June 22 marked the start of the summer vacation season in Germany. To make sure the trip to their vacation resort proves a smooth one, drivers should first take a look at their tires. Top of the short checklist recommended by tire manufacturer Continental is tire pressure. This should be adapted to the heavier loads being taken along on vacation. Anyone intending to tow a trailer should check the owner’s manual for the correct tire pressures to deal with the extra load on the rear axle. And of course it makes sense to check the trailer tires as well. When tire pressures are too low, the tires can be subjected to excessive loads and may puncture or even burst.
The next thing to check is the tread depth. On summer tires this should be no less than three millimeters. Below that limit, when driving in the rain the tires can no longer disperse the water fast enough and braking distances on wet roads increase. This is important in summer, too, because summer storms often bring downpours that put everything from country roads to motorways under water, at least temporarily. Checking the tread depth is easy, even without tools: Simply slot a 1-euro coin into the grooves and if you can’t see the inside edge of the golden outer ring between the blocks, there is still enough tread on your tire.
And when you have measured the tread depth, check for damage to the tread itself or the sidewall. If you notice any broken tread blocks or damage to the sidewall, the best course of action is to consult an expert at a tire dealer, repair shop or car dealership.
Owners of caravans approved for speeds of up to 100 km/h should also make sure that their tires are no more than six years old, because that’s the legal limit. The production date is indicated by the DOT mark on the sidewall. This is a four-figure number. The first two figures show the week in which the tire was manufactured, while the last two stand for the year. So a DOT mark of 4111, for example, indicates that the tire was produced in October 2011 – which means it would still be approved for this summer.