Tyre Check Information

Q. What is the legal requirement for tyres in the UK?

A. Current UK law requires car, van and LCV drivers to have at least 1.6mm of tread across the central three-quarters of the tyre, around its entire circumference. For trucks (vehicles exceeding 3.5 tonnes g.v.w), current tread depth legislation requires that they must have a minimum of 1mm of tread in a continuous band throughout the central three-quarters of the tread width and over the whole circumference of the tyre. The same regulation applies to regrooved tyres. Meanwhile, for motorcycles over 50cc it is 1mm across ¾ of the width of the tread pattern and with visible tread on the remaining ¼. For motorcycles up to 50cc the law requires that all the grooves of the original tread pattern must be clearly visible.

Q. How often should my tyres be checked?

A. Tyres should be inspected at least once a month and before any long journey. Checks should include checking the air pressure, overall condition and tread depth. And don't forget to check the spare or the compressor and sealant if no spare was fitted!

Q. What are the fines for driving with illegal tyres?

A. Drivers who fail to comply with the regulations face a fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points for each illegal tyre.

Q. Why is tread depth important?

A. Adequate tread depth is essential for good grip on wet roads as the tread pattern helps to remove water from between the tyre and the road surface. Drivers with insufficient tread depth face longer stopping distances, reduced grip and an increased risk of aquaplaning.

Q. What are the effects of having less tread on my tyres?

A. As the tread depth on tyres reduce, the vehicles braking distances get longer. When tested independently in wet weather at 50 mph, new tyres stopped 6 meters shorter than tyres on 3mm of tread. When compared against tyres with 1.6mm of tread, vehicles fitted with new tyres stopped 11 meters shorter. (that’s equivalent to 3.5 double decker bus lengths!)

Q. How does the tread depth and pattern help me stay safer?

A. Adequate tread depth is essential for good grip on wet roads as the tread pattern helps to displace water from the road surface. Drivers with insufficient tread depth face a number of hazards including longer stopping distances, less grip and more chance of aquaplaning. Indeed, in wet weather stopping distances will be at least double those required for stopping on dry roads, placing even greater importance on correct tyre maintenance.

Q. Why is correct tyre pressure important?

A. To stay safe on the road your car needs to have the correct tyre pressure. If the tyres are under or over inflated then handling and grip will worsen, potentially causing irregular or unpredictable car behaviour. Tyres with insufficient air are also more likely to suffer from a blowout and will suffer premature wear on the outside edges of the tyre.The wheel rim and tyre will be more susceptible to impact damage. Over-inflation results in less comfortable ride, a reduced area of contact with the road giving less grip in the day and accelerated wear on the tread centre. The benefits of a properly inflated tyre, include reduced running costs and longer tyre life.

Q. Where can I find the correct pressure for my tyres?

A. The vehicle manufacturers' handbook contains this information, as well as it being available inside the fuel filler cap or driver's door sill.

Q. What causes irregular wear?

A. Irregular wear can be caused by a number of factors. Repeated scuffing of tyres against kerbs, misaligned steering, aggressive driving, the over- or under-inflation of the tyre, worn suspension parts, are just some reasons. There are so many variables that there is no one single answer. Tyres should be checked regularly for any signs of wear and replaced accordingly.

Q. How many miles can I get from my set of tyres?

A. Tyre life is very dependent on the way that they are used. A set of tyres well maintained and used exclusively on motorways can return a much higher mileage against tyres badly maintained and ill-treated in a city centre and urban environment.

Q. How far/fast can I drive with a special 'run flat' tyre in a deflated condition?

A. Recommendations in the area may differ from tyre manufacturer to manufacturer and drivers should always consult the car manufacturer's handbook for the distance that can be travelled and speed driven. Please note that standard tyres should not be run without air or this will cause irreparable damage.

Q. What are winter tyres?

A. Winter tyres have been designed to specifically cope with snow and ice, as well as cold and damp conditions. Below 7 degrees celsius the tread compound in normal tyres begins to harden, providing less grip. Winter tyres use advanced silica compounds so they remain pliant in cold temperatures, giving more grip and shorter stopping distances. They also have specially designed tread patterns to give superior grip on ice and snow.

Q. Do I have to fit winter tyres in the winter?

A. In the UK it is not a legal requirement although Winter tyres are the safest option in snow and ice, plus cold and damp conditions. UK drivers travelling to certain European countries may be required to fit winter tyres and this information is available from the department of Transport.

Q. What do the sidewall markings mean?

A. The sidewall markings provide descriptive information about the tyre. The most important markings for drivers in the UK are size and type, aspect ratios load and speed indices (service description).

Q. Should I fit four new tyres at a time?

A. It's better to fit all four tyres at the same time but if that is not possible then fitting two tyres at a time, and as a pair to get the best handling and grip on each axle, is the next best option. As a last resort, then a single tyre can be replaced.

Q. Which is the best axle to place new tyres on?

A. New tyres on the rear axle provide better driver control on wet roads. This is because tyres with deeper tread are better at displacing water and give better grip. If the new tyres are fitted at the front the car, then it is more likely to oversteer when grip is lost in wet weather, which is much harder to control than understeer. Oversteer is when the rear of the car slides sideways, and understeer is when the front of the car slides.

Q. Can I fit part worn tyres to my vehicle?

A. When replacing tyres, fitting new tyres is the safest option. However, legislation does exist which permits the sale of part worn tyres, subject to them meeting a number of criteria. The sale of part worn tyres that do not meet these legal requirements is not only a criminal offence under the Consumer Protection Act, but also poses a serious safety risk to drivers, their passengers and other road users.

Q. Are part worn tyres a cheaper alternative to fitting new tyres?

A. Part worn tyres will generally cost less money than new, however the part worn tyre will last for significantly less time than new. A new tyre could cost 2 or 3 times more than a part worn, but if the new tyre lasts 4 or 5 times longer then a financial saving is false. When this is coupled with the greater safety aspect of a new tyre over it’s part worn equivalent it clearly makes more sense to fit new.

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