UK tyre law

By Julia Freeman

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.

To refresh your memory (some of you may be asking, “What is the legal tyre tread limit?”), the legal minimum depth for your tyres is 1.6 millimetres 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 1.6mm tread depth will take an extra two car lengths – 8 metres – to stop at 50 miles per hour, as compared to a tread of 3 millimetres.

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 6,000 miles to avoid unnecessary wear.

  • Avoid parking on oil or solvent spills as 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

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, and incorrect inflation can all cause severe wear on tyres.

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 12 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 150 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 Julia Freeman
Julia is Head of Brand Marketing for Micheldever Group and loves engaging with customers and the business as a whole to deliver their automotive needs.
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