Up to three million UK motorists could be risking tyre problems this summer by not checking the age and condition of their tyres, according to the RAC Foundation today (31 July) at the launch of an eight-week tyre safety campaign urging drivers of low-mileage vehicles to get their tyres inspected.
New research* carried out to for the Foundation reveals that although nine out of ten drivers understand the link between tyre age and road safety, up to three million - more than the populations of Greater Manchester or the West Midlands - do not.
Furthermore, six out of ten (59%) say they are unlikely to check vital tyre age information contained on the sidewall.
With normal use tyres will be replaced long before ageing becomes an issue, but owners of low-mileage cars, vintage and classic models, caravans, motor homes and trailers need to be aware of the risk of tyre fatigue. The spare tyre is also at risk of age-related deterioration, as it is often unused even though other tyres may have been replaced over the years.
Simplifying the checking process could be one answer to the problem, as seven out of ten motorists say they would like to see the current age coding system replaced by an easy-to-read 'year of manufacture' date on the tyre.
The Foundation is also concerned that 45% of drivers questioned do not know the minimum legal tread depth for car tyres of 1.6mm. Among female drivers only, this figure rises to 60 %.
Sheila Rainger, Deputy Director for the RAC Foundation, said: "Modern tyres are very robust and failure-resistant, but older tyres that have been stored incorrectly or simply not used for many years can become unfit for purpose through the passage of time alone. Over the next two months motorists can take advantage of a free safety check and save themselves from perishing on perished rubber."
Experts agree that older tyres are at higher risk of fatigue, deterioration and potential failure, which is why the Foundation is encouraging motorists to get them checked thoroughly before setting off on summer holidays, where long journeys and heavy loads combine to place tyres under greater strain. The danger signs of ageing can include:
- cracks or crazing on the sidewall
- tread separation, cracks or bulges
- deformation of the tyre carcass
- discolouration and fading of the rubber
"It's relatively easy to check a tyre's age from the sidewall code," said Peter Gaster, Chairman of the National Tyre Distributors Association, "but that will only confirm when it was made, not its physical condition. For complete reassurance, we're offering free tyre health checks by trained technicians at all NTDA centres throughout the summer."
Motorists can take advantage of free tyre inspections at more than 2,700 NTDA member centres across the UK, listed on www.ntda.co.uk.
* GfK NOP survey of 500 motorists 11-13 July 2008
* Regional breakdown of research findings are available from Mark Harrison, details below
* Images are available from the Royal Automobile Club Foundation
About the RAC Foundation
The RAC Foundation for Motoring is an independent body established to protect and promote the interests of UK motorists. Motoring organisation RAC supports its seven million customers with breakdown cover and a wide range of other motoring solutions. The views of each organisation should not be attributed to the other.
About the NTDA
Established in 1930, the NTDA is the professional body for the UK's leading tyre retailers, with more than 300 individual companies and 2,700 fitting centres in membership. www.ntda.co.uk