How to Check your Vehicle is safe to drive?

By Julia Freeman

When the weather starts to turn inclement it becomes even more important to ensure your vehicle is in full working order before a journey. Wet, icy and snowy conditions can increase braking distances. Decreased visibility caused by poor weather and shorter daylight hours make the condition of your brakes, tyres and headlights of paramount importance. Many of the checks you can carry out require little in the way of technical knowhow and as such they can, and should, be carried out by every driver before a journey.

Tyre Conditions

The legal minimum tyre tread depth in the UK is 1.6 mm but many tyre manufacturers, motoring organisations and road safety campaigners such as TyreSafe say tyres do not perform adequately when their tread depth falls below 3mm. In our experience, substantial degradation in their performance is noticeable after they reach 5mm.
In excessively wet conditions, the grooves in the tread help to expel the water and provide grip on the road surface. It isn’t hard to figure out that as the grooves get lower their ability to flex and expel water deteriorates. Similar issues affect braking performance and cornering.
To measure your current tread depth, rather than getting out a ruler or any other measuring device there is a simple well-known test. Inserting a 20p coin into the grooves of a tyre provides a good indication of their depth. The outer band around the design is 2.7mm so if you can see any part of it above the tyre groove your tyres are already becoming unsafe. Remember too that to be legal they must have that absolute minimum of 1.6mm across the central three quarters of the tread around the entire circumference.
As well as tyre tread depth, it is important to check their tyre pressure regularly, preferably once per week. Under or over inflated tyres affect handling, fuel efficiency and their lifespan. The correct tyre pressure is often printed inside the fuel cap or inside a door jamb on your vehicle, or can be found in your owner's manual. You can check it with your own pressure gauge, the one on petrol station air facilities, or by calling at a Protyre garage for a free tyre check. If you need replacements, Protyre supply and fit tyres from a range of good quality manufacturers like Pirelli and Bridgestone.

Fuel Level

Adverse winter weather sometimes turns short journeys into long ones, so check your fuel level before all but the shortest journeys. For advice on antifreeze check your manual, or again contact the experts at a Protyre garage.

Oil and Coolants

Engine oil is responsible for ensuring your engine is lubricated and also helps regulate its temperature. It helps keep it clean too. Without adequate lubrication, the moving parts could seize up. That is very bad news. Checking oil levels regularly is quick, easy and vital to the safe running of your engine.


At the winter solstice on 21st December there are only 7 hours 50 minutes of daylight in southern England and an hour less in Scotland. That means at least 16 hours of darkness but more in bad weather. Overcast conditions can require drivers to use their lights at high noon. It stands to reason you can’t drive safely in a British winter unless your lights are in full working order. Regrettably, it is almost impossible to check your lights on your own but you can do a superficial test with the help of a friend or neighbour. Just turn on each of your lights and indicators in turn and ask your glamorous assistant to confirm they work. Don’t forget the brake lights. A full beam alignment test needs the help of your Protyre garage.

Screen Wash

On wet gritty roads, spray can completely obliterate your view through the windscreen. It is dangerous, so ensuring your screen-wash is topped up and wipers are working is not only sensible it is the law. Proper all-weather screen-wash stays liquid even if the mercury plummets to zero and is a lot more effective than plain water.


The highway code quotes braking distances for a range of speeds but those distances are based on the assumption that your brakes, tyres, visibility and weather conditions are optimal. Braking distances increase in wintry conditions and with stale or low brake fluid. Checking brake fluid is best left to a professional. Protyre offer drivers a free brake check. Our expert technicians will take a good look at your braking system to identify any issues and provide a no-obligation quote for any repairs identified during the check. To book a free brake check get in touch with your local Protyre garage using the online contact form.

Book with Protyre

If you are unsure about your load rating or which tyres to get, click the ‘Find My Protyre’ button below and speak with the team at your local Protyre centre. With their wealth of knowledge and years of experience, you can be certain you will receive high-quality advice from our friendly team. Or you can book a free tyre check at a time and date to suit you, where our tyre technicians will be able to carry out a range of safety checks on your tyres to help keep you safe on the road.

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About the author

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By Julia Freeman
Julia is Head of Retail Marketing for Protyre and loves engaging with customers and the business as a whole to make sure Protyre is more than just a local garage.
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