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Tyre care 101: Pressure, rotation, and alignment

Ensuring your vehicle's tyres are properly maintained is not just about extending the life of the tyres but also about your safety, the safety of your passengers, and the overall performance of your vehicle.


In the UK, where road conditions can vary drastically from city streets to rural roads, understanding the basics of tyre care—pressure, rotation, and alignment—is essential. This comprehensive guide will provide you with everything you need to know to keep your tyres in top condition.

The importance of tyre pressure

Tyre pressure is the foundation of tyre care. It affects not only the lifespan of your tyres but also your vehicle’s fuel efficiency and handling. Driving with incorrectly inflated tyres can lead to increased wear and tear, reduced grip, and even tyre blowouts.

How to check your tyre pressure

Checking your tyre pressure is a simple process that should be done at least once a month and before long journeys. All you need is a reliable tyre pressure gauge. Here’s how to do it:

1. Make sure your tyres are cold before checking, as heat can inflate the pressure readings.

2. Remove the cap from the tyre valve and place the pressure gauge on the valve stem.

3. Press down firmly to get a reading. Compare this with the recommended pressure levels found in your vehicle’s manual or on the inside of the driver’s door.

4. Adjust the pressure accordingly, either inflating or deflating your tyres to match the recommended levels.

Remember, the correct tyre pressure can vary depending on the load your vehicle is carrying. Adjustments may be necessary if you’re planning a trip with heavy luggage or additional passengers.

The consequences of incorrect tyre pressure

Under-inflated tyres can lead to uneven wear, particularly on the outer edges, and can significantly reduce your vehicle’s fuel efficiency. Over-inflation, on the other hand, results in decreased grip due to a smaller contact area with the road and can make the ride more uncomfortable.

The role of tyre rotation

Tyre rotation involves changing the position of your vehicle’s tyres in a pattern to ensure even wear. Regular rotation extends the life of your tyres, improves performance, and maintains balanced handling.

When to rotate your tyres

It’s recommended to rotate your tyres every 6,000 to 8,000 miles, although you should refer to your vehicle’s owner manual for specific recommendations. Indicators that your tyres may need rotation include uneven wear patterns and vibrations at certain speeds.

How to rotate your tyres

The rotation pattern depends on the type of vehicle and tyres. For example, front-wheel-drive vehicles typically wear the front tyres faster. In this case, the front tyres should move to the rear, and the rear tyres to the front. However, if your vehicle is equipped with tyres of different sizes on the front and rear, you may be limited to rotating tyres side-to-side on the same axle. Always refer to your tyre or vehicle manufacturer’s guidelines.

Understanding wheel alignment

Wheel alignment, or tracking, involves adjusting the angles of your wheels so that they are set to the car manufacturer’s specifications. Proper alignment ensures your tyres wear evenly, your vehicle drives straight, and your handling is optimised.

Signs of misalignment

Common signs that your vehicle might need an alignment include:

  • Uneven or rapid tyre wear
  • The vehicle pulling to one side
  • The steering wheel is off-centre when driving straight
  • A vibrating steering wheel

The benefits of maintaining correct alignment

Keeping your wheels aligned can extend the life of your tyres, improve fuel efficiency, and make your drive safer and more enjoyable. It’s recommended to have your alignment checked every 10,000 miles or at least once a year.

Regular checks and maintenance

Besides monitoring tyre pressure, rotation, and alignment, regular checks and maintenance are crucial. Inspect your tyres for any signs of damage, such as cuts, bulges, or punctures. Also, be mindful of the tyre tread depth. In the UK, the legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre. Driving on tyres below this limit is not only unsafe but also illegal, with potential fines of up to £2,500 per tyre and three penalty points on your driving licence.

Tyre care is also about knowing when it’s time for a replacement. Ageing tyres, even if they appear to have sufficient tread depth, may no longer offer safe levels of grip or may be prone to failure. Most manufacturers recommend replacing tyres that are more than ten years old, regardless of their appearance.

A smooth journey ahead

In conclusion, the essence of tyre care boils down to pressure, rotation, and alignment. Mastering these aspects ensures a smoother, safer ride and prolongs the lifespan of your tyres, saving you money and hassle in the long run. As you continue to maintain your vehicle’s tyres diligently, you’re not just upholding safety standards but also enhancing your driving experience. So, keep these tips in mind, and here’s to many more miles of smooth and safe driving ahead.

🚗 Read more: How To Choose the Best Replacement Car Tyres.

Frequently asked questions

Can I check the tyre pressure when the tyres are warm?

It’s best to check tyre pressure when the tyres are cold for the most accurate reading. If you must check them warm, add 4-5 PSI to the recommended level, but adjust again when they’re cold.

How often should I get my wheel alignment checked?

You should have your wheel alignment checked at least once a year or every 10,000 miles, whichever comes first. Additionally, if you notice uneven tyre wear, your vehicle pulling to one side, or steering wheel vibration, it’s time for a check-up.

Is tyre rotation really necessary, and can I do it myself?

Yes, tyre rotation is necessary to ensure even wear and extend the life of your tyres. You can do it yourself if you have the right tools (a jack and a lug wrench) and knowledge of the correct rotation pattern for your vehicle. However, if in doubt, it’s best to leave it to the professionals.

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