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Tyre Flat Spots: The dangerous defect plaguing cars during lockdown

IF you notice an alarming vibration coming from your car, it could be this potentially dangerous Coronavirus-related defect. Many UK motorists will have left their vehicles parked up for prolonged periods of time because of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

But that’s not just bad for car batteries, it can have a detrimental effect on your tyres - prompting some worrying driving dynamics when you eventually get back behind the wheel.

That’s because leaving cars to stand can cause tyre ‘flat spots’.

And according to James O’Malley, Director at Select Car Leasing, they can play havoc with your car’s handling - and lead to catastrophic blow-outs.

He explains: “When you drive your car, your tyres go through hundreds of rotations every minute, becoming warm and pliable in the process.

“When you park up on a cold surface, however, your tyres cool down and flatten as they’re pressed down against the hard surface. Typically, this process does not represent a problem. Small flat spots soon disappear within 10-15 minutes of driving as the tyres warm and become a perfect circle again.

“But when you leave a car standing for several months at a time - as may be the case because of Covid-19 stay at home measures - the tyres may not automatically correct themselves.

“And drivers will be left with serious problems. The first indications something is wrong will be strong vibrations, and a sense of your car ‘shimmying’ down the road. That can be unnerving - and it’s also dangerous in itself.

“Flat spotting can compromise braking performance while also making it more likely you might have a serious puncture.

“And it’s a problem that should not be taken lightly.”

According to recently released Government stats, UK road travel has decreased by as much as 73% since the Coronavirus pandemic first took hold. And that means millions of vehicles sitting idle.

Select Car Leasing’s James O’Malley says the amount of flat spotting a tyre experiences depends on the size of the tyre, the internal structure, load, ambient temperature and time spent stationary.

Meanwhile high performance tyres - which are typically softer and wider than other tyres - pose more of a problem.

He adds: “High performance tyres also have short side walls that are also stiffer. That means it’s harder for the tyre to transfer load to the side walls, putting added pressure on the flat spot where it touches the ground. Meanwhile having tyres that are under-inflated also exacerbates the problem considerably.”

Select Car Leasing, and some tyre manufacturers, recommend increasing the pressure of your tyres by around 3 PSI if you know your car is going to be stationary for a prolonged period of time.

They add: “We’d also recommend actually moving your car with regularity so it doesn’t have the opportunity to develop a flat spot. This doesn’t need to involve a long, unnecessary run - just long enough to allow your tyre to regain its natural shape.”

The Government advice amidst the Coronavirus shutdown remains to ‘stay at home’ and not use vehicles, unless it’s ‘to get essential items, such as food or medicine, to go to support a vulnerable person, to get to work, if you cannot work from home, if you work in transport, for example you are a driver.’

Meanwhile MOT expiry dates have been extended by 6 months to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Last month Select Car Leasing also warned about another Covid-19 related motoring issue - blocked Diesel Particulate Filters, or ‘DPFs, on diesel cars.

Director James O’Malley explained: “The filter does a brilliant job of stopping soot passing into the atmosphere, making your car more eco-friendly

“But the trade-off of enjoying a frugal diesel is that the soot caught in this filter has to be ‘burned off’ in order to regenerate the DPF.

“And the best way to burn off the soot is to make sure you regularly treat your car to a good 30-50 minute blast on the motorway at sustained speeds. Short runs are the sworn enemy of the DPF.

“However, due to the Coronavirus outbreak it’s our worry that many diesel owners will end up using their cars for short, sharp journeys to and from the nearest supermarket or pharmacy rather than cars being used for long commutes.

“Doing lots of short 10 to 15 minute drives, and only one long run a week, simply isn’t enough.

“And we could end up with a DPF failure epidemic on our hands.”

For advice on DPFs and more, head to: https://www.selectcarleasing.co.uk/guides/fuel-types/

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Experience didn't start well, I had ordered a car offered as in stock as I was on a tight turn around with my former lease vehicle through another provider being returned. I only found out by chance of logging in that the planned delivery date had been pushed back (which would have potentially meant missing out on a holiday as no vehicle). However once Mark and the team picked up on this they truly went above and beyond to sort it out and ended up getting my vehicle delivered several days earlier than expected. Very impressed and would definitely recommend.
Kate Butler

Tuesday, 02/08/2022