Buying a new set of wheels doesn't have to break the bank Image Credit: Agency

The normal life of a set of tyres is about 50,000km to 70,000km on a car in a moderate climate when driven by an even-tempered motorist.

In the UAE, however, that lifespan drops to half, thanks to hot and dusty conditions, off-road driving and uneven roads in smaller areas. Bad maintenance can lead to quicker wear and tear, while frequent emergency braking and exposure to ultraviolet light when the car is constantly parked outdoors, only compound the problem. And that's before you take into account burnouts or wheelies.

As a general rule of thumb, the recommended maximum age of tyres in the UAE is three years.

Drivers must learn to recognise when to replace their tyres. A sign that tyres need changing is a noticeable deterioration in performance — most likely when the car starts dragging to one side when tyres are worn or bald. If the car does not handle or grip the road as well in poor weather conditions as it normally does or if it takes longer to roll to a halt upon braking, it's time to take a closer look at the rubber.

All tyres have tread wear indicator bars of about 12mm to 15mm wide, which appear as a bar around the tyre in about six places when the tread is worn down to a point where only 1.5mm of pattern remains. This means it's time to pay your garage a visit.

However, many people shy away from the expense as a set of four tyres can cost from Dh3,500 upwards, depending on size, brand, design and designated purpose (street tyres, off-road tyres and so on). In the UAE, it is not uncommon for some tyre shops to offer used tyres or those that are past the expiry date. Such tyres are to be avoided at all costs. It is not worth the money saved when a tyre blows up unexpectedly at high speed.

There are safer options to save money without compromising safety. Many new cars in the UAE are sold with Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)-branded tyres, which feature big names such as Goodyear, Dunlop, Continental, Bridgestone, Michelin or Pirelli. But you can save money by choosing cheaper, equally high-quality names.

There are many smaller brands on the market that have been highly rated by testers.

"We are well positioned to meet this increasing demand by offering a wide range of products at extremely low prices," says Surinder S. Sahni, President of Dubai-based Sahni Auto Spare Parts Company, the sole agent for brands such as Silver Stone (Malaysia), Imperium (India), Triangle (China), Spectra (Indonesia), Sailun (China), Altura (India), Stallion (India), Sonar (China) and Singa Tyre (Indonesia).

Another stockist is BBG Group, located in the Jebel Ali Free Zone, whose brands include Hankook (Korea), and West Lake Tyres, Good Ride, and Chaoyang (all from China).

Bagader Trading in Dubai is the largest stockist of Chinese, Indian and Indonesian tyres. Brands include Apollo Tyres (India) and Chinese brands GT Radial Tyres, Chengshan, Advance, Ling Long, Double Happiness and others. "As we deal directly with manufacturers, we are able to offer quality products at competitive prices," says Sales Manager Ahmed Ali of Bagader Trading. "Customers also benefit from our comprehensive product range, which enables them to select the product that fits their specific requirements." Other traders include Zafco with brands such as MRF (India's largest tyre producer), Otani, Siam Tyre (both Thai), and Nexen and Roadstone (both Korean).

Many of these brands have scored decently with independent testers and have been ranked in the mid-range of quality, durability and reliability lists, but do a little research before picking a brand you're not familiar with.

For those who still want to stick to the known names, there's an web option. A recently launched online tyre shop, Car Tires Dubai, sells branded tyres at wholesale prices, which will be delivered to you and installed. Now operating out of Dubai, the company has plans to expand its service to Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah soon, it states on its website. Log on to www.cartiresdubai.com to explore.