A Blowout (but everyone’s OK)

Last month the Missus had an unfortunate incident on the motorway, where one of the front tyres blew out on the way to meet up with friends. As you can see the carcass of the tyre was completely destroyed and cam away from the wheel – she was very lucky indeed…

That and she drives quite slowly.

Well I say slowly, what I actually mean is you’d get there quicker on a push bike. Mind you, you couldn’t cart around all the stuff we have in our car on a bike:

  1. a push chair for the little one
  2. a crate of toys for the little one to keep him occupied
  3. various coats/hats/boots/wellies for the little one to protect him against the elements
  4. various coats for her to suit different occasions (work/going out etc.)
  5. 6 pairs of shoes, again for different occasions/days of the week
  6. the last 4 issues of the Sunday Times, to keep her occupied
  7. 20 tins of cat food (which never seem to make it into the house)

Anyway, back to the point – a lucky escape and no one hurt, thank God.

But why did it happen? I’ve never suffered a blowout myself in over 20 years of hard driving. Perhaps it’s because up until now, I’ve always insisted on buying the best tyres I could afford. Only the last time I bought tyres I did something slightly different. I bought “part worn”…

You see these places about, and a quick internet search will bring up local ones in your area. The appeal was that I didn’t have any dosh left until payday and I’d noticed the front tyres were now so bald they needed replacing yesterday. Plus I didn’t want to waste money on budget tyres. Waste money? Yes. Really cheap tyres, even brand new, are hopeless in the wet, and for me, living in the UK, that’s a no no. From previous experience, they don’t even seem to last longer either.

Wait a minute. Experience? I thought you said you always bought the best…? I do, but when buying a used car, especially a cheap one, the previous owner may well have fitted any old sh**e.

My theory is, that although the rubber is harder and therefore should be harder wearing, they don’t grip well at all, and all that extra slithering about (in the dry too) wears the rubber away, whereas a softer, grippier tyre might not slide around quite so much.

So back to part worn tyres. The reason I was especially happy (initially) with my purchase, was that I wound up with 2 michelin tyres, fitted, for £100. Not bad, and still a few miles of life left in them to give me time to get the money together for some new ones when those needed replacing.

But this is the thing. Old tyres are not good news.

I took what remained of the old tyre and the wheel it was still, well, attached is the wrong word, let’s say “affiliated” with, along to EARS Motorsport for a replacement. Speaking with one of the guys there I asked him what may have led to the blowout and he commented that this can happen to older tyres, and that my tyre was over 6 years old. But how did he know that? Well, like most things with tyres, there’s a marking that tells you when they were manufactured.

See here in the picture on the left, there is a mark slightly indented near the DOT marking. It reads (3510) which translates as follows. The tyre was manufactured in the 35th week of 2010.

¬†Apparently, all DOT marks should finish with 4 figures, to give the “birth” date. The preceding characters reference which factory the tyre was manufactured at.

As you probably know, or would guess, tyre companies constantly experiment with the makeup of the rubber compounds that their tyres are made of. Most F1 drivers are acutely aware of this fact this year, (haha!), but what I was totally ignorant of, was that along with trying to come up with compounds that grip well AND wear well, they also try to give their tyres a longer shelf life. Quite literally as it turns out, because at places like Kwik Fit tyre depots, the tyres can sit on shelves for years before anyone buys them.

But why is that important? – Because the rubber does actually “age” over time, becoming weaker and less flexible.

Manufacturers don’t want to be tied down to a use by date for many and various reasons, because it depends on whether the tyre is used regularly, how it’s stored etc. but on further research RoSPA, who I would take as an authority on this, state it’s not good to use any tyre over 6 years old. Doh!

They also point out that you can sometimes see this if the tyre suffers from distortions or crazing, so I had a quick look round the office car park, and lo and behold, this is what I found.

Click on the image for a larger view and it becomes even more worrying. You can see cracks in the tread itself.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Suffice to say, I will be going back to my old policy of buying decent quality, branded tyres. Currently I have 4 new michelin energy savers fitted. Will they save me fuel?, that’s another blog for another day.

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