let us explain some of the regular/standard tyre terms:
Wheel alignment: This refers to the alignment of the wheels in relation to the suspension and to one another. Camber: This is the inward or outward angle of the wheels when one looks at it from the front. Toe angle: This refers to the extent of the slant of your tyre when you look down on it from above. Caster angle: This is the vertical axis of a vehicle’s steered wheels, which helps balance steering and provides stability when cornering. Tyre or wheel balancing: This corrects the weight balance of the tyre and rim combination. If you feel a slight vibration on your steering while driving or only at certain speeds, it is time to have it inspected by a professional. Mushroom plug: These are rubber compounded plugs used to repair a hole in a tubeless tyre. Patches: Can be used to repair the tube inside the tyre and can also be used to repair the inside of the tyre. It cannot be used for sidewall repairs, though.
• The earlier your notice and address irregular tyre wear, the better. Regular physical inspection of your tyres can and will save you money. Take the wheels off to check the inside (back) of both tyres and rims.
• Check tyre pressure at least once a month and preferably in the morning. Exterior heat or heat generated by the tyres during contact with the road surface will expand the air inside the tyre and will thus, when you measure it under these conditions, give you a higher reading. Do not however, under these conditions, release air from the tyre.
• It is common knowledge that the gauges at fuel stations differ, so a better option is to buy yourself a small handheld pressure gauge and test the tyre pressure.
• Irregular tyre wear should be addressed immediately. Incorrect tyre pressure can cause wear in the middle part or edges of a tyre tread pattern.
• To ensure even tyre wear as much as it is possible, you should have your tyres rotated, balanced and the wheel alignment done at least every 10 000km.
• Depending on whether you drive a front- or rear-wheel driven car, the front or rear tyres may show more wear sooner. Be mindful of this and get excessive wear inspected sooner rather than later.
• Driving through potholes and/or curve-hopping can cause invisible-to-the-eye damage to both tyres and suspension, and it is always advisable to have your vehicle inspected.
• Also check the spare wheel.
• Ensure that you have all the equipment/tools in your car to enable to you to change a flat tyre en route.
• If you have locking wheel nuts, please ensure that you always have the key to these with you. Nothing is more frustrating than having everything required to change a flat tyre, but you cannot unlock these nuts as the key is missing.
• Last but not least: It is one thing to look at an infographic on how to change a tyre and actually doing it. Do yourself a favour – make the effort to do a tyre change at home to ensure that you are comfortable with doing it.
• Remember, unless your vehicle is fitted with run-flat tyres, it is unwise to drive any distance with a completely flat tyre. It will destroy the tyre and may well also cause damage to the suspension.
• Being stranded at the side of the road for longer than is absolutely necessary is not safe. Be prepared.
The golden rule is regular inspection, and if you feel unqualified or uncertain, visit a professional wheel and tyre supplier.