The Menace Of Part Worn / Secondhand Tyres

By David Sholicar

Do you understand the difference? Should you buy them? What are the risks? This article will shed some light on these common questions.

Man inspecting tyre

Part Worn Tyres

It is estimated that 3.5million part worn tyres are sold in the UK every year. Part worn tyres come from 3 key sources: Overseas, scrap yards and theft.

We do not sell part worn tyres. Our decision not to sell part worn tyres comes as a result of extensive research undertaken by a number of organisations. This research has shown that part worn tyres are not safe.

We break down below the sources of part worn tyres.


Regulations on winter tyres differ based on countries' laws. Regulations on tyre depth in some European countries require tyres be changed when they have 3mm left of tread depth on them. Whereas in the UK, the limit is 1.6mm. This difference in tyre limitations tends create a large market for part worn tyres originating from other European countries. Additionally in many European countries there is a legal requirement to change from Summer to Winter Tyres. Many of the tyres removed have 3mm to 6mm of tread depth left on them. It is largely uneconomic to store these over the winter period and then to refit. These can get sold to offset costs. Many of these tyres find their way to the UK to be resold as part worn tyres. This in itself creates significant problems for the UK. Research has shown that in 2009 Germany exported 69,000 tones of used tyres, it is believed that many of these came to the UK.

Scrap Yards

Old or badly accident damaged cars are sold for scrap along with their tyres. The tyres are removed from these vehicles to be recycled into the tyre market. Whilst it can be cheaper to get these tyres, they can be unsafe and pose a threat to your safety.


Tyres that are removed from vehicles by reputable tyre fitters will normally be stored on site before being removed for disposal in a environmentally friendly way. Unfortunately, some of these tyres can be stolen from garages to be resold. Protyre has taken the step of eliminating this problem by drilling holes in the sides of scrap tyres to ensure that they cannot be reused again.

In order to protect consumers, the regulations on Part Worn tyres are part of the Motor Vehicle Tyres (Safety) Regulation 1994. The onus is on the reseller to test the tyres to ensure they are safe. Resellers apply a vulcanised patch to confirm safety checks have been done and to mark the tyres clearly as PART WORN. Some of the these part worn tyres might have been repaired, however there is no competency test for a “properly repaired” tyre and no traceability on the test examination.

Part Worn Tyres are a False Economy

Research by Tyresafe has shown that those who buy part worn tyres will buy tyres at least twice as often compared to buying new tyres. Customers tend to pay significantly more per mm of tread when buying part worn tyres. Tyre Safe reported that a part worn tyre will cost £6.33/mm of tread while a comparable, in quality terms, new tyre would cost £5.32/mm of thread.

Another significant factor is the age of a tyre. There can be difficulty in knowing the age of a tyre and part worn tyre dealers can try to cut corners in this respect. As an example, Bristol City Council prosecuted a part worn tyre dealer for selling a tyre that was 16 years old to a customer who didn’t even realize that the tyre was part worn.

According to the Local Government Association (LGA), nearly half of the used tyres in some areas being sold illegally. Secondhand or part worn tyres are being sold with some serious safety defects, incorrect labelling, and unsafe repair jobs. The research found that some used tyres on sale were found to be nearly 30 years old.

Research by Auto Express in 2012 discovered some of the hidden problems of part worn tyres. Tyres had often been damaged in collisions or in scrapes with curbs or pot holes. This type of damage can severely compromise the structure of a tyre and make it more liable to rapid deflation. Additionally, TyreSafe also recorded that 98% of part worn tyres are sold illegally.

If you are tempted to purchase part worn tyres please follow these helpful tips:

1. Check that the tyre has been marked part worn

2. Check that it has a vulcanised strip on it confirming it is part worn

3. Ask if the tyre has been checked for any structural damage or past repairs

4. Always check if a new tyre would be a more economical. Protyre has promotions on tyres to help our customers get the best for their money.

5.If you have any questions about a part worn tyre ask your local trading standards or ask our garage specialists.

5. Always use a recognised and reputable dealer.

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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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