Motoring News, road safety

Tired tyres? Go ahead, it’s your life at stake!

  • Take five to read this, perhaps live longer
  • Gerotek demo shows bad-tyre perils
  • Tyre maintenance vital for everybody
ROUND AND ROUND THE SKIDPAN: The AA tyre-test day at Gerotek gets under way. Image: AA
ROUND AND ROUND THE SKIDPAN: The AA tyre-test day at Gerotek gets under way. Image: AA

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Lack of care for vehicles tyres continues to be a huge cause of crashes on SA’s roads. Plainly put, if your tyres are stuffed then very likely you will be too.

Drill it into your heads, people… none of your facy crash protection/mitigation goodies will work whether you drive a banger or a Bentley if your car’s tyres are over-worn or wrongly inflated.

If you don’t care for your tyres, or replace them when they’re done for, you will be. It’s pointless trying to save a few rands by over-using your tyres if you’re not going to be around to benefit from the cash, hey!

ROUND AND ROUND THE SKIDPAN: The AA tyre-test day at Gerotek gets under way. Image: AA
TYRE TESTS AT GEROTEK: The AA tyre-test day at Gerotek showed fatal flaws. Image: AA

So, to help highlight the problem, the Automobile Association ran a tyre-safety demonstration at the Gerotek vehicle testing facility near Hartbeespoort Dam, west of Pretoria.

The demo day showed the vital need for tyre maintenance and demonstrated what can go wrong if worn tyres aren’t replaced.

Eight vehicles – two from each of four manufacturers, one with new rubber, one with worn – were used on various Gerotek tracks to compare the handling of the same vehicle on new and worn rubber.

In South Africa the legal limit for tyre tread depth is ONE MILLIMETRE – way below the legal limit in Europe of 1.6mm and half of what many tyre experts recommend. For the Gerotek tests, the tyres were skimmed to leave a tread depth of 1.6mm.

The AA reported later: “The results were clear – worn tyres are, simply, dangerous. On one demonstration we drove two identical cars on a wet skidpan to test braking; the car with the brand new tyres stopped considerably quicker, and better, than the one on worn tyres.

“Anybody with worn tyres should take heed – they are playing with fire.”

GOOD TYRES DISPLACE WATER: Make sure your tyres' tread is deep enough to drive safely. Image: AA
GOOD TYRES DISPLACE WATER: Make sure your tyres’ tread is deep enough to drive safely – this is what they should be doing in, say, a Johannesburg thunderstorm. Image: AA

In another demonstration matching cars were driven at speed around Gerotek’s dynamic circular track with a water 10mm deep at the end of the lap to test for aquaplaning – tyres being lifted off the tar by uncompressible water.

Those on worn tyres proved to be dangerous and failed to maintain traction: in simple English, they skidded sideways when they hit the water.

The AA warned: “Many people still don’t realise the danger of driving with damaged or worn tyres despite each being a critical safety item. They are, after all, the only things keeping your car on the road.”


Assuming you survive the likely crash, bear in mind that your insurance company is unlikely to pay out: the small print on your insurance policy will take care of that…

To close, some tips on tyre maintenance from the AA”

  • Check each tyres – including the spare – when you fill your tank.
  • Park your car with the front tyres at an angle to make it easier to check tread depth.
  • If you use the same garage al the time vary the air-line you use for tyre checks. (The Corner suggests you also bear in mind that garage pressure gauges are notoriously inaccurate.)
  • Your owner’s manual will list the recommended pressure for the load expected to be carried – be particularly careful when going on holiday with the whole family aboard and the boot packed with luggage!
  • If there’s a problem with any tyre have it attended IMMEDIATELY by a tyre specialist.
  • Only buy replacement tyres from a reputable dealers. DO NOT buy from those roadside sharks selling from stacks of used rubber.
  • Ensure your wheels are properly balanced and aligned.

And a final plea from The Corner to those reading this who have to use minibus taxis – especially for those trips home. Take a casual look at the tyres on the taxi you are about to enter – if the tyres look bald, DON’T BOARD.

Your life is more important than annoying the taxi driver.

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