It’s a great feeling when you pass your driving test. At last, you can drive alone and be independent, a whole new world opens up before you. However, there is much truth in the adage that you really learn to drive after you’ve passed your test. Driving on motorways, filling up with fuel, managing multi-storey car parks are just a few things that you don’t necessarily learn on your driving lessons.
When it comes to tyre safety, there are a couple of “tell me how” questions in the vehicle maintenance section of the practical driving test, yet a survey of 1,000 young drivers carried out by TyreSafe and ingenie – specialist insurers of young and new drivers – highlighted a concerning lack of knowledge in this area.
One third of young drivers had never checked their tyre tread depth, one quarter had never checked their tyre pressures and almost one half revealed that they had never been shown how to check their tyres’ condition. Tyres are the only part of the car that has contact with the road, they lose pressure gradually so they need a boost every so often, plus correctly pumped tyres will save fuel.
Tyre Safety Checks
There are three key checks to make to ensure tyre safety: tyre pressure, tyre tread depth and overall condition. These should be made each month, and before long journeys, or get into the habit of checking them each time you fill up.
Let’s look at the checks in more detail:
Tyre pressure – you can go to your local petrol station to check your tyre pressure by using the tyre pressure gauge. You’ll find the recommended pressure measured in PSI/BAR in your car manual, inside the fuel tank cover or inside the ledge of the driver’s door.
It’s best to check your tyre pressure when the tyres are cold i.e. when the car hasn’t been driven for a while, so you get a more accurate reading.
What affects tyre pressure? Correct tyre pressure is related to load, speed and the way you drive. There may be two pressures in your car manual – one for normal use and one for when your car is weighed down with passengers and luggage. Bear this in mind and adjust your tyre pressure accordingly, especially if you are loading up for a long journey.
Note that under-inflation and over-inflation each cause their own problems, so avoid them both.
It only takes five minutes to check your tyre pressure. Most petrol stations have a pressure station where you can check and top up tyre pressure. Drive up to the area marked “Air” on the forecourt and park there. You’ll most likely need some money for the machine, enter the tyre pressure you want and press the + or – button to select it. Take off your valve caps and work your way around the car with the nozzle (known as the regulator).
Put the nozzle onto each valve then wait a couple of seconds while it checks the pressure. If your tyre isn’t up to the level it should be, the regulator will automatically fill or deflate the tyre to the level you put in the machine and then it will beep when it’s done. Make sure you put all your valve caps back on tightly.
Tyre tread depth – always remember to check the tread depth on each tyre. The minimum depth is 1.6mm and you can easily test this by using a 20p coin (the rim is exactly 1.6mm). Place the coin into the tread, if you can see the rim of the coin then the tyre is approaching the legal minimum tread depth and you should consider replacement.
Overall condition – check tyres for any exterior damage such as bulges, cracks or flat spots. Such damage could cause rapid deflation or MOT failure.
Another area where the surveyed young drivers showed a lack of awareness was in the penalties for driving with illegal tyres.
- 85% underestimated the fine for each illegal tyre while driving
- 62% underestimated the minimum legal tread depth for a tyre
- 57% didn’t know that the driver is responsible for road legal tyres
For each illegal tyre you could face three points on your licence and a maximum fine of £2,500 per tyre. If you receive six points in your first two years of driving, your licence gets revoked and you will have to retake your theory and practical tests. So, you could lose your licence for being caught with two illegal tyres.
Of course, these penalties alone should act as a deterrent but the safety of drivers, passengers and other road users has to be the ultimate reason for keeping tyre safe.
(Source: TyreSafe and ingenie)
The schools are breaking up for summer, the caravans are being packed and, hopefully, you’ve had your Summer Car Health check done (you can get a free one at Halfords) and now you’re getting ready to hit the road.
Car safety checks should include (at the very least) tyre tread and pressure (don’t forget those caravan tyres!); engine oil, coolant and screen wash levels; and, it may sound obvious, but don’t forget your fuel. Surprisingly, running out of fuel is still one of the most common causes of breakdown on the UK’s motorways.
There are other factors to bear in mind when motoring in summer holiday time:
Avoiding traffic jams
Preparation is the key here. Don’t follow the crowds on busy motorways and A roads, go on your own leisurely way. Plan an alternative route to your destination, where you can.
Be strategic about your timing. If you’re travelling during the working week, avoid rush hour and travelling back on a Sunday evening (especially before term time starts).
Check an online route planner or a mobile phone app for traffic news and pick up the latest travel bulletins on local radio for updates of any accidents or unexpected road closures. You can get a summary of current traffic conditions in England on the Highways England website, in Scotland on Transport Scotland and in Wales on the Welsh Assembly Government.
Using mobile phones
Remember, you must not use a hand-held mobile phone or similar device when you’re driving. Make sure that you’ve checked the travel news before you leave and use the live traffic function if you own a sat nav with traffic update features.
Having enough to drink
Stay hydrated to help keep your concentration levels up while you’re driving. Avoid fatigue and getting dehydrated by taking frequent breaks, just a few minutes will make a big difference and won’t drastically affect overall journey times. Water is the best hydrator but it’s Red Bull that’s the biggest selling beverage on our motorway network!
Kids on board
Don’t let the kids distract you. Keep them happy by packing toys and games. Check out the indoor games and toys in the Kids Zone at Halfords.
Stay comfortable and alert by keeping a regular supply of cool air circulating inside the car.
Beware of glare. Summer driving can mean tired eyes and dazzle from bright sun. Keep your windscreen clean, get scratches and chips repaired, use your sun visor, and wear non light reactive sunglasses.
Hay fever can prove dangerous for drivers – if you sneeze at 70mph you can lose your vision for as much as 100 metres! One in three drivers admits to being distracted by hay fever and two million drivers are thought to have had an accident, near miss or loss of control of their vehicle, as a direct result of hay fever. So, if you’re a sufferer, it’s important to follow these tips:
- Make sure any medication you’re taking doesn’t cause drowsiness
- Close windows and air vents to reduce pollen grains in the car
- Clean mats and carpets regularly to reduce dust
- Keep tissues handy
- Wear sunglasses to block out bright sunlight
If your hay fever is particularly bad, try to get someone else to drive if you can.
Being stuck behind a slow moving tractor can be irritating, but bear in mind that the driver may have a soundproofed cab or be wearing ear protectors so may not be able to hear your approaching car.
Be aware that tractors are only required to have brake or indicator lights when driving at night, so they may stop or turn suddenly without warning in daylight hours.
- To keep plenty of distance behind a tractor
- That a tractor may be longer than it appears – there could be a loader on the front
- Before overtaking, make sure you have plenty of room to get past
Roads repaired with tar and loose chippings are a common sight in the summer. Take it easy, keep your distance from the car in front and stick to the temporary speed limit because chippings can cause cracked headlamps and windscreens, as well as damage paintwork.
If you or your passengers smoke in the car, don’t throw lit cigarettes out of the window when they’re finished with. Roadside grass can become bone dry in hot weather and a smouldering cigarette could be enough to ignite a fire.
Other summer hazards
- Slow down if you come across a spillage – if you hit a bale of straw at speed you’ll damage your car
- Don’t park in a gateway or passing place – they are access points for farmers’ fields
- Drive extra carefully after rain, which can turn dry mud into a skid pan
When you hit the beach or swimming pool, don’t lose your car keys in the sand (easily done) or ruin your remote control with water by accidentally taking the fob for a swim.
Keep your keys safe and dry, and check your handbook – on most cars, there’s an alternative way to open the doors that you can use if the remote stops working.
Be prepared, be safe, be aware and have a great summer!
If you’re planning a road trip this summer (and haven’t been put off by the recent wet weather), make sure your car is in tip top health before you set out.
We know it can be hard to keep on top of your car’s maintenance, but being fully prepared will not only keep you and your passengers safe, it will also save you time and money.
Key things to check:
Your tyres (our number one priority for obvious reasons!) – 10% of UK vehicles have wrongly fitted tyres and if you have a low tyre tread (1.6mm across at least ¾ of the breadth), you could face a penalty of 3 points on your licence and a £2,500 fine.
Your battery – battery failure is one of the main reasons why people call a breakdown service.
Your oil levels – cars need oil just as much as fuel; too much or too little could cause substantial damage.
Your light bulbs – driving with broken or faulty lights is both dangerous and illegal.
Your windscreen wipers – with our unreliable weather, you could be faced with heavy rain or lots of dead flies on your screen, keep a clear view whatever the conditions.
Your screen wash levels – these go hand in hand with your windscreen wipers.
Your air conditioning – air conditioning loses charge every year, so don’t suffer a hot and stuffy car when the temperature rises.
If all these checks leave you feeling a little overwhelmed or lacking in confidence, you can leave them to the experts:
TyresOnTheDrive.com offers a unique mobile tyre fitting service. We can fit at your home, work, even the gym, and offer two hour time slots to avoid waiting around all day.
Our partner, Halfords Autocentres, offers a Free Summer Check at any one of their 300 centres nationwide. There’s no need to book, you can just turn up and they’ll even top up your screen wash for free!
Safety is our number one priority, yours and your passengers, so enjoy your summer motoring and leave the maintenance to us!
Contact us on 0800 433 4717 or visit www.tyresonthedrive.com
Contact Halfords Autocentres on 0800 096 4216 or visit www.halfordautocentres.com
TyresOnTheDrive.com has secured up to £8m investment from Halfords, with a minority stake in the business agreed to leverage each other’s capability and expertise.
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