Feeling lost and confused about the black art of tyre maintenance? Here are some tips and tricks to help you decide the best time to change your tyres.
Everyone knows that cars need regular maintenance, as parts wear out and degrade over time. But whereas forgetting something like your usual 10,000km oil change probably wouldn’t cause any major safety issues (although it absolutely shouldn’t be neglected), failing to change your tyres in a timely manner could lead to an accident, or worse.
But how would you know when’s the right time to swap for a new set of rubber? After all, modern tyres are very durable, and you wouldn’t want to waste money throwing them out when they still have life in them. Well, most general advice tends to agree with 40-50,000km or 5-6 years as the rough guideline, but depending on your driving patterns, those figures could change drastically. Here’s AutoApp’s guide to spotting the signs that your car needs new shoes:
From a safety perspective, the most crucial aspect of a tyre is its tread depth. The tyre’s tread (or grooves) is what allows it to disperse water underfoot, thus keeping you on the road in wet weather. As your tyres wear out, the height of the tread blocks decreases, which means they can’t evacuate as much water, which means aquaplaning – and therefore a loss of control – occurs more easily.
The Land Transport Authority’s legal limit for tread depth is 1.6mm, which you can very easily check if you know how. Helpfully, most tyres sold these days have wear indicator bars – little ridges in the bottom of the tyre tread – which are exactly 1.6mm tall. When they become flush with the surface of the tyre, as seen above, that’s when they absolutely need to be changed.
If your tyres don’t have these wear indicators, an alternative method is to stick a coin in the groove and see how deep it goes. If the tread doesn’t cover up the “Singapore” on the back of a $1 coin when viewed from the side, or doesn’t meet the inner circle on the front of a 20c coin, then it’s time for a trip to the tyre shop.
Even if you cover only low mileage annually, and thus don’t use up much of your tyre’s tread, tyres can’t last forever. As they age, the rubber compound hardens, which means they grip the road less effectively, increasing your chances of losing control if you have to make an emergency maneuver. And this applies both in the wet and dry.
Most experts agree that 10 years is the absolute limit for a tyre’s shelf life, although after 5 years, it’s a good idea to start doing regular visual checks for defects, which we’ll get to next. You can determine your tyre age by looking for the four digit date code on the tyre’s sidewall – check out our sister site Asia’s Ultimate Tyre Awards’ handy guide on how to decode tyre markings.
Just because your tyres are still young and haven’t covered much distance doesn’t mean they can’t go wrong. Poor alignment, aggressive driving and debris such as screws and nails – all of these are factors that can lead to premature wear on your tyres.
Some of the signs to look out for and their causes include:
- Uneven wear across the tyre’s width – indicating bad alignment (see how the outer edge of the tyre above is a lot smoother than the inner edge)
- Small cracks on the tyre shoulder or sidewall – indicating they’ve become too old and brittle
- Bulging sidewall – indicating internal damage to the tyre’s structure, usually as a result of hitting a pothole or kerb too hard
- Tears or missing chunks in the tread – indicating overly aggressive driving and steering inputs
- A tik-tik-tik-tik-tik-tik sound while driving, especially audible at low speeds – indicating a foreign object might have embedded itself in the tyre. If you’re lucky, the object might be plugging the hole and holding off the tyre going flat, but it’s still best to visit a tyre shop to have it removed and the hole patched before it gets worse
Lastly, just as how doctors tell you to listen to your own body to know if you’re falling sick, so too should you pay attention to feedback from the car to know if anything’s amiss. More tyre squeal when cornering in the dry; a more nervous, unstable feeling when driving in the rain; more road tyre roar when cruising down the highway – all of these are sensory cues that your tyre’s performance is starting to deteriorate, and should warrant at least a precautionary check to determine if you actually need to change your tyres.