Just because your tyres are not bald, does not mean they are safe

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If you do not do many miles a year in your car, van, caravan or motorhome, you might think that clocking up a low mileage will make your tyres last longer – but this is not the case.

Even tyres have a lifespan and the Sunday Times motoring supplement ingear gave a thorough lowdown on the subject last weekend, promoted by a query from KB in Ashford, Kent.

KB wrote: “The tyres on my Land Rover Discovery are 10 years old. I do only about 3,000 miles a year, mostly in town, occasionally pulling a horse trailer, and they are still in good condition. It there any law or insurance condition that says they must be changed after a certain time?”

Dave Pollard, car accessory expert, “There is no legal time limit starting when tyres must be changed. The lifespan of a tyre depends on many factors, including usage and the conditions in which your vehicle is kept. To be legal, car tyres must have a tread depth of at least 1.6 mm across the central three-quarters of the tread width and round the whole circumference. The sidewalls must have no obvious cuts or large cracks. Deterioration can be accelerated by driving on incorrect pressures and infrequent, as well as frequent, use. The rubber compounds used to make tyres will also degrade over time because of exposure to sunlight and ozone, regardless of how the tyres are used or stored.

“As a rough guide, TyreSafe (tyresafe.org), an organisation that promotes tyre safety says most manufacturers agree tyres need replacing at least every 10 years. After that, although your tyres may appear to be in good condition, the sidewalls could be cracking and particularly unfit for the cast of pulling a heavy load, such as a horse box.

“Poor tyres will increase braking distances, give you less grip when cornering and could be more prone to blowouts. If you were involved in an accident, there is a chance that your insurer could use the state of your tyres as a reason to reduce any payout. Direct Line insurance, for example, states: “If you are found to be at fault in the event of a car insurance claim, insurers may take your car’s roadworthiness at the time of the accident into account. As a responsible car owner, it is down to you to ensure that your car is kept maintained between Mot tests.”

“It may be unlikely but, if your tyres are defective, you also run the risk of being charged with “using a vehicle with defective tyres”, which carries a maximum penalty of a fine of £$2,500 and three penalty points on your licence for each tyre.

“To confirm the exact age of your tyres, check on the sidewalls for a code in a box following the letters DOT. For tyres made since the beginning of 2000, there are four digits. The first to denote the week of manufacture; the second two give the year. For example, 2804 means that the 28th week of 2004.”

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