Cheap tyres can have expensive consequences 

A 2021 road safety report by South African tyre manufacturers reveals that 41% of road accidents happen because of a burst tyre. A further 15% of accidents are caused by smooth tyres.

TEPA (Tyres, Equipment, Parts Association) vice chairperson Les Richardson says these stats are a symptom of a lack of maintenance and ignorance of the road safety standards.

As the only parts of a vehicle in direct contact with the road, tyres have a very important role to play in how your car performs on the road, he says. Neglecting maintenance and warning signs is asking for trouble – unfortunately, this could be fatal too.

“Basically, the contact point between the road and your vehicle is the tyre. More specifically, this equates to an area as long as the distance from the palm of your hand to the tip of your fingers and again as wide as the width of your palm. Multiply this by the four tyres of your car, and this is the amount of tyre in contact with the road.

“With that in mind, why would you willing compromise your safety and those around you with worn or secondhand tyres that you do not know the history of?”

According to Richardson, many tyres sold on the side of the road have been illegally imported or written off by the previous owner.

He explains that for as small budget car, each tyre bought new from a reputable TEPA fitment centre may cost as little as between R500 and R800 per tyre.

“This tyre has around 8mm of tread depth at new. The legal limit is 1,5mm of remaining tread depth. So, if you buy a tyre with 2-3mm of tread remaining, for in the region of R200 to R250 that is a very expensive 1-2mm of tread you are paying for. If the tyre has had fresh grooves cut into the existing tyre, that makes it even more dangerous and a worse deal.

“If the tyre casing has been re-grooved, the integrity of the casing could be impaired and this could result in a weaker structure or even a slow leak. Older tyres also develop cracks that air can escape from. “

With regard to burst tyres, Richardson says most tyres burst as a result of under inflation due to a slow leak or not checking the pressure regularly. With the state of our roads, it is easy to pick up a nail or something similar and these are prime culprits of slow leaks you may not notice for days.

“When a tyre is softer, it causes the tyre wall to flex every time the wheel rotates. This constant flexing causes heat build-up and the hot rubber gets softer until it meets a hard object in the road, or while cornering, simply flexes too much and separates from the rim or in extreme cases, simply fails and bursts.

“A bald tyre does not dissipate heat properly and also results in hotter tyres which could fail.

“In wet conditions, the tread pattern of a tyre is designed to reduce the water from the surface to enable better contact between the tyre and the road. Less tread means that this is not performed as designed and leads to aquaplaning, or the tyre not gripping the road.

“The result is that the tyre floats over the water with no control from the driver. A bald tyre simply makes the problem worse,” Richardson explains.

He adds that you should not brake if the car starts aquaplaning. Ease off the accelerator until control is regained, then slow down and continue at a safe speed.

TEPA, a proud affiliate of the Retail Motor Industry Association (RMI), advises having an accredited fitment centre inspect your tyres as part of a holiday check before departing for your destination, and having the tyres checked again when you get back from your trip.

“We are all aware of road conditions in South Africa – potholes, debris, rocks, stones, loose gravel, poor road markings, livestock wandering around, etc. This makes the health of your tyres so important. They must be able to get to grips with any road conditions you encounter,” Richardson says.

“To ensure this, avoid buying tyres from informal dealers. It will be too late for regret when you suddenly realise your braking is compromised or your car can’t handle a wet road - or you get pulled over by traffic officials.

“Don’t let your ‘good deal’ tyres end up costing you a good deal of money in car repairs or, worse still, medical bills. For total peace of mind when you get behind the steering wheel, visit a TEPA partner for recommended tyres and have them fitted and balanced professionally.”