For people who love driving, there's nothing as fun as taking an epic road trip.
There's a joy to be had from the undulating scenery, the charming locals, and of course the freedom of the open road. But as in all things in life, it's important to expect the unexpected while travelling. A quick inspection of the tyres on your car, for example, could save your itinerary from an unnecessary interruption.
So, whether you're taking a solo trip, hitting the highway with some good friends, or it's a school break with your beloved family, follow this useful advice to ensure you arrive at your destination relaxed and unharmed.
Why is it so important to check the pressure on your tyre? Because correctly inflated tyres have a direct correlation to fuel efficiency. There's less rolling resistance, which equates to less fuel consumption as you drive along your route. They're also safer and last longer – less chance of a blowout or uneven tread wear – ultimately saving you money.
The general advice is to check tyre pressure once every two to four weeks, especially before embarking on a long road trip. Take the reading when the tyres are cold (e.g. without driving the car for at least three hours).
What's the correct tyre pressure? This information is in the vehicle owner's handbook, under the fuel cap, or on the door post on the driver's side. The tyre pressure must be identical for both tyres on the same axle but may be different between the front and rear axle. After topping them off with air, don't forget to close the valve caps securely; this will protect the valve from dirt and dust and prevent air leaking. A missing valve cap should be replaced right away.
Another thing to note is the Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) that comes standard in newer cars. The TPMS will emit a warning if the pressure drops 25 per cent below the vehicle manufacturer's recommended pressure. In most cases, a slight drop in pressure won't trigger a warning light, so the loss of fuel economy wouldn't be immediately apparent. That's another good reason why drivers should independently verify the tyre pressure every two to four weeks.
Proper tread depth is essential to prevent aquaplaning in wet weather. The legal minimum is 1.6 mm in most countries, though Continental recommends a minimum tread depth of 3 mm for optimal safety on summer tyres and 4 mm on winter tyres. Tread wear indicators in the grooves of the tyre will alert you when it's time for a change.
Keep an eye open for signs of uneven wear on the tread, too. Uneven wear reduces the ability of the tread to grip the road in adverse conditions. Look for unusually smooth areas, high and low areas, or any signs of damage. It's also wise to check the tyre sidewalls for gouges, cuts, bulges or other irregularities.
If it becomes necessary to replace one (or more) of your tyres, make sure the new tyre is the same size, type and speed rating that came on the vehicle as original equipment. These details can be found on the sidewall of your current tyre or in the owner's handbook.
Have the alignment checked periodically as part of your vehicle maintenance routine, for example when switching over from summer tyres to winter tyres, or if you experience warning signs like excessive vibration when driving at high speeds.
Regularly rotating the tyres on a vehicle will help achieve more uniform wear and extend the life of your tyres. What that means is you can expect to pack in more scenic routes on your cross-country road trips before investing in a new set of tyres. The standard recommendation for tyre rotation is approximately every 8,000 – 13,000 kilometres.
If you notice uneven wear on one or more of your tyres, however, you should ask your local tyre dealer to check for any misalignment, imbalance, or other possible cause before rotating them.
When planning for that family road trip, it’s tempting to load up the car boot with lots and lots of luggage. Whether it's packing a tent for a camping site, or a picnic hamper for the national park, you don't want to miss a thing. The trouble is, overloading a vehicle can shorten the life of your tyres. And every 90 kg of extra weight can reduce fuel economy by 0.42 km per litre. So, check the owner's documentation for the car's maximum load capacity.
Speaking of the boot, this is also where your spare tyre is located. Before taking a road trip, give the spare a thorough inspection for tyre pressure and any other issues. If you’ve been carrying this spare in the boot for a long time, however, it might need replacing. That's because the age of the tyre can impair its performance; the rubber may have become cracked and brittle, for example.
Driving when tired is dangerous. When you're weary from travelling, you're less likely to be alert to potential hazards like potholes, road debris, and sudden stops and starts in traffic. Any of these things can cause trouble for your tyres, or perhaps even a collision with another car.
Nobody wants to spend their precious holiday gazing at the backside of a tow truck, so be sure to take regular breaks and rest stops for coffee and a snack. Check in at a roadside hotel if necessary. Your and your passengers’ safety is paramount for a successful road trip.