Around a third (32%) of drivers believe that kicking a tyre is an adequate test of whether they are properly inflated, according to new research from Halfords Autocentres.
More men than women attempt to test tyres by kicking them – with 42% compared to 30% of confessing to the habit.
Rory Carlin of Halfords Autocentres said: “It’s surprising how many people actually use this test but unfortunately kicking a car tyre will tell you absolutely nothing about its roadworthiness.
“Whether you drive a Ford or a Ferrari the only thing keeping you in contact with the road is your tyres, so it’s vital that they are given a thorough visual inspection at least once a month to check for damage or objects embedded in the tread as well as tread depth and correct inflation.”
One in four motorists (24%) don’t know how to check if their tyre tread depth is above or below the legal limit, a factor that may explain why two thirds of them (60.5%) have skidded on UK roads during the winter.
Carlin said: “The legal minimum tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre’s width – which is easily checked using handy markers that are built into the tread itself by most manufacturers, or comparing the depth against the border of a 20p coin.
“However, for added peace of mind drivers should really consider renewing tyres when they have 3mm of remaining tread – which can increase your stopping distance by an extra 8 metres in wet conditions – and fitting specialised winter tyres that will stop two car lengths quicker on snow-covered roads from 30mph.”
Under or over-inflated tyres can cause a dangerous loss of grip and stability when cornering or braking and are also much more likely to suffer from a dangerous blowout. Under-inflation reduces the life of the tyre by as much as 25% and fuel economy by up to 5%, while over-inflated tyres are more susceptible to damage caused by potholes or debris.
The latest figures from the Department for Transport revealed that 194 drivers were killed or seriously injured in the UK in 2012 as a result of an accident caused by an illegal, defective or under-inflated tyre. They were also a factor in more than 1,100 road casualties in the UK during 2011.
In addition to the obvious safety concerns drivers who fail to comply with the law face a fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points for each illegal tyre.
The survey also found that men and women are equally ill-informed about what emergency solutions they have in their car boot to assist in the event of a puncture.
A startling one in eight (12%) of all drivers who took part in the research study for Halfords Autocentres did not know whether their car had a full size spare wheel, a space-saver wheel, or just a temporary puncture repair kit – highlighting the fact that they had never bothered to check.
Only 14% of UK drivers considered fitting winter tyres that do not harden at low temperatures and provide greater grip during colder months of the year – compared with 27% of French and 85% of German motorists.