Tyres are an important purchase that is often overlooked, yet tyres in poor condition are a contributory factor in many traffic accidents - especially in wet conditions. In 2009 the Department of Transport recorded 1,168 accidents, 228 serious injuries and 36 deaths as tyre-related. Some studies have indicated that as many as two out of three drivers do not know how to tell if their tyres are seriously worn.
Tyres are the only part of a car that is in direct contact with the road. Safety during braking, accelerating, cornering and steering all depend on this single small area. Drivers may continue driving with worn tyres as under normal conditions the car will behave well; it is only when the driver needs to stop quickly, or swerve to avoid an accident, that the problems may occur.
To save money, some drivers choose to purchase part worn tyres rather than new tyres, but by doing so they could be putting their lives at risk. Despite clear regulations on the sale of part worn tyres, surveys have shown some alarming results.
Some part worn tyres were found to have runflat damage, exposed cords, bead damage and unsafe repairs.
If tyres are worn they can create a number of problems which can lead to an accident. A worn tyre increases the build up of heat as the distance between the road and the tyre is less, meaning that air flow is reduced. Excessive heat damages rubber and can cause tyre failure.
Worn tyres are also more likely to suffer a puncture which can lead to a blowout. In wet weather worn tyres increase the risk of hydroplaning as tyres need to be able to channel water away, and this is what the grooves in the tyre tread do.
Tyres with a good depth of tread successfully do this and so maintain good contact with the road.
A worn tyre cannot do this successfully and as a result it may ride up on the water, known as aquaplaning or hydroplaning. Tyres with worn tread are likely to be under-inflated which will adversely affect the car's braking, steering and fuel consumption.
Checking the condition of your tyres is important. Look for signs of uneven wear, as well as bulges or cuts. Irregular wear may mean that you need to have your tyres replaced or re-aligned. It could also mean that the suspension components are worn. Check the tread across the tyre using a tread gauge or a 20p coin. The tread should cover the rim of the coin.