Why tyres are worth thinking about
Before setting out on a journey along our great roads, many of us are more concerned with getting our iPod sorted than with checking the most important things on the car - those black, rubbery hoops that keep you on the road.
It's a task that's often forgotten, but checking your tyres are in good condition could save your life.
Correct inflation is crucial for both optimum grip performance and tyre durability.
Don't over-inflate them to improve your fuel economy - this decreases the contact patch with the road, diminishing its grip and increasing your stopping distances.
Refer to your car's tyre pressure guide, usually on a sticker about where the door latch is. Some recommend increasing the pressures if you're carrying a full load or towing.
Tread depth is the other aspect to inspect - if your tyres look worn, it's time to get new ones.
But buying the right tyre can be tough, as they're not all made equal and some are much cheaper than others.
Cheap tyres are appealing, but they generally don't perform as well as those that cost four times more.
Having said that, independent tyre tests show it's not always the most expensive tyre that comes out on top.
So, unless you do the research yourself, you'll just have to take the tyre shop's advice, or buy the rubber recommended by the car's manufacturer.
One thing you can look at is the Uniform Tyre Quality Grading System information that's stamped on most tyres.
This is a US federal government initiative to help consumers compare tyres. It measures the treadwear rate, traction performance and temperature resistance.
The treadwear grade, a number between 100 and 600, indicates how durable a tyre is.
A tyre with a 400 rating should last twice as long a tyre rated at 200, but usually it won't have as much outright grip.
The traction grade rates how well the tyre performs under braking in wet conditions, with an AA-rated tyre being the best, followed by A, B, and C.
The temperature grade is an indication of the rubber's resistance to sustained heat, such as when travelling long distances at higher speeds. The best tyres wear an A rating, followed by B and C.
This is not an absolute guarantee on a tyre's performance, but it does help you compare tyres and choose the right one for your purposes.