Buying tyres: how to know what to look for
It’s not the most glamorous aspect, but tyres are perhaps the most important feature of your car. Given they provide the only connection between the car and an often changeable road surface, a car’s safety is only as good as its tyres. But it’s still the facet of a car most likely to be neglected or overlooked, with many waiting too long to buy a new set or simply opting for the cheapest, easiest option.
“There is a range of criteria that needs to be considered prior to purchasing a tyre, and the range of suppliers out there can be confusing,” reveals NRMA Car Servicing Centre Manager Phil Browne. “But at the end of the day, it is the number one safety aspect of a vehicle.”
Shopping for tyres is a daunting task for the uninitiated, with an overwhelming amount of choice and codes. However, a little planning goes a long way to finding the best and most cost-effective options. And you don’t have to make the trek into a dealership either, with online shopping proving increasingly popular. Here are some tips to make the process of buying new tyres as easy as possible.
Your current model
According to Browne, the first thing anyone looking to buy new tyres should do is to check the requirements of the car. The size and type recommended by your car’s manufacturer can be found in the owner’s manual or through some online searching.
To find out the specifics of your current tyres, consult the inner sidewall and you should find a code that includes your tyre’s width, height, diameter, and load and speed ratings. “If you’re comfortable with those tyres, stick with them. But that can be difficult if the tyres are old, and sometimes you can’t get them again,” Browne explains.
The age of your current tyres are a commonly forgotten factor, he adds. “If you’re considering the tyres on a vehicle you need to look at the date stamp. Even if the tyre looks fine, if it’s ten years old you have to throw it away.”
Another important aspect is the tread pattern. This refers to the grooves that grip the road and allow water to be expelled from beneath the tyre.
If you live in a particularly rainy area or anticipate doing a lot of wet weather driving, you’ll need to look for deeper treads, but for normal driving, a tread depth of about 8mm will do the job.
In Australia the minimum tread depth allowed by law is 1.5mm, but you should be looking at replacing any tyre that has a depth of less than 3mm. To work this out, check the tread wear indicators on a tyre – if you can’t see them, you need a new tyre. And don’t check once a year. “Check your tread depth and tyre condition regularly so you have a safe ride, even in bad weather conditions and sudden hazards,” says Zed Klingenberg, director of online tyre-fitting company Tyroola.
New or retread
Retread tyres have been remanufactured to extend their lives, making them a cheaper alternative to purchasing new tyres. Those savings come with some concerns, however. Many motoring bodies and insurance companies don’t consider retread tyres to be safe due to an inability to know the actual age of the tyre, the potential for instability at high speeds and worse grip during wet weather. While retread tyres provide a good alternative for the transport industry, in passenger cars they’re an unnecessary risk – especially now that online stores can offer significant discounts.
More than 50 million passenger tyres come to the end of their life each year, and then less than 5% of these are recovered and properly recycled. Tyres are built to be virtually indestructible, which is good for your car but bad for the environment when it comes to getting rid of them. Fortunately, there’s been a growing movement in Australia to recycle waste tyres and turn them into anything from playgrounds to roads.
“Nearly all retailers will note it on the supplier invoice, with the recycling fee,” Browne says. “They do a really good job recycling them now, grinding them up to become rubber products.”
You can easily check that the manufacturer you’re planning to buy new tyres from will be responsible with your old tyres, here or here. Lots of companies will recycle your old tyres for free if you’re buying a new set, so make sure you check that your supplier is environmentally responsible.
Did you know…
When you buy your car with a novated lease, Smartleasing budgets for your running costs and, along with finance, bundles them into a single deduction on payday. This means no big out-of pocket expenses when it comes to replacing your tyres – the money is already set aside. The same applies to maintenance, registration, fuel and insurance. Read how it works here.