Tyre care in cars – an overview

How important tyres are for a car’s well being can easily be demonstrated or explained by the following examples. If a hale and hearty person would suddenly lose the function of his limbs or even temporarily has an ailment which prevents him from actually using his limbs, then he would be left impaired. This is the same way that a car would feel without its tyres or if one of them is atleast not in the right condition. Rains would definitely play an important part in deciding whether your car can actually be safe or not. Visibility issues are might during the rainy season but then small things like nails or een wood pieces get washed onto the roads during this time. Due to mud and water, there are additional issues of the grip factor. Oil spills literally go undetected in rains and this can also cause a major problem. The only point of contact that a car would have with the roads is the tyres. So its necessary that the tyres be kept in top notch condition always. Some of the things to check out about the tyres have been listed in here. Things which can be done at a personal level are checking the wheel alignment, tyre pressure, wheel rotation and also the tread depth. Usually these things have to be done before the monsoon starts, however, it is thing which can be kept in mind for the other seasons as well.

Reading a tyre :

The first basic thing is to read a tyre. Yes, tyres can also be read. All the relevant information that one needs to know about tyres is usually printed in the tyres. Some numbers and letters on the wall of the tyre actually are information regarding its specification and size.  If suppose the marking on the tyre says 185/70 R14, then the 185 in this means the width of the tyre in millimeters. The height of the sidewall in percentage is called as aspect ratio. Here, the 70 means height is equal to 70 % of the tyre’s width. The R in here signifies the construction of the tyre and it stands for Radial. Diameter of tyre’s inner rim in inches is denoted by the 14 after the R. So, in the cited example, it is 14 inches. A V in the tyre would mean the maximum service speed of the tyre. Load Index would be the maximum load capacity of the tyre. Also DOT code stands for Department of Transport of USA and is for Quality Approval Markings.

Tread wear indicators :

Just how much wear on the tread can be regarded as safe is something which the tread wear indicator denotes. How long should one wait before changing the tyres is another question. On the tread of a tyre, most manufacturers put the tyre wear indicators. Also, the service manual states the time or to be more specific, the kms after which the tyres have to be changed. The tyre treads are the raised portions of the rubber which display just how much wear the tyre is designed to take. Once the tread depth reaches the markers (1.6 mm), it is time to change the tyres. Separation in the tread happens due to the excess of heat generated by the tyre. Most of the times, overloads, under inflation, excessive high speeds, quick stops and starts on some of the surfaces where the tyres aren’t supposed to be treading. These can even cause the loss of tread and also fear of the tread coming off the tyre.

Wheel alignment :

This is a procedure which is best done by a professional. It is actually the adjustment of the angles between the wheels. If a car, on the road, suddenly starts pulling towards the left, then most probably the car needs a wheel alignment in place. The things which are done in wheel alignment include toe-in, camber and also caster adjustment. Positive and negative camber has been already explained before in one of the articles. When the wheels are slightly bent inwards, it means positive camber while if they are bent outwards, it means negative camber. However, both of these lead to uneven and premature wear of the tyre. When viewed in from the top, the distance between the front of the tyres with respect to the rear ends is what is called as toe-in. When the front ends are close, it is called as a toe-in. Similarly for the rear ends, if both are close, it is called as a toe-out. These also lead to irregular wear of the tyres. Caster is the angle between the steering pivot and perpendicular to the wheel. The handling is affected by the caster while there is not much effect on the life of the tyre.

Tyre Rotation :

This is the key to having a better grip on the road with the stock tyres. For long life of the tyres and also for an even wear, tyre rotation is required. Having an even wear on all the 4 tyres mean that they would perform equally well and also age at the same time. Different forces act on the rear and front axles for front wheel drive, all wheel drive and rear wheel drive cars. Manufacturers usually carry recommendations about the tyre rotation period. Some of the tyre rotation policies barring that of the spare tyre are discussed as follows.

For Front wheel drive cars, the front left tyre should be moved to the rear right hand side and similarly, the rear left hand side tyre should be moved to the front right hand side. In short, the front tyres go to the rear axle.

For Rear wheel drive cars, the rear wheels are subjected to more wear and tear than the front ones. In this case, the front tyres move back to the rear axle. The left side rear goes to the front right position while the rear right goes to the front left.

There are also unidirectional tyres available. The front left tyre moves to the rear left while the same thing is repeated on the right hand side.

For an all wheel drive car, the rear right tyre goes to the front left while the rear left goes to the right front. The front left is placed on the rear right whereas the front right is placed on the rear left.

No matter, how carefully one drives on Indian roads, tyres are subject to wear almost at a faster clip than what other countries across the world face. Rains are the worst case when tyres have to go through a zillion potholes and hence there are many a cut or bruise on the tyres. During parking maneuvers, many a times, the front bumpers as also the tyres hit the pavement. Climbing a median would also lead to tyre damage. This may demonstrate its presence immediately or after some time. The end result is that safety is compromised as also the tyre life. Flat spotting can happen in a car which has been lying at the same place for more than a week. If the car is going to stand there for a long time, it is better that the entire weight of the car be removed from the tyres. Bricks or jacks can be used judiciously to ensure that the body of the car is not taking the weight of the car. Such things should be done keeping in mind that the balance of the car is maintained as it was before when it was on wheels. The rubber component in the tyre expands and contracts due to sudden changes in climate like extreme heat or even cold. These lead to cracks in the tyres. Some of the major tyre problems are reported below:

Rupture :

The sidewalls may be damaged due to an impact with the pavement, median or even a rock. This would start with a small crack on the side, which would increase in length over the time and also have an impact on the structural integrity of the tyre. Under-inflation and overloading can also be the causes of tyre rupture.

Bulges :

It is one of the most common cases for a tyre damage. A broken tyre cord on the inside of the side wall or tyre crown coupled with a hard impact on the tyre is what causes bulges. This is a dangerous situation as it causes blowouts and immediate replacement of the tyres is recommended here.

Mottling :

Tyre mottling is the creasing of the inner rubber liner of a tubeless tyre. Under-inflation of  the tyre often causes this leading to the sidewall flexing and then the rubbing motion against itself. The ability to hold air is then compromised by this and a mottled tyre would often have to replaced since there is no repair for it.

It is often recommended that tubeless tyres be fitted onto cars so that chances of a blowout aren’t sudden but gradual. One should keep in mind that tyres are the only point of contact that the entire mass of the car has with the road. If they aren’t in place, then you are in one word GONE. Maintaining the manufacturer recommended tyre pressure is also a must since the fuel efficiency, ride quality, handling and also the tyre life depend on it. Ensure that the tyres are cold when filling them with air or nitrogen.

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