One of the most crucial aspects to road safety is tire grip – however this depends on a number of factors working well within your vehicle. The major factor is obviously the condition of your car’s tires. Before the winter season begins in earnest you should take the time to check all your tires well and replace any which are damaged or worn out.
A pattern of wear down the center of the tire indicates you have put in more air than you should have. This does not only damage the thread but is also dangerous because an overinflated tire will lose grip quickly since you have less surface area making contact with the ground. This is especially dangerous when present on the front tires.
Although safer than over-inflated tires, by not having enough air pressure in your wheels you make your car slower, increase fuel consumption and damage your tires. The tell-tale sign is a tire which looks wider at the bottom when static and a wear pattern which is much more pronounced on the outsides of the wheels.
A car’s wheel can lose its horizontal or vertical alignment over time. If this becomes severe enough it will reflect in the wear pattern of the tire’s thread. The solution is to take your car to a wheel specialist to align your wheel’s alignment and camber before replacing your tire. If you do not do this you will simply be transferring the problem onto your new investment.
End of life
Even if well taken-care of, every tire will eventually need replacement when it is worn out. The minimum recommended thread height is 1.6mm, however this is very hard to measure so ideally if in doubt take your vehicle to your tire specialist and ask them to measure your threads or to give you their opinion. Manufacturers also include raised bridges in between threads as indicators. If these are visible then it is time your look for a new set. It is surely better to err on the side of caution than risk losing control.
Knock and bumps
With the state of some roads it is also very likely that at some point or other you would need to replace a tire or two because you drove straight into a pothole or bump in the street. The telltale sign is usually a bump on the tire’s surface or wall. Treat these defects as very urgent because this is something which will lead to a blowout, which van be very dangerous if it happens at speed.
What to look out for…
When replacing your tires you have a major choice to make – do you stick to the same model you had or is it time to change the specifications? Tires have various specifications which can change – each one of these will have its advantages and disadvantages, but if you know what you want choosing should be a breeze.
The overall diameter of the wheel affects your car’s performance – the larger the wheel the higher your top speed. Smaller wheels, on the other hand, increase acceleration.
Although directly linked to wheel diameter, the height of your tire also affects grip and ride comfort. Higher tires give you a better (softer) ride but reduce your car’s cornering capabilities. If you are looking for a sportier ride you have to settle for low profile tires but keep in mind that you will be in for a bumpy life. If you want low profile and large wheels then you will have to increase the rim size and lower the profile.
Tire width is mostly cosmetic in lower powered cars, however there are a number of factors to keep in mind. Very powerful cars need wide tires to help the transfer of power from the engine to the tarmac. Wide tires on the front wheels, however, reduce the car’s turning circle and can increase aquaplaning (where you wheels skin over puddles, meaning you lose control completely).
Tire manufacturers alter the mixture of the compound they make tires from depending on the performance they would like to offer. When selecting a tire compound you have to keep your usage in mind, because this is really crucial here. A hard compound tire will be more durable and give you many more miles of usage, however a soft compound gives you much better grip while sacrificing longevity. There if you drive around slowly most of the time it would be a waste of money to buy soft compound tires, especially since they usually cost more than the hard compound ones.
Tire thread varies greatly depending on the manufacturer, especially since it is more expensive to develop and manufacture the more complex designs. In general the more you spend on a tire, the more work has gone into the planning of the grooves. Assuming you are only considering road tires, these make the biggest difference when traveling in wet conditions. A good set of tires will push all the water out of the way, allowing the rubber to be in constant contact with the road’s surface.