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Covid pandemic blamed for UK rise in cracked tyres

There has been a sharp rise in the number of cars with cracked tyres – which can result in an MOT failure – because of vehicles lying idle during the coronavirus pandemic.

Figures from Kwik Fit, the car maintenance chain, show that its mechanics saw almost twice as many cars with premature cracking last year compared with before the lockdowns.

When vehicles are idle – which happened frequently during the pandemic as a result of people’s movements being limited by multiple lockdowns – the rubber in the tyres can degrade more quickly, resulting in the cracks and flat spots.

Significant cracks can mean the tyre needs to be replaced, while severe damage can result in an MOT failure.

Kwik Fit’s Roger Griggs says the company, which has more than 600 centres in the UK, experienced a sharp increase in sidewall cracking compared with five years ago.

“The proportion of tyres we inspected in 2021, showing premature cracking, rose by more than 50%, and in 2022 it spiked to nearly double the 2018 figure.

“As this is typically a result of under use, it would seem that the pandemic could well have been a factor, with many cars being used very little, if at all, for months on end,” he says.

“Tyre formulations use the motion of the car to help keep the rubber pliable.”

A car may fail its MOT if the cracking is substantial, and it is a problem that cannot be reversed.

Smaller cracks can be managed by regular cleaning and use, and it is also important to ensure that tyres are kept at the correct pressure.

Drivers who have not used their cars frequently over the past few years are advised to have the tyres checked.

In the worst-case scenario, bad cracking may cause a blowout while driving.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, which approves people to be MOT testers, says unsafe tyres have always been a big factor in MOT failures.

“While it is the driver’s responsibility to look after their vehicle, we always encourage motorists to regularly check their car remains safe throughout the year, and that any defects are addressed as quickly as possible,” it says.

The insurer LV= said recently that an increasing number of motorists are not addressing problems with their cars as the cost of living crisis continues.

The company’s breakdown provider, Britannia Rescue, says the number of callouts where the vehicle did not have a MOT was up by 78%.

According to LV=, the data “is worrying, as this neglect could easily impact the safety of a vehicle and could put yourself, passengers and others in real danger”.

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