It’s time for Progress with the Wine Tour! Real Progress!

Before we knew it D-Day had arrived. After giving the car a wash the night prior to the big drive we had a couple of beers placing bets as to whether the car would even would make it to Dover before we retired to our beds. Just to prepare us for the trip we took plenty of LHM (about 5 litres worth!), some engine and gearbox oil, many many tools as well as ourselves and our baggage, obviously.

With an early start during the next morning we were surprised that it managed to make it to Watford Gap! With such a great outcome we decided to grab some breakfast. After all, we had pretty big sights in store for a car that had covered less than a 100 miles in 3 years! It’s about the small steps at times!

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Just Ignore the Wings!  It’s all fine!

It’s fair to say that it at least looked the part!  OK, the wings looked a little off colour and showed every single ripple with the filler now gone.  I call it the Cellulite look.  But there was no time to hang around.  With a coffee drank and breakfast consumed it was time to crack on.

On the road the car seemed to be performing fine.  The engine pulled very well, the suspension as a passenger seemed very comfortable and even the Chinese voltage regulator in place of the original points based setup held a constant 14 Volts!  Maybe we were worrying too much!

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This would be until we hit passport control at the Channel Tunnel.  The car died without any warning.  It’s fair to say it was not an ideal place to break down!  The car tried to cough back into life but eventually it was fine.  It was traced back to a faulty connection to the fuel pump relay!  The old girl was showing us some promise!  Without further ado there was nothing left to do short of boarding the train, as Ocean Colour Scene once said.  OK, it was something like that.

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With the sun out, the temperature being firmly in the high 20s and low 30s there was nothing else left to do but to hit the road and settle down to a 120km/h cruise down to our first destination.  With the car looking like it would be fine it’s fair to say that we were all fairly content with the situation!

 

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With that in mind we pushed on to our first destination with me taking the keys behind the wheel.  So, how was it?  The steering is certainly strange.  Maybe there is an issue with this car but the steering refused to self centre at all.  Do a tight right hander and the steering will stay there!  However, the car just glid down the autoroutes effortlessly at 120 and 130km/h without a problem.  The column gear change is a strange one to use but soon becomes OK to use after a bit of practice.  The body roll is comical but it’s forgiven with its frankly untouchable ride quality ; not much seems to ride like a Citroen DS!  It certainly felt like the right car for the trip!

But where would I stop the car?  That’s easy.  The one and only Reims!

Open Garage Sessions (2 of 106)

There may not be much left but there is something certainly quite special about this place!  The spirit of the place is still very much there.  May that be a local putting his foot down hard past the pit garages if it’s not a tourist.  There never appears to be a moment when there is no one about anyway!

While we were progressing nicely there were reminders still present that our car was an old girl and with the risk associated with it!  This gorgeous Maserati illustrated that point. Unfortunately his ride back home was on a low loader.

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Open Garage Sessions (17 of 106)

With that in mind it was time to go to the hotel to retire and to give the car and us a rest.   It was now a test to see if we or the car would crack first.  After all, this was a wine tour.

Open Garage Sessions (20 of 106)

How to Get a Car Ready for a French Wine Tour!

I left the blog last time with a few hints as to what the Citroen needed in order to get it ready.  On paper at the start it looked easy.  Very much like a political party’s manifesto.  Back in 2014 it looked like all the car would need would be:

  • The handbrake sorting ; the springs were fitted incorrectly and the pads close to being fully worn
  • Suspension leaks sorting ; the car would lower itself quite quickly before and left a trail of LHM wherever it was parked!
  • Seatbelts fitting ; The static belts up front would go to make room for period themed inertia reel items.  Furthermore rear seatbelts would be fitted
  • Change the tyres ; It had 15 year old Vredesteins all round ; it wanted the correct but expensive Michelin XVS tyres on it ; the tyres designed for the car by Michelin.
  • Sort out the chromework.  In particular the interior door handles, and the Pallas spec boot hinges ; these were badly pitted with the former having zero chrome left on them.

It sounds easy eh?  With a car that looks this good on the floor you would think it would be:

 

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As the tinkerer and restorer of us know, even if the car does quite a few miles without the aforementioned issues life is not quite as easy as you think, especially when it is put into practice.

Remember the wonderful D-Jetronic system I mentioned?  With things being moved around and wiring only the French have the ability of understanding after being left the keys to the wine celler it was a source of mant headaches.  This ranged from the ECU (yes, it does have one!) not powering up or staying on the entire time!

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Yup, for reasons unknown to man the French decided to colour the connectors and not the wires?  Why?  Maybe they ran out of the coloured wires.  But maybe it is a hint to simply how cash strapped Citroen were during the development of the DS yet somehow keeping the dream of something out of the ordinary alive. Even getting a battery that did not short itself out on the battery clamp was a mission!

If only that had been the only issue.  The suspension would require more work.  Manydifferent spheres were fitted to the DS over its life.  This car however seemed to have spheres from all sorts of Citroens on it!  This would be yet more time and money put towards the correct parts. At least with a new steering rack, spheres, regulator and pipes fitted the car would stand a chance of performing well.

 

But this old Citroen had a bigger issue hiding beneath its skirt, or should I say the underseal.  Rust.

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Yup, beneath the carpets and underseal the car was not a pretty sight at all, despite being for the best part solid as the rear inner wing/chassis rail and rear panel shots show.  Worse still, the front wings after soda blasting looked more like they belonged in the team rooms rather than the car.  Some painstaking reconstructive surgery would soon have them being good once again along with a new panel and other metalwork carried out in 2017:

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Oooh, look, a new rear panel!

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In the words of a Magpie, SHINY!!!

With the Citroen slowly becoming less rotten it certainly looked like it was getting there.  OK, maybe that is an exxageration but you have to look at the positives at times!

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After a lick of paint once the suspension parts were replaced it was all beginning to come together:

 

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With the wings back in place, the boot tidied up and the wings back from the paintshop all was beginning to look well for now. With the Michelins now on the car and the tinwork being correctly painted what could possibly stop this resto?

Even the lights were working well!  The DS had its iconic eyes back.  Eyes so wonderful that they have been the trademark of the DS.  Not even them looking a little like Dame Edna’s glasses after she has had a hit of acid with the turning lights cannot shake their beauty.

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However, not even the darkness could hide the shoddiness of the paintjob on the wings. And man they were bad.  I guess when you are attempting to ready a car weeks before it hits a 1200 mile roadtrip compromises have to be made:

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Before we knew it it was a day before the 1200 mile trip.  How many road tests had the car had?  A few.  Up and down a dual carriageway nearby.  What could possibly go wrong?

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One Way To Do a French Wine Tour, DS Style

Now and again a number of ideas seem great when they are idly mentioned. Where a couple of beers are involved the ideas seemed to be freer flowing amongst friends. It was of little surprise in that case that the idea of touring a wine region of France seemed like a great idea. This would not be achieved by simply flying over either or driving whatever car for the trip. Oh no. A special trip would demand a special car. In this case it would be a friend’s recently acquired Citroen DS21 Pallas.

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It looked so good!

Yup, a friend of mine a few years ago decided to buy a rather lovely yet iconic Citroen.   Initially you wonder what the fuss is about. This would all change after a ride in the car, where the serene ride quality won us over by the spades. Speed bump up ahead? Not a problem. Even the engine which has a reputation for being legarghic seemed acceptable. That was thanks to this being a rare ‘Injectione Electronique’ model with Bosch D-Jetronic injection.

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Was that extra 30BHP worth getting a car with Injection for?

 

That said all of us were aware of the car’s issues. It had a couple of leaks from the suspension system, and like any old car it was temperamental. This would prove to be the case as the owner tackled many parts of it with some bits baffling him as well as a classic car repairers.  The steering rack for example was not like a normal item when it came to replacing it!  It seemed to be buried deep within the car with its share of fixtures shearing and so on!

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As we found out they seem to work best on the correct Michelin tyres ; this was shod on very old Vredesteins.

As time went on by the regions for visiting were also discussed. Burgundy seemed to fit the bill very nicely, with the reservations being put in place.

Towards 2016 things seemed to look up but the scale of what my friend was up against did start to dawn on us!

 

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You’re only meant to blow the bloody door off!

Even I ended up helping out.  That was me pretending to be a drunk French mechanic on the job.  As like anything French from that era everything was a little different.  Most drums I have seen only require adjustment from one place.  In the case of a DS that is 4 places per drum!

 

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Fast forward to 2017 and the car was still not quite ready! The injection system was playing up as was the charging system. If that was not enough there was Chromework of the car with specialists awaiting refurbishment. All of a sudden the scale of what lay ahead seemed to dawn on us!  With the wings still being in primer a month before we were due to leave it hardly filled us with confidence!

 

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We even wondered if our backup car would be a Ropey DS that we spotted in Amsterdam!  At least that was a runner!

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Little did we know my friend’s DS would end up getting the wings fitted after being repaired in addition to even getting an MOT.  Surely with a first time pass days before the trip all would be well?

 

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A Year In the Life of a BMW E46 M3 Owner

I left my last E46 M3 instalment looking as if I had the right car albeit with a few flaws.  Over the course of the year which has just passed I would discover whether this was the case.

I drove it as it was for a month before I would make a start on rectifying the issues

Initially I sorted out a number of the flaws.  The first of which was to get away from the car sounding like a jet turbine with its semi stuck viscous fan!

Fan Coupling During

 

With the car in position I made a start on removing the fan. I initially believed the internet and tried knocking a spanner with a hammer.  I figured that this probably was not too good for the bearings.  It also didn’t help that the water pump pulley was slipping on the belt!  With the correct fan tool and 22mm spanner later I had the coupling loose.  Sometimes the proper way is the best way as well as the easiest.

However, removing it would throw up a surprise ; the fan coupling was not original to the car.  It was a BERU item of a slightly different design ; a further look would insinuate that it was for a normal E46 but it was tight!  Was I really wasting my money for nothing?

 

Fan Coupling Comparison

Two couplings, but which is the correct one?

Had I really thrown away £90 on a coupling I didn’t need?  With that in mind I went to fit the new item.  After that I put all of the plastics back together and restarted the car.  On the face of it it seemed like it was a waste of money!  The coupling was still noisy!  That was until a few minutes had passed ; the car was quiet for the first time! With an extended test run later on it seemed that the car had become more responsive as well as having the added bonus of lowering the engine oil temperature!  Result!

Fan Coupling New

Then it was time to tackle a clunk from the back ; the ARB drop links.  These however were not gone as you may have thought:

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Yup, they’re broken!

But then I had the challenge of removing the aforementioned items.  Initially I thought “I know, I’ll change them in situ!”  Little did I know that this would become a nightmare and eventually more work!

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And the tool award goes to…. Not the tools!

It was fair to say that my attempts were futile;  Sure I had removed the bottom broken part but then I still could not remove the top half!  The anti-roll bar was preventing it from dropping down!  Did someone say BMW 1 – Chas Nil?  It certainly felt that way!

On the bench I went to put the ARB into the vice and pull it ; All I did was to snap off the remaining ARB!  Wasn’t I clever eh?  It seemed this is meant to be the Bentley manual way of doing it as well.  But I was not going to give up that easily!  Oh no, it’s the British spirit and ingenuity after all!  Enter stage left:

With this tool the remains of the ARB was off in seconds ; why didn’t I just use this the first time?

With the roll bar given a quick clean it was time to fit on the new BMW drop links. Here’s a top tip (in the Edd China voice…). When you put the drop links back on, put on some rubber grease. It really helps over WD40. With some of the red stuff on the drop links slipped back onto the ARB as I put down onto the drop links in around 30 seconds tops.

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Speaker Rectification (4 of 5)

The clattering and clonking was much reduced!  With that in mind it was time to start on a job I had been putting off for some time ; the rear exhaust mounts.  Would I be lucky or would the exhaust studs snap?

Things are starting to get Serious!

I left the last post with me having spent a small fortune on parts to sort the MGB out yet being present with a large bill for a steering rack swap.

But what benefits did I feel?  For starts the car felt like it was no longer required the force to be steered in any direction.  The Spax dampers made a surprising difference to the handling of the car and the exhaust really sounded lovely!

But there was an elephant in the room.  That would be any MGB’s Achilles Heel.  The bodywork.  To summarise:

-The front wings looked fine but they were bubbling beneath the swage lines at the front

-The front valance was in one piece but it did have alot of surface rust present

-Rear valance was not very different and was very thin in places.

-The driver’s side floor had a thin hole in place where it met the gearbox tunnel.

We originally planned to take it down to a painter who was said to be good.  Upon initially meeting him this certainly seemed to be the case.  He was a very down to earth guy.  Unfortunately, fate would intervene.  He was due to go in for an operation which would have him out of action for months on end.  Cue painter two.

Alot was said about this painter and I had even seen a few cars he had done which looked to be half decent.  Thus the stripdown began.

With this done the car was dropped off to him.  Little did I know I would not see the car again for a good few years, with it not really resembling what I had dropped off to him.

The Classic & Sports Car BMW M3 Buyer’s Guide. It’s great. Well, kind of…

Classic and Sports Car Cover April 2017

Reviews are like anything else. They are the opinion of someone who gives their take on a certain matter. What makes them different is how they encapsulate the audience ; the reviews grab the attention of the viewer and by the end of it you want the car more! In some cases it does seem to be the opposite. It is surprising how the reviews can be taken as gospel, it can make or break how an individual perceives a car.

With this is mind it was wonderful to see Classic & Sports Car embrace the BMW E46 M3 and take it under their wing in April’s issue. Their review highlighted a few good points to look at and as a whole was a great review given the short piece it had! For the best part it covered the car very well but as always there are a few points to consider.

Engines

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Aesthetically they are a thing of beauty.  They do have their gremlins however.

While the engines do have issues it seems the world wide web has a habit of exaggerating them. Sure, head gaskets do go on the S54 engine, as do the big-end bearings have issues.  But, there are a number of cars out there with big mileages without the above done to them ; they are still on the original head gaskets and VANOS parts.

But what about the subframe cracking?

 

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The one image that concerns most E46 owners, especially M3 models

The Rear Axle Carrier Panel (RACP) does however have a habit of cracking, with an increasing number of specialists now providing relatively inexpensive solutions of preventing a total failure for occurring. Not all is bad there!

What about the SMG? It’s clutchless, right?

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The SMGII automated manual in the E46 M3.  An often misunderstood system.

Then we get to the SMG Gearbox, or clutchless as the writer called it. I guess the fact that the gearbox itself and the clutch are the same as a manual M3 doesn’t count for it having a clutch? The gearbox getting stuck in 4th gear is also a new one on me. I would really like to see where they got their information from regarding that.  They do drop into neutral as a the pump dies, yes (as a precaution) but not a gear. A pedalless gearbox maybe, but not clutchless? Not by a long shot.

Like anything, the pump is a little like the bullied child from school. It’s picked on by those who don’t know much because it is easy to and rarely without having a deeper understanding for the system in mind. With some logic the system is a little easier to diagnose.  Sure, they have their faults but like anything they are easier and generally cheaper to solve with the right know how.

SMG Clutch Parts

This clutch and assorted parts have all come from an SMG ‘boxed car.

While it can have issues including the pump the issues do tend to reside more in smaller issues. Slow shifting has almost nothing to do with the pump but there will be more regarding much cheaper parts and software issues; BMW did a software update fairly early on during the M3’s life and inexpensive springs breaking can also cause slow shifting problems. But they will never be as quick as a dual clutch ; after all, there is only so much physics can do.

Anything else? What about running costs

While Ferraris may make the M3 look like a cheap car to run it is not as cheap as say other cars in the price bracket.

The price of certain items will raise eyebrows, even for a BMW. How pricey? Let’s get started. If you consider consumables:

  • Front Brake discs and pads – £330 for OE branded items or £500 from BMW
  • Tyres : Even a Falken will not leave much change from £150. A Michelin? Try closer to £200. That’s each.
  • This is an interesting. From asking around and seeing who does a correct Inspection I (many don’t)
    • Oil Service :£150 every 15,000 miles or 2 years, whichever comes first
    • Inspection 1 : £500 every 30,000 miles or 4 years
    • Inspection 2 : £700 every 60,000 miles or 8 years

Why are the Inspections so expensive. The valve clearances are looked at. It is not the most pleasant job to do and a number of specialists are all too keen to gloss over the issue.

While the review encompassed what the E46 M3 is all about it seems that a few areas were misrepresented. I do wonder ; was this down to poor research or simply being rushed for time? It would be great to see accurate portrayals from such a prominent magazine

It did however serve a purpose. It’s got the M3 even more noticed as a good buy that ticks the boxes of many a red blooded male out there.  But better still, it’s helped to establish it more in the world of modern classics.

Yes, You Can Have Part-Worn Tyres on Your Car! How? With the Following Steps

For the last blog I suggested that Part-Worn tyres could be worth a shot under certain circumstances. Whether it is bad advice or simply making people more aware of what to look for is up to you. In this article I will explain how to consider the above points:

  • What damage does the tyre have?

If you see tyres like the above being sold by a vendor run a mile from them!  No ifs or buts.

This is a serious one.  Having punctures in the centre tread pattern of the tyre that have been repaired correctly are fine.  However, if:

-There is loose rubber on the inside of the tyre
-Deep cuts to the sidewall (potentially an MOT failure)
-Perishing of the rubber
-Puncture or puncture repairs beyond 75% of the centreline of the tread.
-Bulges and deformations anywhere on the tyre

Walk away.  It’s that simple.  The tyres in the above will are likely to have been weakened and make your car a liability.

  • How much tread does the tyre have?

You should never buy a tyre with this much tread! Kojak had more hair on his head than this tyre had tread!

This question is a case of “How long is a piece of string?” If you are a low mileage user you may think “Aha! That cheap 3mm tyre looks like a bargain! But consider this. The minimum legal limit for a tyre in the UK is 1.6mm. What does this mean? Your 3mm tyre isn’t the bargain you think. After all:

3-1.6=1.4mm (of usable tread)

Will 1.4mm of tread last you quite some time? I doubt it. Can you really be bothered to be at a tyre fitters all of the time? I doubt it.

With the above in mind it pays to see what the level of tread is worth. If you have an idea of how your brand of tyre (or others) wear down you could obtain a figure for the true cost as follows:

True Cost per Milimetre = Cost of the Tyre /mm of tread left

In a number of cases when you check those figures the value is not as good as it initially seems.

Bear this in mind. New tyres have between 7 to 9mm of tread on depending on the tyre so anyway between 5.4 to 7.4mm worth of tread.

  1. How old are they ; are they newer than 5 years old?

The 3 or 4 digit code that says it all! This tyre? Built on the 26th week of 2015

This point is often overlooked with people mainly going on the visual condition of tyres. To many people tread on the tyre equates to how much grip the tyre has.  It is an easy one to read too!

Look out for where it says DOT on the tyre.  At the very end of the string of numbers and letters as follows:

DOT DA08 JM1R >518

It’s the numbers in bold that you want.  If it has a triangle as above the tyre was made after 1990 but before 2000.  If there are just 3 digits and no triangle the tyre was made before 1990.  In either case you should not fit such a tyre to a car.  The first two numbers are the week the tyre was made.  The last digit is the year it was made  In the above case the tyre was made in the 51st week of 1998.

Now for tyres made after 2000:

DOT DA08 JM1R 2514

These tyres have 4 digit codes.  In this case the tyre was made in the 25th week of 2014.

You may think “Oh, but I only have a classic car, the old tyres will be fine” or “My (or your wife’s etc.) car isn’t that fast. There is no point in shelling out for new or good rubber” No, not that kind of rubber folks….

The fact of the matter is as rubber gets older it does not grip as well as when it was fresh. It’s one reason why you won’t see many people selling tyres older than 3 years old, and generally, they tend to discount the tyres at this age.

While I’ve had some interesting experiences on old tyres, including a wayward Frenchie and a Triumph Stag that just wanted to go sideways here is an interesting thought.

A post shared by Charanjeet Randhawa (@chasr85) on Mar 23, 2017 at 10:51am PDT

 

Classic Car Weekly did an article on new tyres vs. old. The car? An MGB GT. Hardly the first word in performance. The tyres? The first set were Pirellis that were 10 years old but still with plenty of tread left on them and crack free. The other tyres I think may have been middle of the road tyres.

The results were surprising. With the Pirellis on the car took 30% longer to come to a halt from 30MPH compared to the modern rubber? Do you still think old and cheap rubber is the way forward? 30% is a lot no matter how you look at it.  If someone hit someone you knew in town below the speed limit with old tyres would you still be thinking the same?

  1. Have they worn correctly?

Barely legal (stop it!) and worn unevenly. Even with more tread this would cause strange issues on the car.
This made the car very interesting on the handling front even in the dry!

This question is always an interesting one.

In two cases I bought wheels with tyres. Until I changed the tyres the car had odd characteristics ; On a Peugeot 106 GTi it was a near death experience driving it back and on a Clio 172 it just wanted to go left until I switched the tyres.

The reason. They had worn due to poor alignment on the previous car. If the tyre has not worn perfectly even do not be surprised if you have issues.

Evenly worn part-worns are out there but you’ll have to be patient.

  1. Are they actually worth buying compared to a new tyre?

It looks legal! With 3.5mm is it really worth buying? It barely has 2mm of usable tread left!

With all of the above factors you’ll be in a position to gauge if they are worth buying. Bear in mind you will need to pay to get the tyres fitted unless they are bought from a tyre dealer. That’s on top of petrol or delivery money too. It all adds up.

Don’t just try your local large tyre chain either. Do some searching online. Asda Tyres, Formula 1 and Black Circles all give competitive prices online and allow you to establish a ballpark.   New tyres may be cheaper than you think!

  1. Are they stamped ‘PART-WORN’ if bought from a garage?

It’s not stamped before you buy it? Don’t accept it.

This is an interesting one. Over half the of the part-worn tyres being sold by tyre traders are illegal. Why? It is all down to a simple stamp. The stamp confirms that they meet the minimum standards set by the UK for being a part-worn tyre. That is that they have over 1.6mm of tread within 75% central region of the tyre tread in addition to being repaired correctly and with no other adverse deflects. These defects could include cuts and bulging.

If they haven’t been stamped part-worn have they even been inspected well.

Finally…

We hopefully have a better idea of what we need from a tyre, and what to look out for. Finding the right part-worn tyre can be hard and it can be worth just jacking it in and buying a new tyre.

Hopefully you are not scared of buying part-worns but are more informed of what to look out for and not top be duped into buying what may initially look like a cheap option on the face of things.

Now, time to grab that value beer that has been sat at the bar for a few hours….