Setting off on your holiday? Check your tyre pressures first!

Kwik Fit | Tuesday 8th August 2017 10:06am

bags and suitcases in car boot

While the weather may keep jumping from hot glorious sunshine to overcast with rain, the summer holidays are now upon us. Many Kwik Fit customers are thinking about packing up the car, hitting the road and getting away for a while, forgetting the cares of the world for a couple of weeks. But with so many things to consider such as bags, suitcases, sleeping bags, camping stove, suntan lotion, hats, rain coats, wellies, buckets, spades, food for the cat or the dog (you get the general idea), we can be forgiven for forgetting to think about the air pressure in our car’s tyres, can’t we? 

It’s easy to simply say ‘yes’, of course, everyone’s busy and it’s easy to forget these things, right? With the kids and your loved ones in the car, the answer from Kwik Fit is an unequivocal NO! Ignore your tyre pressures and you wouldn’t forgive yourself if something went wrong while driving, would you?

Don’t let your tyres let you down

At Kwik Fit, when it comes to tyres we’ve seen and heard it all and there’s a misconception among many drivers that you don’t need to bother checking tyres regularly. It’s estimated that around two thirds of all UK drivers don’t check their tyres for wear and tear, or make sure they’re correctly inflated either in their everyday life, let alone before they set off on their vacation.

This is especially true of drivers whose vehicles are fitted with Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS). But even if you have TPMS you still need to make sure you regularly check your tyre pressures.


TPMS display on dashboard

In our latest tyre safety article, we explain not only why it’s so important to check your tyre pressure regularly, but also why it’s crucial to adjust your pressures when your car is fully laden for your holiday.

So exactly why are tyre pressures so important?

Simple. It’s mainly and most importantly about you and your family’s safety.

It’s a well known fact in the automotive and tyre industries that under-inflated tyres affect your car’s handling and braking, and not in a positive way. Under-inflated tyres have a direct impact on how quickly your vehicle can come to a full stop when braking. The result is often significantly longer stopping distances. In wet weather conditions this can be up to four car lengths.

Stopping distances are also influenced by whether your car has premium or budget tyres fitted. Four car lengths is clearly an unacceptable distance to travel when you need to stop quickly and safely, such as on a fast motorway as you head to your holiday destination, or if a child steps out in front of you as you’re driving around your holiday location. The consequences are frightening and all too obvious.

Over-inflated tyres, on the other hand, dramatically increase the risk of high-speed tyre blow-outs – with consequences none of us want to ever have to deal with. Not a summer goes by when we hear about UK holiday makers both at home and abroad becoming victims of unforeseen traffic accidents, particularly on winding country roads.  

But it’s not just safety to consider, it’s also about saving money.

It’s a proven fact that incorrectly inflated tyres wear out unevenly, and as a result require replacing more regularly. It’s also true that if your tyres are under-inflated your car will use more fuel, and as a result emit more CO2. That’s lose-lose both ways, and who wants that?

For these reasons, the Department for Transport and leading tyre manufacturer Continental recommend that you undertake monthly tyre pressure checks, even for cars fitted with TPMS. 

correct tyre inflation infographic


So why do heavy loads change the way your car handles?

It’s a good question. Let’s say that your tyres were correctly inflated to the standard “un-laden” pressure values before you set off on your holiday (because you regularly check them, right…?!). By the time you’ve added a few hundred extra kilograms of luggage, bikes, equipment and general stuff, as well perhaps as the dogs, a couple of adults and some kids, you’ll be looking at around an additional half tonne of additional weight, perhaps even more.

That extra weight changes things dramatically for your tyres. Why? Because the rubber compounds are slightly flexible, the tyres expand and – instead of being correctly inflated – they start behaving as if they’re under-inflated.

Remember, under-inflated tyres affect your car’s handling, as well as its ability to stop quickly in an emergency. You’ll also waste fuel, so it’s vital to adjust your tyres to the “laden” weight pressure before you set off on holiday. The money you save on fuel is better served being spent on your holiday. 

woman checking tyre tread

Where can you find tyre pressure values?  

Look up the tyre pressure values in your car’s user manual. They’re often also printed on the inside of your fuel cap, and inside the driver’s door. You’ll typically find two figures; one’s for normal ‘un-laden’ use, and  the other – a higher figure – is for when your car is laden.

How do you adjust tyres to the laden pressure?

Typically, the easiest place to top up your tyre pressures is at your local service station, and this can be done for a relatively small charge. Simply remove the valve dust cover from each tyre, and attach the air hose. The hose also measures tyre pressure. Then, set the correct tyre pressure according to the vehicle manufacturer’s advice. Either top up or release air until the pressures are correct for all wheels at the laden weight. 

If you’re not sure you’ve got it right, leading tyre brand Continental’s advice is “don’t leave it to chance, seek professional advice”. Continental is at the forefront of raising awareness about road safety – part of its Vision Zero initiative. Our tyre experts can provide you with help and advice, and will take you through all your options. Contact your local centre today! Find your nearest Kwik Fit centre here.

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