7 Must-Know Facts About Tyres

From what the markings on the tyres means, to questions on the spare tyre, this is a comprehensive guide to tyres.
Sherryn de Vos
2017-02-09
These four rubber rings are the only things that are keeping you in contact with the road. They ensure that you get to your destination safely and in one piece. Looking after your tyres is vital to your safety. And, having a little bit more knowledge on them can save your life. In this guide, we discuss everything you need to know about your tyres, from what all of the markings mean to punctures.
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1. Reading Those Tyre Markings

If you have ever taken a close look at your tyres, you will notice an array of numbers, letters, and codes. Deciphering them can be quite tricky. Although you don't need to know what most of them mean, there is some information which can be helpful to you. We have broken down the essentials you need to know below:
  • A) This is the manufacturers name and the identity number of the tyre.
  • B) The size, construction, and speed rating designations. See more about this below.
  • C) Indicates the type of tyre construction.
  • D) M&S is whether the tyre can handle mud and snow.
  • E) Pressure marking requirement.
  • F) Shows the approval mark and number.
  • G) Compliance symbols and identity numbers.
  • H) Country of manufacture.
Let’s take a look back at B. Say, for example, the number is 195/55 R 16 87 V:
  • 195 - shows the width.
  • 55 - indicates the profile.
  • 16 - is the size.

2. Age Of Tyre

You can tell the age of a tyre by looking at the tyre. The rule of thumb is to never use tyres that are more than six years old. Have a look at what is denoted as G on the illustration. This is called the DOT code. The date of manufacture is stamped into this code. The codes are either three or four digits long. Three digit codes are manufactured before the year 2000. If a tyre shows 178, for example, it was made in the 17th week of 1988. If there is a small triangle next to it, it will mean it was made in the 90’s. After 2000, the code was switched to a four number code. So, if you see 3003, it means it was made in the 30th week of 2003.

3. Tread Depth

The legal limit for car tyre tread depth is 1.6mm across 75% of the tyre. The deeper the tread, however, the more grip you have on the road. Should the tread be less than 3mm, you should consider changing tyres. You can check it with a tread depth gauge, which are somewhat inexpensive should you wish to purchase one.

4. Over / Under Inflating

Both over and under inflating tyres can be somewhat detrimental to them. They will wear out prematurely and could only last half the lifetime. It can also cause a loss of traction, due to the change in grip. And, can create a more uncomfortable ride. Under inflation can be as dangerous. If the tyre is underinflated, more of it touches the road and it creates more friction. Increased friction can lead to the tyre overheating and cause premature wear, tread separation, and blow outs.

5. Wheel Alignment

Wheels can lose their alignment in several ways. You could hit pot holes, curbs, or experience simple wear and tear. You can tell that the alignment is off if you feel like the steering wheel is pulling while you are driving. Lightly hold the steering when and, if the car starts pulling either left or right, you will need to get your alignment done. Try and have your alignment checked every 50 000 kms. You can, at the same time, have your wheels balanced and rotated.

6. Wheel Balancing

When a wheel turns, the weight along the rotating axis needs to be properly balanced. If this is not happening, there can be wobbling and vibrations. Wheel balancing equalizes the combined weights of the tyres, so that it can run smoothly. It is recommended to do a wheel balance every 10 000 kms.

7. Wheel Rotation

This is the practice of swapping the front and back tyres. The front and rear axles differ greatly, which affects the distribution of weight on the wheels. Depending on whether the car is front- or rear-wheel driven will determine which has more weight on it. It is recommended that a re-balance is done every 8 000 kms.