If you have your car serviced regularly by a professional (and you should!), then your mechanic will definitely let you know when your tyres are showing signs of wear and tear.
If you want to check yourself, then there are two signs to look for.
The first is visible wear – any dents, bulges, scratches or small cracks appearing in the tyre itself are signs that your tyres could be unsafe. Because your tyres are the only way that your car grips to the surface of the road, it’s important to keep them in good condition for the safety of you and your passengers, as well as other road users.
The second sign is that the tread is wearing.
As mentioned above, tyre tread is primarily designed to give you a sturdy grip to the road surface. Its other very important function is to disperse water if the road surface is wet. Not having sufficient tyre tread can impede your ability to stop quickly. In wet conditions, having worn tyres can cause your car to slip and slide. Both of these dramatically increase your risk of an accident.
How do you know if your tyres are unsafe?
New tyres typically have a tread about 7-8mm deep. There are small grooves on tyres which run cross-ways to the tread. These are built-in wear and tear indicators. If the tread itself runs down to same level as these grooves, then your tyres need replacing. It’s best not to let them wear to that level, and in fact there are laws which govern tyre tread, so you could be committing an offence if you don’t look after your tyres.
The minimum legal tread depth on tyres in Australia is 1.5mm and make no mistake, if you are pulled over by a policeman for any reason and your tyres are severely worn, then you can be fined. You can also be fined for driving with your ‘spare’ tyre. These are intended for emergencies and the general idea is that you get your dud tyre replaced as soon as possible (within 1-2 days) and put your spare back where it belongs for next time.
Fines vary from state to state, but in New South Wales, you can be fined $114 for a bald tyre. The fine can quickly escalate if police find other problems with your vehicle, or if more of your tyres don’t meet roadworthy standards.
So, when you’re washing your car, or filling your tyres with air, just give them a once over yourself, and contact a qualified mechanic if you have any concerns.
It’s generally recommended that you have a wheel alignment (where your tyres are rotated and re-aligned) about every 20 kilometres. Wear and tear on your tyres is affected by the way you drive, as well as the vehicle. Newer models sometimes have a warning light that will appear in the dashboard if the car computer detects that your tyres are not safe.
But wear and tear can also depend on the condition of the roads you drive most often. For example, roads that have a lot of pot holes, or aren’t sealed well, and long gravel stretches, like the driveways you often find on rural properties, can cause tyres to wear more quickly.
You can look after your tyres by making sure that you always drive to conditions. If you tend to speed and then break suddenly often, there will be significant impact on your tyres.
Also make sure you inflate them to the prescribed level for the tyre when required and avoid extended periods of time in the harsh Aussie sun. Sun and salt air can both accelerate the disintegration of rubber over time.
If you enjoy four-wheel driving off the beaten track, always check your tyres before getting back on the road, and make sure you clean the tyres thoroughly when you get home. Caked on mud, rocks caught between the tread, and sand and salt water can also affect the longevity of your tyres.
But for peace of mind, keep an eye on them, and make sure you get your car serviced regularly so your mechanic can check them too. A professional mechanic can also spot if your tyres are wearing unevenly – this can be a sign there’s something not quite right with the steering of your vehicle, and if you’re not trained to see the signs, it can go unnoticed.
Because life is busy, we have the perfect option. Try our mobile mechanic service. With more than 20 service locations around Sydney, we arrange to come to you and fit into your schedule. If, as part of a service we can see your tyres need replacing then we can source them and replace them for you.