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Wear - Is it time to change my car tyres?

The effect that worn tyres can have on your vehicle’s safety, handling and fuel consumption is well known. However, simply looking around for the best price tyres and changing your worn tyre or tyres might address only part of the problem. Tyre wear can often be just a symptom of a deeper lying problem which you need to address. While you can find great tyre deals online from dedicated companies like it can still get expensive if you’re changing your tyres more often than you need to. It’s a good idea, then, to think about what tyre wear tells you about your car’s health and performance.

How long should my tyres last?

One of the first indications to look at is how long the tyre has lasted since it was fitted. Clearly, some tyres have a longer road life than others but, on average, the AA suggests that you should be looking to get 20,000 miles out of your front tyres on a front wheel drive car and approximately double that out of the rear tyres. If you’re finding that you need to shop around for online tyres with significantly fewer miles on the clock, it’s worth considering whether you need to talk to your fitting agent about what might be the underlying cause.

Patterns of tyre wear

When you check your tyres for tread wear (and it’s a good idea to do this each time you check your tyres’ pressure, ideally once a month), take a look at the pattern of wear as well as the extent. If the tread is worn evenly across its surface and there are no cuts or bulges in the sidewalls of the tyre, that’s fine. Just keep an eye on the wear marks between the grooves of the tread on the tyres surface. When those marks are level with the tread surface, you’re getting to the legal wear limit and it’s time to think about replacement tyres. There are, however, signature patterns of unusual wear which give you a clue about why the tyre may not last as long as it should.

Worn crown

If your tyre is wearing more in the centre of the tread than at the edges, chances are your tyre is over- inflated. Check the recommended pressure and don’t be tempted to bang in a few more psi for luck!

Worn shoulders

This is the opposite problem to crown wear, symptomatic of an under-inflated tyre. Here, the edges of the tyre are taking too much share of contact with the road leading to uneven wear across the surface. Make sure you keep the tyre properly inflated. If you find you need to do this too often, there may be a problem with a leaking valve or with loss of air at the rim of the wheel, or even a slow puncture. These are usually easily sorted and will save the need to shop for tyres more often than you need to.

Camber wear

Here, the outside edge of the tyre shows extreme wear, while the inner edge may appear almost new. Caused by excessive wheel camber (with the tyre leaning out, rather than rolling upright), this can be indicative of a suspension problem – a worn or bent strut, weak spring or worn or damaged bushes. It’s something which you need to get your mechanic to check as a matter of urgency.

Feathered directional wear

If the tread is unevenly worn so that you can feel a rough surface if you brush your hand in one direction but it’s smooth in the other direction, you may have a “toe-in” alignment problem. Here, (usually) the front wheels are not quite lined up “fore and aft” but face slightly in or out relative to the direction of travel. This is usually simply cured by re-alignment when you have your new tyres fitted, but may be symptomatic of something more serious like worn tie rods, or even bent steering link arms. Again, it’s worth getting your mechanic to give it the once-over.

Even though you can find the best price tyres online, it’s still worth looking at how, why and how quickly your car tyres wear. A little attention could save you a lot of money in the long run.