Pitstop Mechanic

Tyre Changes: Wheel Care & Disposing Of Old Tyres

Published: in Motorsport by .

Motorsport tends to split opinion. People who love motor racing tend to really love motor racing, and those that don’t are unlikely to ever see the error of their ways. OK, maybe we’re a little biased, but how can anyone not love watching the burning of rubber?

While I appreciate the views of the eco warriors of the world, millions of F1 fans worldwide like me turn a blind eye during each race to the multitude of rubber tyres that get destroyed each race day. I defy anyone not to be impressed with the speed with which they’re changed though – the current record at the time of writing is a blistering 1.82 seconds for a compete 4 wheel tyre change set back in 2019 in Brazil.

The brilliant Road and Track website have a great overhead view of that record being set here, showing how incredibly in sync all the mechanics are to make such an impressive feat happen.

Fortunately, most of us drive cars a lot more responsibly than Max Verstappen and friends, so get more than an hour-or-so’s use out of each set of tyres.

Most family cars on UK roads will need tyre changes on average every 20,000 miles, however that doesn’t mean you won’t get punctures from time to time – even new tyres get ruined by loose nails and other sharp objects from time to time.

Used tyres are notoriously difficult to recycle too, although technology is slowly catching up with the sheer scale of the situation we’ve found ourselves in with millions of vehicles on the roads every day in the UK alone.

Can I Take Tyres To The Tip?

Contrary to popular belief – if you’ve got any lying around at home in the garage, or have been using them as makeshift raised flower beds in the garden, most council tips will take tyres for a fee across the country.

More often than not though, when you get a tyre fitted, the company will take the old one for recycling for you by default. The fee for disposal tends to be included in the price you’re quoted for tyre fitting. In most cases these days, fitting is even included in the advertised price for tyres, so it’s actually more accurate to say that the price you see is an all-in-one fee for the tyre, fitting and disposal.

The process of recycling tyres hasn’t dramatically improved in recent years, but re-use is definitely on the rise. Councils often use the waste tyres as a raw material to use in parks – commonly the surfaces of children’s playgrounds to soften the impact of accidents and falls from equipment.

How To Care For Tyres To Make Them Last Longer

Looking after your tyres in key to keeping costs down and minimising waste too. A simple trick to helping your tyres last longer is to rotate them periodically. For most cars (namely those that are front wheel drive), the tread tends to wear faster on the front than the back wheels. That means that when tyres are approximately two thirds of the way between new and reaching the legal minimum tread depth (1.6mm at the time of writing), simply swapping the front wheels to the back and vice versa can mean that you get a longer interval between replacing any tyres.

The same actually applies to left and right tyres too, but to a lesser extent. No matter how well your tyres are balanced, roads and bumps still tend to be uneven and can contribute towards the inside or outside of the wheel wearing more quickly, but what a lot of people don’t realise, is simply swapping the left and right wheels still leaves the outside of the tyre facing the outside once swapped over. While the tread will rotate in the opposite direction, the benefit isn’t likely to outweigh the effort of swapping between left and right.

Does Rotating Tyres Really Save Money?

Returning to the earlier motivation for rotating tyres (front to the back and back to the front), you need to think through the implications of doing so too. Leaving them where they are may mean changing two earlier (usually on the front) than if you swap them. However, you are more likely to need to change all four on the next occasion.

Where it may make more sense is if you know you’ll be trading your car in for a new one, and rotating the tyres will get you beyond that point without needing to buy new tyres. It’s not common that car dealerships look closely enough at your trade in to measure tyre tread (other than perhaps to make sure your tyres are legal). Even if they do pick up on low-but-legal tread, it’s unlikely to affect the trade in value as much as it would cost to replace them yourself.

Overall, if you keep your car long enough, rotating tyres doesn’t save you money, it just kicks the can down the road to delay replacing them.