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Tyre Damage: Do you know what to look for?

| Thursday 26th April 2018 4:52pm

Tyres with damaged tread

When was the last time you inspected your tyres? In our experience, many drivers tell us it was a long time ago, if ever. And if they had checked their tyres recently, it was a one-off occurrence. Which is strange, since tyres require checks to ensure against incorrect tyre pressures, inadequate tyre tread depth, and to spot tyre damage.

Visual tyre inspections are important and should ideally be carried out on a regular basis. It’s the only way to be sure your tyres haven’t picked up any damage on their travels. But do you know what to look out for? Not everyone does. If you want to know what the tell tale signs of tyre damage are, and how to avoid it in the first place, here’s the three most common types of damaged tyres.

Worn tyre treads are a common occurrence

Your tyre treads are super-important. Despite being invented by Continental Tyres over one hundred and ten years ago, tyre treads are still arguably the most important example of driver safety technology you’ll find on your car. Sure, tread designs have come on a long way over the years but this ‘contact patch’ which is the only part of your vehicle that touches the road itself, is essential.

Good tread (and by that we mean 3mm or more) allows the tyre to efficiently clear any water on the road, and this in turn provides the traction, or grip, that you need to drive safely. Without good tyre treads you’ll not only struggle to brake but also accelerate and steer.

Unfortunately, because so many drivers do not carry out regular tyre checks, treads become too worn down, and this results in them becoming dangerous. You should avoid overly worn tyres to increase your safety.

Spotting tyre tread wear is easy when you know how

There are two different types of tyre tread wear – even and uneven – but both display identical tell tale signs. Tyre tread wear is immediately apparent if the tyre surface looks shiny. This is dangerous and you should change your tyres as soon as possible.

Uneven tread wear on two tyres

Then there’s the ‘20p test’. Shiny or not, if you insert a 20p piece into the tyre tread grooves, and any part of the coin’s outer edge is visible, your tread is less than the UK road legal minimum of 1.6mm. Again, you should change your tyres as soon as best possible. This test should be carried out across the full width and length of your tyres, at multiple spots.

The two images above indicate even (“centre”) and uneven (“one-sided”) tyre wear. Even tyre wear occurs when your tyre pressures are correct. Uneven wear happens when your wheels are not aligned correctly.

Three tips for prolonging the life of your tyres

  1. When did you last run a tyre pressure check? Regularly inspect your tyres to ensure the pressures are correct. You don’t want them to be over or under inflated.
  2. Make sure your wheel alignment is correct, otherwise your tyres will wear unevenly, and adversely effect your car’s fuel efficiency too.
  3. Consider buying premium tyres, since their superior rubber compounds will wear less quickly than cheaper tyres with inferior compounds (when compared to like for like driving habits).

It’s worth noting however that over time, all tyres ultimately wear down through normal usage.

How to spot tyre sidewall damage

Your tyre sidewalls are very strong, and designed to cope with the forces and pressures your vehicle generates when moving. As such, good sidewalls help to ensure your car remains stable. But, as with tyre treads, they’re vulnerable to wear and tear, and can often become damaged.

Regular tyre inspections will allow you to spot any damage before anything too serious can develop. Be on the lookout for any cuts, nicks and tears, typically caused by sharp objects coming into contact with the sidewall. Then there are bubbles and bulges to keep an eye out for, typically caused by impact damage that results in air from inside the tyre leaking into the ‘body’ of the tyre (the tyre ‘body’ comprises an inner and outer layer). It’s crucial to get the damaged tyre checked by an expert right away and, if necessary, get the tyre replaced.

Tyre sidewall in good condition

Sidewall in very good condition

Tyre damaged with a nick and bulge

Example of a cut and bulge in sidewall

Four ways you can help reduce the chances of damaging your sidewalls

  1. Avoid contact with kerbs. Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many drivers regularly hit the kerb, especially when attempting to park. Scrapes and bumps will increase the chances of tyre sidewall damage.
  2. Avoid driving into potholes. With so many on the UK’s roads, it’s understandable if this seems impossible, but managing to do so will greatly reduce your chances of sidewall damage.
  3. Maintain the correct tyre pressures. Your sidewalls will be exposed to unwanted additional forces and pressures if your tyres are not correctly inflated. The right tyre pressures will help to reduce the chance of sidewall damage.

  4. Clean off any spilled oil you find on your tyres. Why? Because solvents and oils – including those in dirty water – will negatively soften your tyre’s compound, and ultimately result in sidewall damage. Best cleaned off as soon as possible with water and washing up liquid.

With so much debris on UK roads, it’s easy to assume that councils simply aren’t maintaining their roads as much as they used to, or indeed need too. Whatever the truth is, avoiding debris on the road is vital to help protect your tyres – both the treads and the sidewalls.

If you’re unfortunate enough to come into contact with debris, particularly if it’s sharp, you need to deal with it sooner rather than later. That’s why regular tyre inspections are so important. Left unspotted to linger unattended, sharp objects – such as glass, nails or stones – can eventually lead to serious tyre damage, including punctures and sidewall failures.

Spotting tyre damage caused by objects on the road

Tyre damaged with nail stuck in it

How to avoid a puncture

  1. Check for foreign objects on a regular basis. If your mindset is to regularly check your tyres to ensure the pressures are correct, and that the treads are UK road legal, you’ll also be able to spot tyre damage from sharp objects. You don’t want a tyre blowout.
  2. If you find any foreign objects embedded in your tyres, get them out as quick as you can as it may not be too late to avoid serious damage. Pliers will usually do the job. You’ll need to keep watching the situation for any subsequent deterioration, and if you’re unsure whether to keep driving on the tyre(s) seek professional advice from your local Kwik Fit centre.
  3. Consider self-sealing tyres, like those fitted with Continental’s ContiSeal™ technology. It reduces the risk of a flat tyre, is available across a wide range of their products, and can be purchased at and fitted by Kwik Fit.

If you're unsure about whether your tyres are damaged, talk  to Kwik Fit

Your local Kwik Fit centre tyre professionals are available to discuss any of your tyre needs and concerns, including tyre damage. We can offer you impartial advice on all tyre matters, including expert fitting solutions.

Tags : Tyres

Any facts, figures and prices shown in our blog articles are correct at time of publication.

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