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Tyre safety and your van

Many experienced drivers and caravan owners like to think that they know a thing or two about their vehicles – including the tyres.

Yet it’s still possible to see some poor practices in this area.

You caravan’s tyres are important

Incredibly, it’s still possible to occasionally see towing vehicles with pristine tyres but caravans (or trailer tents) with tyres that should have been scrapped or recycled a long time ago.

This is exceptionally dangerous. The tyres on a towed vehicle can make it highly unwieldly and unpredictable if they’re in poor condition – irrespective of how good the tyres on the towing vehicle are.

Checking your tyres

Another sometimes frightening thing to see is someone ‘testing’ their tyres by giving them a kick.

True, we’ve probably all done it but this is simply not a reliable way of testing them!

There are many professional tyres pressure gauges on the marketplace and your owner’s manual may make recommendations. Avoid ‘cheap and cheerful’ gauges and be careful about air pumps in garages, as some of them in the past have been found to be notoriously inaccurate.

Then there is the question of the correct tyre pressure for your towed vehicle.

The first starting point again is your owner’s manual. If that’s missing, you should be able to find out the type of tyres you need by researching your caravan type and configuration on the internet. You can also take the tyre’s number off its side wall and research that.

Don’t forget to take into account the loading on your vehicle and how far off, one way or another, the average loading figures that is and make adjustments in pressures accordingly.

Finally, inspect your tyres carefully. You’re looking for bald patches, uneven wear, cracks, flaking rubber and patches of permanent discolouration. You’re also looking for worn tread that’s below or is getting close to, legal limits. Use an approved gauge for checking tread depth.

Don’t take chances in this area and instead get the opinion of an expert if you’re in any doubt.

Remember, touring caravan insurance may become invalid if you fail to maintain your vehicle in a roadworthy condition and that includes its tyres.

Adjust for conditions

Remember that certain road or environmental conditions may require you to change the pressure of your tyres. Consult your manual but you may wish to look out for:

  • icy and snowy conditions;
  • unusually hot weather;
  • a heavier or lighter load than normal;
  • taking your caravan off-road (as an entirely separate issue, make sure your caravan insurance actually permits this);
  • towing over extended distances at higher than average normal speeds.

Warning – used and sub-standard tyres

The quality of your tyres is of the utmost importance. It’s always best to avoid re-using tyres if at all possible.

Whether new or used, make sure that your tyres are a recognised make and not one that neither you nor anybody else has ever heard of. It may be excellent of course but it’s not perhaps a chance worth taking.

Summary

Try to avoid the trap of slipping into thinking that it’s only your car’s tyres that need to be looked at closely.

Your insurance provider certainly won’t see it that way and the police will most likely be inclined to agree with them!