Legal Tyre Tread & UK Laws

By Adam White

UK law specifies your vehicle must be fitted with the correct type and size of tyre for the vehicle you are driving and the purpose for which it is being used. This means fitting the right tyres, ensuring that they have sufficient tread, are appropriately inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure and free from damage.

20p tyre check

Thinking about your tyres might be the last thing on your mind right now, but maintaining a legal tyre limit with regard to tread depth is important. UK law specifies that your vehicle must be fitted with tyres that are the correct type and size for the vehicle you drive and for the purpose you drive it for. This is important for maintaining the safety of your vehicle and of other drivers on the road. Your car needs the right tyres with the correct depth of tread and to be properly inflated to the recommended pressure to keep yourself and your passengers safe.

What's the Legal Minimum Depth of Tread for Car Tyres?

To refresh your memory (some of you may be asking, ‘What is the legal tyre tread?’), the legal minimum depth for your tyres is 1.6 milimetres across the central width and around the complete circumference. This is the lower limit of what is legal and safe; our tyre professionals recommend replacing at 3 millimetres. Tyres with only 1.6 millimetre tread depth will take an extra two car lengths - 8 metres - to stop at fifty miles per hour, as compared to a tread of 3 millimetres.

How Can I Maintain my Legal Tyre Tread?

Keeping to a regular schedule of tyre maintenance will keep your tyres in the best condition and avoid any unpleasant surprises. These following steps will keep your tyres in good health for a longer period of time.

  • Check your tyre pressure every month - and don’t forget your spare tyre! There’s nothing worse than being caught with a flat and finding your spare has long since deflated.

  • Check your wheel alignment every six thousand miles to avoid unnecessary wear.

  • Avoid parking on oil or solvent spills; these can erode and compromise the integrity of your tyres.

  • Rotate the front and rear tyres to ensure an even wear across all four of them (not applicable on all vehicles).

  • Balance the tyres if they start to vibrate

  • Have the general condition of your tyres checked regularly by qualified fitters

What is the Legal Limit for Tyres?

Tyre tread depth can have a significant impact on the acceleration, cornering, and safety including braking, so it is important to maintain legal standards. The recommendations of your manufacturer can be found in your vehicle handbook and you should always refer to it when needed.
A simple way to check at home on the legal status of your tyre tread is to take a 20p coin. Place the coin into the tread grooves. If the outer band of the coin is visible, then your tyres may not be road legal. If the outer band of the coin is entirely covered by the grooves of the tyre when inserted, then your tread is legally safe (but see above regarding a realistic lower limit of 3mm).
Make sure to check at least three locations around each tyre when using this simple and quick test method. Tyres can wear unevenly, so one location on the tyre may be safe while another falls under the legal limits. Tyre wear is not only caused by age and use; aggressive acceleration, sudden and harsh braking, misaligned wheels, incorrect inflation can all cause severe wear on tyres.

What Happens If My Tyres Are Under the Legal Tread Depth?

If caught by the police, you will receive a fine that could add up to a staggering sum. The police or a court can impose a fine of £2,500 per tyre as well as three penalty points - so four illegal tyres add up to twelve penalty points and £10,000, and the potential to be disqualified from driving. That’s a huge amount of money to risk on something that can be fixed so easily!

Don’t Risk It - Fix It!

At Protyre, our tyre professionals offer free tyre checks at any of our over one hundred local garages across the UK. Book online and be seen the same day, and our expert technicians will check and offer advice on the best ways to keep yourself, your family, and your car safe on the road. Use our tyre search function online to find the best priced tyres for your car from a wide range of brands including Pirelli and Bridgestone. We are proud to be the TyreSafe retailer of the year from 2013 to 2018. Don’t delay - book in with Protyre today.

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About the author

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By Adam White
Adam looks to create engaging and informative content across the website that provides consumers with expert advice on MOTs, servicing, vehicle maintenance and tyre care. As a motorsport enthusiast, Adam enjoys documenting the Protyre Motorsport team’s involvement in major motorsport events across the UK.
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