person checking vehicle tyre pressure

Under-Inflated Tyres Costing UK Motorists Over £112 Million Annually in Wasted Rubber

A recent study conducted by The Motor Ombudsman, the automotive sector’s ombudsman, has brought to light the costly impact of driving with under-inflated tyres. The investigation reveals that this common oversight is not only dangerous but is also burning a substantial hole in the pockets of UK drivers, with an estimated annual waste of at least £112 million due to prematurely worn tyres.

The Hidden Costs of Under-Inflation

The study, supported by data from the British Tyre Manufacturers’ Association (BTMA) and the charity TyreSafe, estimates that 57% of cars on UK roads are operating with tyre pressures at least 10% below the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended levels. With approximately 33 million cars in circulation, this translates to about 19 million vehicles or roughly 75 million tyres that are not adequately inflated.

Given that the average cost of a common 16-inch tyre is around £85, the financial implications are significant. The premature wear and tear of these tyres lead to an avoidable annual expense of approximately £112 million, which equates to a preventable loss of about 1.3 million tyres each year.

Survey Insights and Consumer Confidence

In conjunction with the data collection, The Motor Ombudsman conducted a survey involving 1,000 UK car drivers to assess their confidence in basic car maintenance. The results indicated a notable lack of comfort in tyre maintenance tasks:

  • 37% of respondents expressed discomfort with topping up their tyre air.
  • Over half (51%) were hesitant to check tyre tread depth, ensuring it exceeds the legal minimum of 1.6mm.

These findings underscore a significant gap in driver education and maintenance practices.

“Make Time for Tyres” Campaign

In response to these findings, The Motor Ombudsman has launched the “Make Time for Tyres” safety awareness campaign. This initiative, endorsed by TyreSafe and tyre safety advocate Sophie Lyden, aims to educate drivers on the importance of regular tyre checks, especially before the summer travel season when many families hit the road for vacations.

Bill Fennell, Chief Ombudsman and Managing Director of The Motor Ombudsman, emphasized the broader implications of the study:

“Under-inflated tyres carry a number of risks and costs. The purpose of our study and ‘Make Time for Tyres’ campaign is to draw attention to the importance of drivers and vehicle owners caring for their tyres, so that they stay safe at all times, and benefit from using them to their full potential. Avoiding any unnecessary expense is especially pertinent with the current financial pressures on the nation’s motorists.”

Stuart Lovatt, Chair at TyreSafe, also highlighted the safety risks:

“Under-inflation compromises tyre and vehicle performance, and can ultimately cost drivers and vehicle owners dearly, as The Motor Ombudsman study has clearly shown. We strongly urge motorists to observe the pressure levels recommended by vehicle manufacturers. This is because they have been calculated with absolute precision to ultimately keep vehicle users safe when on the road.”

Sophie Lyden, a tire safety campaigner, added practical advice for drivers:

“Regardless of the length of journeys being undertaken, whether it is a short commute, or a longer trip away, drivers should check their tyres at least once a month to ensure that they are safe and legal. This includes the tread depth, pressure, and their overall condition at the four corners of the car, and of course, they should also take a look at the spare in the boot, should they have one. If motorists are unsure as to what to look out for, and how to carry out basic safety observations, they should seek help from a Motor Ombudsman-accredited business like ourselves.”

This campaign and the associated study serve as crucial reminders of the need for regular vehicle maintenance and the significant economic and safety benefits that such practices can provide.

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