Key tyre safety checks

Whether you love driving on the open road, or it’s just a way to get from A to B, your vehicle’s tyres need to be in roadworthy condition. Anything else is a non-starter and could land you in trouble with the authorities, or increase your risk of losing control of your vehicle.

Observe legal tyre tread limits

Tyre tread depth below the legal limit is not only illegal but dangerous: a tyre that doesn’t have the correct tread could fail and put your car and risk it veering off the road at high speed, or into other parked cars or other traffic alongside you.

As covered in last week’s blog on dashboard warning lights, the tyre pressure symbol on your instrument display will tell you if your tyre is flat or below the desired pressure: this is a symbol of two curved vertical lines with a horizontal bottom line, and an exclamation mark in the middle of them, imitating a flattened tyre on the pressure point touching the ground.

Another risk of poor tread depth, especially in Britain and Ireland where wet-weather driving is a frequent challenge, is that it allows less water to pass through the tyres when driving in puddles or road depressions, or when fording bodies of water in rural climes. This could cause your vehicle to ‘aquaplane’ and lose grip of the tarmac, an unstable and downright scary situation for driver and passenger.

Tyres in proper condition

Cars, as well as light vans and light trailers, have to have a tread depth of minimum 1.6mm by law. However, the advisory depth is 3.0mm. This is to be across the central three quarters of the breadth of the tyres, and its whole circumference.

General tyre condition

You’re looking for abnormalities in the tyre such as:

  • Cuts and abrasions
  • Bulges, areas of lower or higher pressure
  • Embedded objects, like pebbles, wood, nails or glass.

Checking your tyre tread depth

You can use a tyre tread depth gauge, easily available from Autoparts or if you don’t have one of those, and you’re in the UK, you can use a 20p piece.

The outer rim found on each side of a 20p piece is around 2.0mm, so if you can see the rim of the coin, the tyre’s tread level may be too low.

Tyre safety and real-world driving

What difference does it make to have a set of tyres with 3.0mm tread as per the guidelines, and 1.6mm minimum as required by law? A big one: your car could be almost 50% less responsive in a hard braking situation with the bare minimum tread than with tyres with 3.0mm.

Being involved in an accident with defective tyres could land you with a £2,500 fine and three points on your licence. That is per tyre, which means if you have four illegal tyres and you’re stopped by police, you could be hit with an eye-watering £10,000 fine and 12 points on your licence.

But helping ensure your safety and those in the cabin with you is the most important reason of all for keeping your tyres is the best condition they can be.

Think your tyres might need a change? Find a range of tyres and tyre care products in Autoparts’ products section.


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Image credit: Header image by Andrea Piacquadio via