Tyres and second-hand cars

By Tom Bentley
on June 14, 2019 3:44:57 PM BST

Tyres and second-hand cars

By Tom Bentley
on June 14, 2019 3:44:57 PM BST

When you buy a used car, there are a lot of unknowns. One of the biggest is the origin and the condition of the tyres. Here’s what you need to be looking out for.

You see the perfect used car, sitting there on the forecourt with a pleasing price in the window. This could be your ideal car, but don’t go handing over any cash until you’ve had a look at the tyres. A cursory look can tell you more than you think…


Are they right?

If you’ve not seen our guide on fitting the correct size tyres yet, it might be worth reading.

One of the most common issues with tyres is when incorrect sizes are fitted. It can ruin a car’s handling, fuel economy and most worryingly, it’s detrimental to your safety.

Before going to look at your potential used car, enter the registration number into Motokiki and let us give you the size options. It’s quick, free and it will give you more knowledge when faced with an overenthusiastic salesperson.

If the tyres are the wrong size and the dealer can’t give you a good reason why, it might be an ideal opportunity to walk away. After all, if a previous owner or the dealer itself didn’t put the correct tyres on the car, what else could it be hiding?

Do they match?

We strongly advise against having different brands of tyre on either side of the car.

Tyres need to match. You could potentially get away with brand A on the front axles and brand B on the rear, but it’s not ideal and we don’t recommend it.

It’s important the tyres match for handling and safety reasons. If you have a more aggressive tread on one corner, and a different tyre on the other, the car will become unpredictable.

Different tyres also wear out at different rates and perform differently under varying weather conditions. Do the speed and load ratings match? If not, that will play havoc with the handling, too.

Ideally, all four tyres need to be the same brand and the same size.

They don’t all have to be big-brand, high-end tyres. All tyres sold in Europe have stringent standards to meet, so even if the brand is lesser known, as long as they all match you should be fine.

Mismatched tyres also beg the question of how was the car maintained in its past life? If a previous owner has been changing one tyre at a time, without giving any thought to balancing over the axles, you have to wonder if corners have been cut elsewhere within the car’s history?

Are they damaged?

Damage to the tyres tells a tale. It means the last owner wasn’t careful, and that’s bad for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it means that the tyres could be illegal.

If there are big chunks missing from the sidewall, your car could fail its MOT. More seriously, damage can create a point of weakness within the tyre, which can in turn lead to failure.

The chances are any failure will happen at speed, as this is when they tyre is at its hottest. With the rubber warm, it’s more pliable and likely to give out at the damaged point.

You also need to consider that damage to the tyre could translate to damage further down the line. Did the damage occur under circumstances so harsh that the suspension has been damaged? Is the tracking out as a consequence? Damage to a tyre is seldom just damage to a tyre.

And of course, there is the financial aspect, too. If the tyres are damaged, you’re going to need to replace them. If you do decide to buy the car, make sure you factor it into your final price offer.

Is the wear even?

Have a look at the tyres and look at how much they’ve worn. Not just from tyre to tyre, look at each individual tyre.

If one rear tyre is worn, but the other isn’t, question why? Is one tyre just old? Has the car been damaged? This is what you need to know from the seller.

Also, how are the tyres wearing. If any one tyre is worn in the middle but not on the outer edges, it’s been overinflated, which has made the tyre bulge.

If the middle tread is fine, but the outer treads are worn, the tyre has been underinflated. If, on the front tyres, the wear is on the outer edges, the car has too much ‘toe out’, meaning the front wheels are pointing away from each other ever so slightly.

If the inner edges are worn, it has too much ‘toe in’, meaning the tyres are pointing toward each other.

This means the suspension/steering geometry is out of alignment. The only question is, why? Be sure to grill the seller to find out if the car has a hidden past of suspension issues.

Are they too old?

When tyres get old, their safety is seriously compromised. The older the rubber, the more likely it is to perish, crack and ultimately fail.

You can check the age of your tyres by looking for a four-digit number moulded into the side of the tyre. If, for example, the number is 1613, that means your tyre was made in the thirteenth week of 2016. If it was 1701 the means the first week of 2017, so on and so forth.

Ideally, tyres should be no older than five years old.

What will it cost to for a set of new tyres?

This varies from car to car. That said, one of the most common wheel sizes is 16-inch.

If you search on Motokiki you’ll find that for a set of tyres in 16-inch fitment, you could be looking at as little as £160. That would be for a budget brand, but premium brands can be bought for around £210 for a full set.

Don’t forget, all tyres sold in Europe have to meet stringent safety and manufacturing criteria, so even budget tyres are still well-made and durable. Plus, every price quoted on Motokiki includes fitting, valves, balancing and disposal of your old tyres.

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