They are the only car component that actually touches the road so they’re vitally important. But do you really need premium tyres? Or will budget rubber do you just as well?
Tyres – we can’t do without them. They’re the final piece of the automotive puzzle that enables your car to move along the road in comfort and safety. But as the only car parts that touch the tarmac it’s inevitable that your tyres are going to wear out over time.
And they’re not cheap to replace. A necessary expense that will put a sizeable dent in your motoring budget, when they wear down you have to change them – unless you want to find yourself in trouble with the police.
The legal minimum tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm. Leave your tyres to go below this and not only are you risking your safety, but you could be setting yourself up for a severe penalty: there’s a £2,500 fine and three penalty points for each illegal tyre. Potential offences include low tread depth, poor inflation, mixing of tyre types, cuts, bulges or exposed cord.
But do you really need to buy high quality, premium tyres, or could you get away with opting for budget rubber? There’s nothing wrong or illegal going for cheaper tyres, but are they actually saving you money in the long run?
All tyres come with an EU tyre label which outlines their wet grip, fuel efficiency and noise level. A premium tyre does not necessarily have a better rating than a budget tyre in all of these areas, and there are many more things to consider when looking for new rubber such as handling in the dry, cornering ability, ride comfort and rate of wear.
And while thousands of drivers don’t think twice about filling their car with fuel or oil, and giving the bodywork a quick wash, they often completely neglect their tyres, barely giving them a second glance unless something has gone wrong.
Budget or premium?
Car makers fit premium tyres on their new cars, so that tells its own story. Experts will recommend that you replace your tyres with the exact make and specification as the original parts, because the car has been tested using those tyres.
Compared with budget tyres, they will have a longer lifetime expectancy, greater fuel efficiency, better safety levels in terms of grip and aquaplaning, reduced braking distance ability and greater performance in wet weather conditions.
Budget tyres are cheaper than premium rubber but there is a reason for that. They are unlikely to have had the same research and development work done when creating them nor will they have been in as rigorous a testing procedure.
They have to meet specific safety levels so in that respect they will do a reasonable job, but they are likely to wear out quicker than a premium tyre. Their tread pattern might not be designed to withstand wear as well as a premium choice either.
If you only travel short distances and rarely do any high speed motoring, a budget tyre could be fine for you. But for anyone who does a reasonable amount of miles each year in a variety of conditions and on all types of roads, spending a little extra on quality tyres can end up the more economical choice over time.
In either case, looking after your tyres will make them last longer and ensure your safety, whatever brand and type you have bought. So carry out regular checks to make sure your wheels and tyres are in good condition. Tyre mistreatment is not only dangerous but it can also end up costing you in the long run. Look after your tyres and they will look after you – regular maintenance will make them last longer, which could save some cash.
Pressure: Correct tyre pressure is important for safety, as well as providing your car with the best combination of performance, ride comfort and fuel economy. You might need to increase slightly your tyre pressures if you are going on a long journey with a fully-laden vehicle.
Condition: Braking hard or wheel spinning away from the lights will scuff and wear rubber faster than a slower, more controlled departure so drive as smoothly as possible. You can’t always see tyre damage but they are quite easy to check. Run your hands over the sidewalls of the tyre, inside and out, and feel for any strange lumps or bumps. Do a visual check too, and keep an eye out for any cuts or bulges.
Kerbing: When parking in a tight spot it’s tempting to bump up the kerb to make things easier. This can weaken the tyre so avoid the practice where possible. If you have to, approach very slowly and make sure the main tread of the tyre takes the weight as you go up the kerb, not the sidewall.
Alignment: Potholes and uneven road surfaces can put your car’s wheels out of alignment, as can speed humps so go slowly over all these. Even slight misalignment can wear rubber more quickly and could make your car harder to control in an emergency.