When was the last time you’ve checked your car’s tyres? It’s easy to take for granted how much work these black, round rubbers on your car do. With a contact patch about the size of your palm, a tyre has to accelerate, brake, and steer your car. In the rain, the treads on your tyre channel about 15 litres of water away, every second!
When it comes to replacing worn tyres, the common mistake most drivers make is assuming that as long as the treads are still visible, the tyre is still safe for use.
This is wrong. The correct method is to refer to the ridges found along the tread pattern. Known as tread wear indicators, these ridges are found on all tyres and once the tyre’s surface wears down become level with it, it indicates that the tread pattern has worn down to the minimum allowed 1.6 mm. A new tyre has , depending on tyre type, around 7 mm to 8 mm deep tread patterns.
To identify the position of a tread wear indicator, look for a tiny triangle symbol on the tyre's sidewall.
However, studies have shown that driving in the wet with the minimum allowed 1.6 mm deep tread pattern tyres is far too dangerous, as braking performance will deteriorate significantly once the tread depth goes below 3 mm.
As you can see from the video below, there is a big difference in wet braking performance even though the tyres tread pattern are still well above the minimum allowed 1.6 mm.
A worn out tyre also puts the car at risk of aquaplaning - also known as hydroplaning - where the tyre’s tread is unable to channel water away fast enough, causing the tyre to float and thus losing contact with the road’s surface.
When this happens, the car will not respond to any steering action. Applying the brakes will make things worse and the only way to recover is to lift off the accelerator, keep the steering wheel straight, and be prepared for a sudden pull on the steering wheel as the tyres regain contact with the road.
Make it a habit to check your tyres at least once a month. Turn the steering wheel to a full lock, and inspect them under natural light. Check the tyre pressures and rotate them as recommended by your car’s owner’s manual.
Don’t forget to check the spare tyre too. Else, what's the point of carrying a heavy spare tyre behind?
This public service announcement is sponsored by Bridgestone Malaysia. Go to bridgestonetyre.com.my to find out more about Bridgestone’s range of tyres.