We always recommend that you check tyres on your car at least once a month. Tyres are the only contact your car has with the road so ensuring they’re in tip-top condition is vital. Here’s how to check tyres and what you should look out for. Anything that’s out of the ordinary on a tyre, such as a bulge or cut or cracks, should be considered serious.
Table of Contents
How do you inspect tyres
Get down on your hands and knees and look at the sidewall (the area of tyre perpendicular to the road). There shouldn’t be evidence of any lumps, bulges, tears or cracks in this part of the tyre. Although a tyre probably won’t lose air because of these faults, they do indicate a weakness in its structure. And they’re sufficiently serious to prompt an MOT failure.
What else do you check for?
Look for foreign bodies such as nails, screws or sharp stones stuck in the tyre. Although a tyre may not be losing much air as a result, think of it a bit like a water leak: it’s never going to get better. If for any reason the object is forced out of the tyre, it will cause it to deflate. This could leave you unexpectedly stranded and having to call out a breakdown operator.
Anything that’s out of the ordinary on a tyre, such as a cut, lump or bulge, should be considered serious.
Look at the hidden side
It’s easy to forget that as well as the tread area and the sidewall that you can see, tyres have a second sidewall that’s hidden. To check tyres on their inner side, you’ll need to get down on the ground with a torch and look underneath the car. Again, you’re looking for tears, cracks and any kind of lump.
Before getting underneath it, make sure that the car is parked safely with the parking brake on and in either first gear, or if it’s an automatic, Park. And never get under a car that’s jacked up, unless it’s on axle stands. You will have to move the vehicle either forwards or backwards to check the whole tyre. Mark the edges of the part you can’t see with a piece of chalk. You can then be certain you’ve checked the whole tyre.
How often should you check tyres?
As often as you can. Experts suggest you should check tyres on your car at least fortnightly. Understanding that this is going to be fairly low down most people’s list of things to do we’d suggest at least a month.
What causes a lump in the tyre?
Lumps or bulges do sometimes appear in the tyre’s sidewall and they indicate the tyre needs replacing. They’re unlikely to be a manufacturing defect. It’s far more likely that hitting a pothole is the cause.
This prompts the tyre’s plies and cords ‑ the internal web of material that gives the tyre its strength ‑ to fail. As a result, the air pushes out the rubber causing what looks like a bubble to form. Once that’s occurred, it’s only a matter of time before the tyre fails, possibly ‘blowing out’ at speed. Lumps in a tyre will result in your car failing its MOT. This is because a tyre with a lump in isn’t thought to be safe to drive on.
How do I check my tyre’s tread depth
While you’re inspecting your tyres, it’s worth taking a look at the tread. This should be even across the tyre. If the tread on the inside is more worn than the outside or vice versa, your wheels are out of alignment. Remember the legal tread depth is 1.6mm.
I’ve been writing about cars and motoring for more than 25 years. My career started on a long-departed classic car weekly magazine called AutoClassic. I’ve since pitched up at Autosport, Auto Express, the News of the World, Sunday Times and most recently the Daily Telegraph. When I’m not writing about cars and motoring, I’m probably doing some kind of sport or working in my garden.