How do I know if my tyres are bald?

By David Sholicar

Ok, be honest. How many times do you think to check your car or motorbike tyres? We all know we ‘should’ do this before any long journey, in adverse weather conditions, and at regular intervals, but do we? We understand that many miss this critical check as we get used to hurrying between appointments, work, and school in our busy lives.


We get used to our vehicles always being there for us and being reliable, but we seldom think about breakdowns or issues until one day it happens. If we stop and think for a minute, however, we realise just how important safe and legal tyres are, and how preventative checks should be part of our regular routine.

You probably know it’s illegal to drive or ride with bald tyres, which are those below the legal tread limit. It’s still sadly true that 1 in 10 cars that are on the road are below the legal limit on at least one tyre. That’s a frightening statistic. 1 car in every 4 would fail an MOT due to defective tyres. No-one wants that vehicle heading towards them in fast traffic on a rainy day.
Should you be caught on the road with compromised tyres, you could end up with 3 points on your licence and a fine of up to £2,500 for each substandard tyre.

What Happens if You Drive with Bald Tyres?

Several things can happen:

  • Your car or bike cannot grip the road and you may skid

  • Stopping distances can become three times longer

  • Your tyre could burst - causing total loss of control at high speeds and potentially a serious accident

All of the above have serious consequences.

So How Do I Check?

If you want to check yourself, we recommend you do the following:

  • Insert a 20p coin into your tyre's main tread grooves to determine if the outer rim of the coin is covered by the tread

  • Repeat this action in the main grooves of your tyres and ensure this is done at several points around the tyre's circumference

  • If you can see the rim of the coin at any point, your tyre may be illegal and will need replacing as soon as possible

  • When checking the tread, pressures and condition, don't forget the spare

20p tyre tread check

Of course, this test won’t be able to tell if you have any other tyre damage.
That’s why, at Protyre, we recommend you bring your vehicle in for a free tyre check. Our qualified fitters can check all of your tyres free of charge and put your mind at rest. Should you need new tyres, we have a full range from brands including Bridgestone, Pirelli, Sumitomo and Falken and we’ll be able to advise you as to your best and most cost-effective options.
We have a nationwide network of local garages with experienced mechanics who will be very happy to help you. Our reputation has been built around our professional tyre fitters, but did you know that we also offer MOTs, engine oil checks and full vehicle servicing?
Our knowledgeable team are ready to talk and to assist with your needs so why not call to book your car or bike for a free tyre check with Protyre, or use the tyre search function on our website. We look forward to helping you.

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About the author

Article Author Photo
By David Sholicar
David is the National Retail Operations Manager for Protyre. One of David’s areas of responsibility and expertise is dealing with the DVSA and MOT’s for Protyre. As the Authorised Examiner Designate Manager ( AEDM ) David deals with applications for changes to the many Vehicle Testing Stations ( VTS’s) including managing the growth of the Number of MOT testing stations that Protyre operate, allocating MOT tester roles, and monitoring the MOT Test logs to ensure that Protyre MOT standards are maintained as the best in the industry.
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