You won’t get very far without them, but they’re often the very feature that gets neglected the most (behind the windscreen, of course). Tyres – while you may not often think about the important job they have to do – getting you from A to B – we’re here to tell you that you should, just a little. Afterall, getting them replaced isn’t a fun experience, so stay on top of your tyre maintenance with the easy steps we outline below.
So, what’s involved in tyre maintenance?
There’s a couple DIY services you’ll want to stay on top of to keep your tyres in tip-top shape. These include:
- Checking and topping up tyre pressure
- Tyre cleaning
Let’s dive right into what these tasks entail.
Tyre Air Pressure – Why is it Important?
Staying on top of your tyre maintenance is one of the most important safety precautions you can take. Tyres are your trusted point of contact with the road; they give you the ability to steer, brake, and accelerate. If they aren’t in prime condition, these features become less reliable and overall, your car’s performance will not feel at its peak. On top of giving you issues with braking, steering, and acceleration, your fuel economy will suffer too. Tyre pressure helps determine the fuel economy as a fully inflated tyre glides more seamlessly across the road. Ultimately, neglecting your tyre pressure compromises your safety as it decreases the performance of your car and ability to get out of tricky situations. As an integral part of your car, it is important to regularly check your tyre pressure as a positive habit.
Why Should You Ensure You Have The Correct Tyre Pressure?
Tyres operate at their peak performance when they are inflated at the correct air pressure – too much or too little air can put your tyres, your car, and yourself, at risk. Ensuring your tyres maintain correct pressure results in longer lasting tyres, reduces your fuel usage and boosts your cars handling and most importantly prevents accidents. So, how do you know what the ideal air pressure is for your tyres?
Here’s how to check. Firstly, it’s important to understand that air pressure in tyres is measured in units called ‘PSI’, meaning pounds per square inch. The most common range for most tyres is between 27–32PSI – trucks and larger vehicles will have a much higher PSI than this. To find your ideal PSI, all you need to do is open your car door on your driver’s side. There should be a sticker located there with a guide on your car’s PSI. Otherwise, the PSI will be mentioned in the owner’s manual.
What Happens If I Don’t Have The Correct Air Pressure In My Tyres?
Tyres have to be sturdy enough to carry the weight of the vehicle and keep the rims off the road. Therefore, the vehicle load is carried by the air pressure in the tyres, not the tyre itself. Incorrect air pressure leads to the excessive or insufficient deflection of the tyres’ sidewalls. This refers to the change in radius to a tyre when a heavy load is applied. Your tyres should maintain the appropriate radius to ensure there is the ideal amount of surface contact with the road – this allows greater traction and flotation abilities for the tyres. Not enough contact (excessive deflection from tyres being overfilled) and you won’t have enough traction and control of your wheels, too little (insufficient deflection, underfilled tyres) and your car may feel sluggish to drive and it’s flotation abilities will be compromised. Incorrect pressure can also result in your tread wearing down faster.
Where can I check my Tyres pressure?
Service stations provide pumps you can use to check and top up your tyres. There’s no need to be intimidated, the process is easy and there’s no charge. The air pressure gauge is usually located away from petrol pumps; there will be signs to help you identify this service at stations.
Tyre retailers are another location that has pumps, and they’re usually happy to let you use this equipment, and depending on each station, may even be able to do it for you – this is a great option for those that still find the air pressure gauge intimidating.
For those not wanting to leave the comfort of their home – or I guess, garage – there are also tools you can use to check and top up air pressure in your tyres. To first check your current PSI, you’ll need an air pressure gauge. Connect the gauge to the valve stem of your tyre, which should release pressure when secured (if the hissing continues then the gauge is not well secured). You can increase pressure with a classic foot pump, or for most efficiency, a 12v mini air compressor (which uses your battery for power). Simply plug it in as instructed and let the air compressor release air into your tyres – note that not all air compressors come with a gauge so remember to remove the air compressor at times to check the air pressure on the air pressure gauge to ensure you don’t go overboard.
How to Check and Refill Your Tyre Pressure at The Service Station
Undoubtedly, the easiest way to maintain your air pressure is to top it up at the servo. The pump will simultaneously check and adjust your pressure to get it at the correct PSI, meaning very little effort and attention needed by you. Here’s how to top up your air pressure at the servo.
Step 1: Once you have located your service station’s air pressure pump, make sure you reset the displayed pressure to your car’s recommended PSI.
Step 2: Unscrew the valve stem cap. This is usually black or silver on cars and is positioned near the hubcap.
Step 3: Unravel and connect the air pressure hose by clipping it onto the valve stem. You’ll hear some air pressure release into the hose and the hissing will stop – if it doesn’t, you haven’t connected properly. The display monitor on the pump will also change to represent your tyre’s current PSI (and this number should start adjusting).
Step 4: Wait for the display monitor to show your required PSI (the machine should beep when this number is reached).
Step 5: Once it is finished filling your tyres, then remove the hose and replace the cap on the valve (the cap doesn’t prevent air loss but stops dirt and moisture from getting into the stem). Repeat the process for each tyre.
What if There is Too Much Air in My Tyres?
If your PSI is too high, release air from your tyre by slowly removing the air pressure gauge from the valve stem slightly until you hear air escaping. Release the desired amount of air then completely remove the gauge.
When Should I Check my Tyre Pressure?
The rule of thumb is to check your tyre pressure at least once a month. The best time is when tyres are cold, which in Australia is in the morning before you begin your first journey of the day. This is because when your tyres are cold, the pressure reading is at its most accurate. The tyre pressure will climb as your tyres warm up which will give you a false reading.
If you’re planning on driving your car at sustained high speeds or with a heavy load, an increased cold inflation pressure (an increased pressure when your tyres are cold) will be needed to compensate for additional strain. This PSI is also displayed on the Vehicle Tyre Placard. For four-wheel drivers, tyre pressure adjustments will also need to be made for driving across softer surfaces – depending on the type of vehicle, you may need to release about a third of your tyre’s air (always check your owner’s manual) or tyre placard.
Tyre Cleaning – Why is it Important?
Cleaning your car’s tyres is more than just maintaining good appearances – although it has a lot to do with that too. It is, however, also a key preventative maintenance step that shouldn’t be overlooked. When your tyres are regularly cleaned, you can prevent cracking, corrosion, and slow the wear of your tyres, as well as get them to look pretty schmick. Dirt on tyres can also be a bit of a safety hazard – dirt that has accumulated can affect your tyres’ ability to brake as there is less surface contact with the road.
How often should I clean my car’s tyres?
Aim to clean your tyres about every couple of weeks to prevent dirt build up and maintain a shiny appearance (we’re not saying clean your whole car – just the tyres!). Of course, this cleaning period depends on how often you drive your car and what kind of surfaces you drive on. Use your common sense and judgement.
Issues Relating to Tyre Cleaning
One key issue relating to tyre cleanliness is brown tyres, which often occurs due to caustic degreasers (meaning highly alkaline or corrosive degreasers, often containing sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide) being used for cleaning or the lack of tyre protectant. Tyres contain rubber conditioners, antiozonants, and UV absorbers in them to retain their flexibility. Using the wrong cleaner can cause these important elements to break down. You are then left with discoloration or cracking. If you don’t care for the tyre properly, the rubber can break down.
To avoid scratches and damage to your car, remember to use a cloth that is only meant to be used for tyres. Brake dust that has accumulated on your tyre cloth can scratch different areas of your car as the cloth is permanently stained, so avoid using your tyre cloth for the rest of your car. A microfibre cloth is generally a good pick when it comes to cleaning various parts of your car – thankfully, you can buy a set of these for cheap at your local auto shop. For your tyres, you’re also going to want a different type of cleaner or balm to get them to their peak shininess – for glass and plastic surfaces, on the other hand, Novus has got you covered with these highly effective cleaners.
As a note, it’s generally much easier to clean your tyres when you clean your car, so don’t neglect your tyres on your next car wash.
How To Clean Your Tyres
Step 1: Select the appropriate cleaning agents for the type of wheels you have (if you’re unsure, select one that is labeled as safe for all wheel types). Using a product that is for both the tyres and wheels is best to loosen the brake dust from the tiny holes found in the metal as well as the pores in the rubber.
Step 2: Choose a brush specifically for tyres. Usually these brushes are stiff nylon bristle brushes that can reach into small cracks of tyres.
Step 3: Using your brush and cleaning product, scrub the tyre, making sure you clean one at a time to prevent product from drying during the clean. Rinse each tyre with a strong rinse before moving onto the next one.
Step 4: When you have finished cleaning your tyres, they will need to be dried with a microfiber detailing towel or terry cloth towel. Try to only designate these towels for the tyres to avoid scratching the paint and body of the car. Drying your tyres and wheels will prevent unsightly water spots and give you an opportunity to get rid of every little bit of brake dust.
To protect and extend your clean, you can use a wax or glaze. This will give your wheels the ultimate shine that makes your car look as though it has been professionally detailed. Tyre balm protectants are among some of the best tyre cleaning and protection solutions available today; just ensure you’re picking up a water-based formula rather than a foam cleanser as these can make your wheels look chalky and dusty.
Stay safe on the road this spring by ensuring your tyres are in top form with Novus’ best maintenance advice. If you’re keen to up your maintenance game, check out our recent articles on freshening up your vents and bringing your upholstery back to life.
When it comes to your windscreen, however, you only want to trust the experts to give you the safest and best quality repair or replacement. Deal with those frustrating chips, cracks, and scratches, quickly and easily by calling a Novus Autoglass technician on 13 22 34 or filling an online booking enquiry.