For many ‘vehicles of historic interest’, the ones that are MOT exempt and more than 40 years old, there’s no annual reminder to check your car’s tyres or get someone else to check them for you. Whether your classic is MOT exempt or not, when’s the last time you checked your tyres?
Tyres are important. When thinking about the main components of a car, tyres are the only ones that are attached to the body of the car but also the road. If your tread is patchy, there’s a bulge in the tyre wall or worse a slow puncture that could go at any time, you might not know until it’s too late.
That’s why it's important to check your tyres. It's recommends that you check them every quarter, or when you add a fuel additive to your car. Setting an alarm in your phone or a reminder in your calendar helps, especially when you don’t have an MOT reminder.
Simple steps to check your tyres:
For most modern cars, the tyre pressure is normally on a sticker attached to the door jam (between the seat and the door sill) or inside the owner’s manual. If you’re stuck, ask your local or marque / model-specific club for advice on what your tyre pressure should be. They should give you the information in PSI (Pounds per Square inch) or in BAR. If it’s the latter, you can use this handy tool to convert the figures to PSI.
Once you’ve checked what PSI your tyres are, it’s good to keep a record of how they might be fluctuating. A good place to keep a notebook and tyre pressure monitor is in the glovebox.
You might notice that your tyres are letting down pressures in the winter months, but not in the summer, or vice versa. By keeping a log, as well as a tyre pressure monitor and pump in the glovebox, you can always be prepared for every eventuality.
Do you know what the legal limit of tread depth is in the UK? What about Europe? America?
Actually, that was a trick question. They all have the same rules.
The lowest tread depth you can have on a car tyre in the UK, Europe and America is 1.6mm, or, handily, the outer edge of a 20p coin if you stand it on its side. Your tyre needs to be this depth or more across the central three-quarters of the tyre. Although, it is recommended that you replace the tyre when it gets to a depth of 2mm, especially if you’re using it in the rain.
Your tyres are properly pumped, they aren’t bulging, don’t have a slow puncture and they’re fit for use on the road, or so you think. Typically, the average summer tyre lasts around three to four years, although the tyre should show you its expiry. If you’re using your car daily, the recommended mileage to replace your tyre is around 30,000 miles depending on usage. In a classic, that could take a decade, so a good rule of thumb is to replace it every four years.
You can tell how old your tyre is on the sidewall. Each tyre will have manufacturer markings, with the year it’s made also on the side. They will be printed in the form of four numbers usually preceded by the letters DOT. These numbers represent the week number and year, so 3416 will be week 34, 2016.
Once you’re happy that your tyres are set-up properly and in date, it’s worthwhile thinking about your car’s suspension and balancing. That said, you don’t need to check these every quarter - it is recommended checking balancing and suspension every summer and winter.
Suspension alignment is one of the biggest wear and tear items alongside tyres, and if your alignment is ‘out’ can cause your car to act strangely on the road – veering from one side to the other, knocking and not behaving well at speed. Normally, suspension is checked at the MOT stage every year, but if your car’s not due an MOT or is exempt, you might not know until it’s too late.
Same goes for balancing. Statistics show that balancing and tyre rotation happens every 6,000 to 8,000 miles, but that’s sometimes not realistic for a classic car’s annual mileage. Preventing premature wear of the tyre and also protecting your vehicle’s suspension, steering column or box, as well as the bearings, it’s a good idea to make sure your tyres are properly balanced.
Finally, don’t just take our word for it, talk to the experts. There are a range of vintage tyre specialists around, including Vintage Tyres, who specialise in tyres from 1890s to the 1990s, as well as specific brands such as Blockley Tyres.
Don’t forget your local, marque or model-specific club. They will undoubtedly have friendly advice in spades.
Most importantly, remember, tyres are the only part of your car that are in contact with the road and the body. If you look after your tyres, you’ll look after your car and the occupants’ safety.
If you have any helpful tips or would like some advice about all things classic car tyres-related, drop us a line in the comments section below.