Tyres remain a dangerously overlooked component of car care in South Africa, sometimes with fatal consequences. This is the view of the Automobile Association (AA) which was commenting after reports suggested a tyre burst lead to the deadly N1 crash in Midrand, in Gauteng Monday.
At least one person died, and up to 11 others were injured - some of them critically - when the taxi they were travelling in rolled on the highway. Some of the victims were airlifted to hospital. According to eyewitness reports, the taxi rolled after a tyre on the vehicle burst.
“Tyres are a significant safety feature on vehicles. They are the only thing between you and the road, and because of this ensuring their continued good condition is vital. Any tyres which are bald, or under or over inflated, can be dangerous,” the AA said.
In terms of Regulation 212 of the National Road Traffic Act, tyres must have at least 1 millimetre tread, and if it falls below that figure, motorists may be fined. Some tyres have wear indicators in the tread pattern to show when the tread depth if less than 1.6mm. In these cases, if the tread on the tyre is level with these indicators, the tyre must be replaced as it is considered un-roadworthy. Worn tyres will also have an impact on the ability of the vehicle to stop properly, posing yet another danger.
A simple way to test this is to insert a match horizontally between the treads on the tyre. If the match is level, the tread may still be good. However, if the match protrudes from the tread, it is time for a replacement.
Another important maintenance routine is to check the inflation on your tyres. Under-inflation can cause tyre bursts. Because under-inflated tyres have more rolling resistance, they will also increase fuel consumption. Over-inflation reduces the cushioning power of the tyre, making it more susceptible to impact, penetration, and abrasion. Over-inflation also means there is less contact with the road surface which has a negative impact on road handling.
“If you are unsure of the correct inflation for your tyres there are several ways you can check. There should be a sticker on the car, usually inside the driver’s door, that indicates the correct inflation levels. Alternatively, motorists can consult their owner’s manual, or even visit a tyre fitment centre for advice. Given the critical nature of tyres, they must be checked regularly,” the AA advised.
The Association also encouraged motorists to check the wheel alignment, and wheel balancing, of their tyres. Wheel alignment consists of adjusting the angles of the wheels so that they are set to the manufacturer’s specifications. The purpose of wheel alignment is twofold; it reduces the wear of the tire, and ensures that vehicle travel is straight and true, without pulling to one side. Wheels that aren’t aligned can lead to uneven or rapid wear of a tyre.
Road hazards such as potholes, debris on the road, crash fragments, and high curbs are some of the daily dangers to tyres, and should be avoided if possible.
“Damaged tyres come in many varieties; there may be cracking on the side wall of the tyre, a distortion of the tyre tread, loss of pressure despite regular pumping up, cuts, bulges or even rubber that has perished or separated. All of these indicate a problem with a tyre that requires urgent attention. And, cost should not be a factor. If it is damaged, it needs to be changed as quickly as possible,” the AA said.
The Association urged motorists to check their tyres before the start of a journey, and not at the end.
“It’s pointless checking tyres after a journey when problems may have already resulted in further damage or worse, a crash. Checking your tyres often will ensure you know exactly what their condition is before any trip, and give you peace of mind that you are safe,” the AA concluded.