NO matter how good the car you're driving is, its overall performance is directly governed by the quality of its tyres and the grip they provide.
For evidence of this you only need to watch a V8 Supercar race to see how quickly a driver will slip down through the field, or worse, slip off the track totally once their tyres are past their usable life.
Yet, it is not uncommon for road drivers to continue to drive on worn out tyres. To try and understand the scope of this issue, tyre manufactures often conduct car park surveys at shopping centres to see the general state of tyres on our roads.
They've discovered as many as 80% of the cars surveyed had tyres that were either not cared for correctly or had issues such as incorrect pressure, damage or illegal tread depth.
Your tyres play a vital role in your driving safety and their importance cannot be understated.
It is absolutely essential that your tyres have good deep tread channels to deal with wet conditions. If the tyre is worn out, the remaining tread cannot adequately disperse the water at the contact patch. What happens next is that a film of water is sandwiched between the tyre and the road surface. Once this happens the grip totally disappears, this is known as aquaplaning.
Bald tyres are extremely dangerous because there is no tread to pump the water away and the car will be slipping and sliding as soon as the rain arrives.
So when should you replace your tyres? That's a good question and an easy one to answer.
Tyres have wear indicators that tell you when the tread is too low. Look closely at the shoulder of the tyre and you'll notice a number of marker arrows. These are about 30cm apart around the edge of the tyre and point to the indicators location. The wear indicators are raised bumps, around 1.6mm high, in the main channels of the tread itself.
A new tyre has about 8-9mm of tread depth, but as we drive the tread wears down. Once it wears down to the top of the wear bars it's time to fit some new rubber.
When this time arrives it pays to talk with a tyre specialist about the type of tyre that will best suit your needs.
Finally, you'll need to ensure that your car has its wheels correctly aligned. An incorrect wheel alignment will greatly reduce the tyre's life.
Driving a car with a bad wheel alignment will just scrub off the tread and wear the tyre unevenly. You can have a situation where the tyre has quite good tread on the outside shoulder but the inside is down to the canvas.
Watch out for things like steering vibrations or the car tracking to one side.
Check your tyre's pressure weekly and inspect the tyres regularly for any sign of uneven wear or damage. If you suspect that something's not right, get it checked by a tyre and suspension specialist as soon as possible.
Russell White's experience in the driver training industry spans more than 24 years. He is widely regarded as one of Australia's leading road safety advocates. His business offers the complete range of driver training and fleet management services, visit driversafety.com.au