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Tyre life and age

Handy tips to help your tyres last longer

Running a car is already expensive so you want to make your money go as far as you can and avoid unexpected bills.

Looking after your tyres is a good place to start - you would hope to get a minimum of 20,000 miles out of front tyres on a front-wheel-drive car, and double that for rear tyres although we recommend moving worn rear tyres to the front when the fronts wear out.

Tyres have to meet a lot of different, and sometimes conflicting, requirements.

Tyres designed for long life are made from harder compounds, but these may make more noise. Tread pattern can affect noise too.

Tyres made from softer compounds will give a quieter ride but will wear out more quickly.

First fit (original equipment) tyres often last longer than replacements.

What increases tyre wear?
  • Driving style – aggressive cornering and braking increases wear
  • Position – front tyres wear faster because of movement through steering and tyres on driven wheels will wear more quickly
  • Speed – high speed driving increases temperature and wear
  • Load – excess load increases wear
  • Pressure – under inflation (through increased flexing and temperature) and over inflation (through reduced contact area) can both increase wear
  • Alignment – tyres will wear quickly and unevenly if wheel alignment is wrong of if there is excessive wear in suspension components like shock absorbers

Wear and tyre performance

Performance, particularly wet grip, gets worse as the tread wears. This is more marked as the tyre wears below 3mm of tread and approaches the legal limit.

Check tread depth more often once it gets down to 3mm and aim to replace tyres before the tread wears below 2mm. This is more important as autumn and winter approach – better new tyres now than struggle through the cold and wet with tyres approaching the legal minimum tread depth.

Tyre age

As well as wearing out in use, tyres degrade naturally through exposure to heat, sunlight (Ultraviolet/UV) and rain. The amount of damage depends on the exposure and the severity of the weather.

Damage through ageing is more common with caravans, trailers and other vehicles only used occasionally. Tyres will normally wear out before they become unserviceable due to ageing.

Check for signs of cracking on the sidewalls of tyres four or five years old if your car is parked outside and get them replaced if cracking is severe. Any tyre specialist will be able to give you advice if you're not sure.

(28 May 2013)

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