Car Care: Five steps to a safe ride

Tyre checks are essential to protect you and your car

Tyre maintenance can be easily done at a specialist automotive shop.
Tyre maintenance can be easily done at a specialist automotive shop.

The school holidays have started, so lots of New Zealand families will be heading away for a break. But if you're among them, before you pack the car, check your tyres.

The last thing you want is a flat tyre, or worn rubber that won't give you any support if you need to stop suddenly.

Firestone New Zealand spokesman Ian Mitchell says it is vital that people keep an eye on the condition of their tyres.

"Safety is number one when it comes to your tyres. The worse the condition, the less traction you have and the chance of an accident is increased," said Mitchell.

Here are five ways to ensure you stay on top of your wheels.

1.Tread
If the tread on your tyre is less than 1.5mm (the head of a match) deep, you will find it difficult to come to quick stop in an emergency, and will have significant loss of grip in tight corners.

Check the amount of tread left on your tyres, and if it is too worn, replace them as quick as possible. New tyres can be found at your local tyre specialist.

2. Tyre Pressure
Having the air pressure in your tyres too low can have a great effect on their wear, and can play havoc with fuel consumption. Under-inflated tyres can reduce fuel efficiency by up to four per cent. Be sure the pressures at the manufacturer's recommended level and have your own tyre pressure gauge handy. These can be purchased from automotive specialist stores.

3. Wheel alignment
When your wheels are out on alignment, the engine has work harder to get you motoring along and this is not good for your fuel economy.

If your car generally pulls to one side or the other, check your tyres for uneven or excessive wear. Wheel alignment can be done at any automotive shop.

4. Wheel balance
Balancing helps prevent premature wear of your tyres and eliminates vibration. Unbalanced tyres will also cause parts to wear out quickly and and leave you with an uncomfortable journey. If your steering wheel is vibrating around the 100km/h mark, there's a good chance that a balance is required.

5. Driving habits
A good way to care for your tyres and increase their life is to look at the way you drive. Things to avoid include sudden braking and acceleration, and hard cornering. Such driving habits will reduce the life of your tyres.


Emergency DIY fix for alignment
NOTE: This is an emergency fix for badly knocked alignment if there's no way of getting your car quickly to a professional. Do not attempt this if you're not confident of successfully performing this operation.

When you're way out of the big smoke and one of New Zealand's rocks, potholes and other middle-of-the-road hazards attack, it's handy to be able to get things straight.

Prepare to tackle the tie rods.
Prepare to tackle the tie rods.

Cars that wobble around not only lose braking and handling ability, but chew up tyres.

Safety is paramount, so this easy trick - by no means a substitute for an expert machine-
set alignment - will see you through. It is for the front end only: do not attempt to adjust the rears.

Roll your car through a puddle at very low speed. If the wheel alignment is out, it will not show the tyre's whole tread in the marks coming out of the water. Using a crescent wrench or similar, loosen the nut connecting the outer and inner tie rods.

Turning the outer rod anti-clockwise turns the wheel in, clockwise tightens it and points
the wheel outward.

Repeat puddle dip and adjustments until the tread marks improve.

When you're back to civilisation, book your car in for an immediate professional
alignment and wheel balance.

- NZ Herald

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