I knew very little about tyres. I knew it was a big round thing. I knew cars need them to move. I only learned how vital they were when I got into motorsports. Just imagine. The only contact between your car and the road is a contact patch no bigger than your palm. It doesn’t matter how good you car is. If your tyres aren’t in their best condition, your safety may be compromised.
The treads have nothing to do with friction
To show how ignorant I was, I once thought tyre treads are for creating traction. That cannot be further from the truth. Traction is determined by the materials used in the tyres. In fact, for maximum traction, there should be no treads at all in order to maximize the contact patch. That is why race tyres have no treads.
The real function of treads is to displace water! When the tyre comes in contact with water, it channels the water away through the grooves. Without it, the tyre becomes a balloon that floats. At speed, the car would aquaplane, losing all traction. The car becomes a boat.
As the treads are worn off through repeated use, the grooves become shallower, thus reducing the ability to channel water. There is a slight bump in the grooves which is the wear indicator. When the treads are worn so thin than you can touch the wear indicator with your fingers, that means the tyre is no longer safe to use in the wet. Time to change tyres. Before you can do that, remember to drive slowly in the rain.
Tyres grow “old”
Every time you drive, tyres heat up. When your car rests, tyres cool down. The repeated heat cycles change the tyre composition gradually. Even if you don’t drive often, and there are still treads left on your tyres, they might not be safe after a while A rule of thumb is not to use tyres older than 5 years from the manufacturing date. Some manufactures say 10 years is the limit. I wouldn’t risk it.
You get what you pay for
Some tyre models are more expensive than others. You might want to save a few bucks and go for the cheaper options, but think again. Not all tyres are created equal. It may be hard to imagine there is advance technology in that big, black round thing, but there is. Established brands invest considerable research into making their products. You might pay more, but you are also getting better traction, durability and fuel economy. Stopping distance of 100ft instead of 110ft might save you a hefty repair bill.
Rotate your tyres
In most cases, the front and rear tyres are worn differently. Front wheel drive cars tend to wear out the front tyres faster. So it is wise to rotate your tyres from front to back every 10,000km to even out the wear between front and back tyres. Doing so would increase the life span of your tyres, saving you money.
Avoid mixing tyres of different models
Most of the times, we replace tyres in pairs, either the front or rear pairs. Sometimes, when the same model is unavailable, we might choose other models out of convenience. This can be a little risky.