Watch those tyre pressures and save fuel


Petrol price rises got you down? There’s nothing you can do about that, but what you can do is keep a closer eye on your tyre pressures. This is a commonly-overlooked task which, if done regularly, contributes to the safety of your vehicle and helps keep a lid on running costs.


Tyres perform a critical role. They are the sole contact point between your car and the road surface. Every tyre is engineered for specific performance, and that performance depends on proper inflation. It isn’t only a completely flat tyre which is a problem; those which are overinflated or underinflated aren’t ideal either.

When a tyre is over-inflated, it bulges at the centre. That means the contact patch – the area which is on the road – is reduced. The tyre wears unevenly and faster than it should; the handling of your vehicle won’t be right; it might feel skittish or somewhat ‘floaty’.

In extreme cases, over-inflation can even cause the tyre to unexpectedly pop off the rim. If this happens at speed, it is effectively a blowout, which is a highly dangerous situation.

Underinflated tyres mean the contact patch is bigger than it should be. The sidewall of the tyre, which plays a crucial role in supporting the vehicle, will flex repeatedly, which can damage the tyre and eventually cause a blowout.

Again, the tyre will wear unevenly and won’t last as long as expected; this time, the outsides of the tread will wear faster than the centre.

Underinflated tyres are more common than overinflated ones for a simple reason: over time, air leaks out of the tyre, slowly but steadily reducing the pressure. And underinflated tyres cause more drag to your car, which drives up fuel consumption. A tank of petrol just won’t last as long with soft tyres.

Taking action on tyre pressures is simple. Check on the inside of the driver’s door, or on some cars in the fuel flap, or even in the manual. The recommended tyre pressures are clearly printed; note that the right pressure does depend on variable factors such as how much your car is loaded and whether you are towing. At least once a month, use the air hose at your service station to check the tyres, or ask the attendant to do it for you.

Not only does this make for a safer car, it also allows the vehicle to perform as designed, reduces fuel consumption and results in longer-lasting tyres.

As for tyre life, they should have a minimum tread depth of 3mm across the whole surface. And even if your tyres are at the right pressure, a regular inspection might reveal uneven wear, such as one side’s tread becoming obviously thinner than the other. This can indicate that the suspension components need adjustment or alignment, or it could mean there are worn or damaged parts. In either case, your vehicle is not performing as designed and could be unsafe. Get it sorted out as soon as possible; your tyres will last longer, and your car won’t let you down in the wet, under hard braking or when cornering.

Tyres are vital to the safe operation of your car. They are also expensive (and it is always worth buying good tyres). Keeping an eye on them will help you get the most from every set. And it’s easy to do, so make a regular check part of your monthly routine.

For more information, tyre specialists Supa Quick have plenty of helpful videos and an opportunity to learn more about cars at their online Quickademy is an award-winning Digital Media, Marketing, and Advertising Company est. 2015, is a Member of the Independent Media Association of South Africa (IMASA), and Brand South Africa's Play Your Part Ambassadors, with a global reach of over 10 million

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