Garwin Beukes - It's that time of the year – everybody's making plans to travel and explore what Namibia and her neighbours have to offer.
Road trips are fun, but to ensure that there are no bumps in the road, your tyres should be part of your main focus before your journey.
There are multiple aspects to look at. Firstly, are your tyres even road-worthy? Once that is ticked off, the tread should be checked, the pressure, the general condition, and whether you need new tyres.
When it comes to tread depth, it's always safer to replace your tyres when the tread depth is less than 3mm.
As your tyres wear and tread depth decreases, your grip reduces and the stopping distances increase in wet conditions. Basically, if your tyres are slick from wearing they’ll take longer to brake, especially on a wet road.
Most tyres have moulded tread-depth indicators which are flush with the tyre tread when it has reached the minimum depth, therefore using something that is easily measurable would be great indicator to check whether it's time for replacements.
Front wheels on a front-wheel drive vehicle always wear faster than the back tyres. Most experts advise switching the front and back wheels after every 10 000km for even wear and tear.
Many tyres have tread wear indicator bars molded into the tread. When the tread is worn down to where one can see a solid bar of rubber across the width of the tread, it is time to replace the tyre.
If you are sure your tread isn't a problem, the next thing to look at is whether your tyres are inflated properly. According to Robert Harris, Goodyear product manager, a tyre that is 20% under inflated could have you consuming 10% more fuel.
I’m not to sure about that but, he explains that an under-inflated tyre uses more energy, increases rolling resistance and deprives the the car of fuel efficiency.
“As well as being heavy on your pocket, running under-inflated tyres also reduces their tread life which means they will need to be replaced sooner than should be necessary. Plus it can be dangerous – studies show that up to 87% of all flat tyres have a history of under-inflation,” Harris said.
Under-inflation leads to other problems like increased tread-wear on the outside edges of the tyres. This leads to excessive and ultimately reduces tyre durability.
Over-inflation is also detrimental to the tyre. Too much air pressure causes the centre of the tread to bear the majority of the car's weight, which leads to faster deterioration and uneven wear. Uneven wear will reduce the lifespan of your tyres.
When it comes to the general conditions of the tyres, there are variety of aspects to look out for. Bubbles and cracks in your tyre are a sign that your are at risk of your tyre blowing out. This is also true if you have objects sticking out of your tyre, which could result in a flat tyre, increasing the risk of a blow out.
If your tread depth is low or your tyre is irreparable, you'll need to get new tyres. As a rule of thumb, cars need new tyres about every three years but this does vary. If you drive a lot, they'll probably need to be replaced more often. If you find yourself driving in wet conditions a lot, you'll also probably want to replace them more often (to ensure good wet grip is maintained),
Another point to look out for is to make sure the balance and alignment of the tyres are not a mess. “Unbalanced tyres cause road vibration, which leads to driver fatigue, premature tyre wear and unnecessary wear to your vehicle's suspension.
Having your tyres balanced and your vehicle properly aligned is important not only to the longevity of the tyre, but to the safety of the driver and to the performance of the car.
The festive season is a time to enjoy yourself and have fun, however one objective should be on all our minds: Driving to arrive alive. Remember, speed kills, but unsafe tyres kill too.