The tyres on your van are expected to absorb an enormous amount of punishment. They carry heavy goods through rugged environments, they massively influence your fuel economy, and their condition might even spell the difference between life and death.
In return, it’s only fair that you spend a little bit of time looking after them. Much like cleaning your teeth and paying the occasional visit to the gym, it’s worth it in the long run. And if the improvements in your fuel economy and safety aren’t enough to persuade you, you might consider that every illegal tyre is a £2,500 waiting to happen.
With that in mind, let’s run through a few maintenance tips.
Check the pressure.
Obviously. Invest in an accurate pressure gauge for the job. It’ll save you from handing over fifty pence every time you visit the petrol station, where they really do charge you for fresh air. Do it when the tyres are still cold – which ideally means before you’ve gotten the van moving. You’ll find most manufacturers recommend specific tyre pressures in their vehicle handbooks, for both loaded and unloaded vehicles.
Get leaks repaired
If your pressure is dropping rapidly even after reinflation, then you’ve got a leak somewhere. Get it sorted quickly; small leaks have a habit of turning into big ones at the worst possible time. Like when you’re halfway through a thousand-mile trip through a country where no-one speaks English, and the roadside temperature can reach upwards of 50 degrees.
Oh, and be sure that your spare tyre’s inflated, too. Otherwise there’s not really much point in having one.
Check the tread
In the UK, you’ll need a tread depth of at least 1.6mm, which falls to 1mm if you’re driving a vehicle that weighs more than 3,500kg. You needn’t have a set of callipers to hand in order to check this. Just stick a 20p coin edgeways into the tread. If you can still see the outer raised border to the coin, then your tyres need changing.
Of course, you should consider changing your tyres long before they reach the 1.6mm minimum. The less grip you have, the more fuel you’ll consume getting up to speed, and the more likely you’ll be to run into trouble when the driver in front of your decides to suddenly execute an emergency stop.
Check the tyre
Even a suitably pressurised tyre might be at risk of popping. Have a look for little cuts, scratches and bits of pebble that might have gotten embedded in the tread. Get caps fitted to the pressure valve of each wheel, and look out for surface crackling, too.
Check the suspension
If your suspension isn’t properly aligned, then the van won’t be very pleasant to drive. What’s more, you’ll get tyres on one side wearing out more quickly than those on the other. Uneven wear means more frequent tyre-changes, which will cost more in the long-run.