Saturday, August 07, 2010


The local climate is hellish on tyres. Off-roaders deflate for sand driving, and this stresses and cracks the sidewalls, as well as heats up the air within. So it’s hardly surprising that we as drivers are encouraged to check the pressures and inspect our tyres regularly for damage and deterioration.

Supposedly, if the tyres are over four years old, when a vehicle is presented for inspection it will fail. The rule seems to be “no tyres over five years old”, and obviously if it’s over four at this year’s inspection, it’ll become a mobile traffic offence within a year.

How much of this actually happens in the Real World - or even here? Tyres have a date stamp on the sidewall that typically reads something like “1809” which means that it was manufactured in Week 18 of 2009, and it’s from this date that the five-year clock starts ticking. Did you check the date of manufacture when you last bought tyres? I did, and insisted that one of them be replaced with a newer version before it was even fitted. “Three summers” is the recommended life for tyres in the UAE, so says the manager over at Renaissance Tires. I wish my motorbike tyres would last three summers. Ten thousand kilometres maximum, if I’m lucky!

Tyres suffer an inordinate amount of abuse, and car tyres are usually cracked and knackered well before they’re down to the treadwear indicators. Yet we can still find tyres that are as bald as an American eagle. Apart from the legal aspect, worn-out treadless tyres have zero grip in wet conditions and can pop without warning. Check out the shredded rubber all over the Abu Dhabi – Dubai highway. Each one tells a scary story.

It’s also worth checking the speed and temperature grades stamped on the sidewalls. There’s some dodgy 4x4 rubber out there that’s only rated for 100kph, and because it’s mostly plastic it grips in the wet like a fried egg in a Teflon pan.

So it doesn’t rain in the UAE? Well, mostly true, but you often get spillages from irrigated landscaping flowing on to the roundabouts. Unexpected loss of grip on a sharp bend? Thrilling moment.

Making the unreasonable but inevitable comparison with the UK:-

    A lot of British roads are narrow, bendy, often damp, frequently covered with trees and lined with ditches and walls. Compare with the ram-rod straight Emirates roads, where running off the highway should merely involve a bumpy ride down a 1:6 gravel slope into the adjacent desert.

    Defective tyres contributed to 1% of all reported UK accidents in 2008. Defective tyres contribute to “more than half of road traffic accidents” according to Dubai RTA as reported in last Thursday’s 7DAYS.

    Dubai Police 2002 statistics say 13% of all accidents involved an overturned vehicle; in 2005 it was 7%. Compare with UK where in 2008, 3.8% of car accidents involved an overturn.

I have the 2002 and 2005 reports as hard copies, but the UK stats came from here.

Where is all this leading? Last week I was leaving Abu Dhabi and a car passed me, blew a tyre, and came to a steady halt on the verge. I stopped to see that the driver was alright, and offered assistance, which was much appreciated by the driver who would otherwise have had to wait to be rescued by her husband who was in Dubai. Hence the “Goat in Shining Armour” cliché. The spare was good, and all tools were available. The tyre was complete trash, shredded to rubberised string. I was relieved to note that the rotation direction was OK. It would have been twice the work to put the spare on the left and the left on the right.

When I had a tyre blowout a couple of years ago I wrestled the car to the roadside and changed the wheel without fuss, apart from whinging about the rain and the dark and having to find the wheel nuts by Braille.

So why did the truck that blew out a tyre in front of Beloved Wife on the Emirates Road spin through 540 degrees before stopping in the middle lane? Why do so many drivers seem to lose control after a blowout and put the car on its roof? Why did a minibus that had a puncture swerve into the concrete barrier and shower Beloved Wife’s car with loose gravel? Just as well there was a barrier between the main line and the service road...

And why does a “Tyre blowout in race for red light...” cause an utterly appalling fatal, multi-vehicle pile-up and fire on Al Sufouh Road?

I’m glad that’s sorted out: It was the tyre wot dunnit. Not racing on the highway; not driving without due care; not driving like a buffoon. Bad tyre! Doubtless the police and the courts will throw the book at it.



Anonymous said...

Your "Beloved Wife" will tell you that "ignorance is bliss" and with great distances, t-m-i-l is usually ignorant of dangers to her child, so is usually blissful. Reading of two near-misses, was not blissful reading. t-m-i-l

Mme Cyn said...

Ah, Mother. They weren't terribly near misses. One had a barrier between me and him (he did smack the barrier a bit, though) and the other? Well, you can tell Daddy Dearest that all the nagging -- sorry --training he put me through in the Volvo some 30 years ago has always held me in good stead. I look well down the road and try never to tailgate, so I saw the truck blowout with plenty of time to avoid.

Remember the Jersey turnpike with the guy with no lights broken down in the fast lane? Now THAT was a near miss! Don't think my reflexes are that good anymore...

Anonymous said...

Well, glad that was clarified. Some things/people never change, do they. Hope the vacation is great.


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