Protyre News


Our tyre safety overview can help improve your driver safety


As a major UK tyre retailer, we regularly provide our customers with a wide variety of impartial tyre safety advice. It’s something we’re more than happy to offer, since it’s in all our interests for as many drivers as possible to be familiar with the essential tyre safety knowledge necessary to keep everyone safer on road.

With this in mind, the expert tyre team at Protyre have compiled this collection of useful tyre safety tips for your consideration. It’s intended to help keep you safer, and allow you to make a more informed tyre purchasing choice.

Having good tyre tread depths is vital

Tyre treads – the grooves that run along the length of your tyre – were first introduced in 1904 by premium tyre manufacturer, Continental. Good tyre treads are arguably the most important factor for ensuring your driver safety.

Why? Because it’s your treads that clear water from the road, and the more that can be removed, the better grip your tyres will have with the surface. This is essential for ensuring that you maintain control while you drive, particularly when braking and cornering in wet weather conditions.

So what’s the difference between good and bad tread depth?

Simply put, the more tread depth you have, the faster water can be cleared. With a brand new set of tyres – such as Continental’s award winning ContiPremiumContact™ 5 – they come with a full 8 mm of tread depth. This, along with the compound that the tyre is made from, gives drivers the optimum grip they need on the road – especially in wet weather conditions. Says who? Says leading UK car magazine, Auto Express, which announced the tyre as its Ultimate Tyre Test 2017 award winner, taking top spot in the dry handling, wet handling and wet braking categories.

But with less tread depth, tyres provide a much reduced level of grip. In wet weather conditions (and goodness knows we get more than enough rainy days in the UK, right?) a lack of grip dramatically increases your chances of having an accident, due to longer stopping distances. increasing the chance of collisions. And if you need to suddenly swerve – especially at high speed – this lack of grip can result in losing control, and sliding off the road, or into oncoming traffic.

And, while the UK road legal minimum tyre tread depth is 1.6 mm, many tyre experts – including Protyre, Continental, and TyreSafe (the UK tyre charity that both we are both leading members of) – believe that it is vital for drivers to change their tyres when the tread is down to 3 mm.

It doesn’t sound like much of a difference, does it? But by following our tyre safety advice, it will help to increase your driver safety. Why? Because independent research and testing has shown that when tyres get down to just 3 mm of tread, the available grip deteriorates rapidly, and this means less control on the road, particularly in wet weather conditions. And this, in our expert opinion, is a wholy inappropriate and unnecessary risk for drivers to take, wouldn’t you agree?

Tread depth / tyre wear comparison

  • 8 mm: The tyre is 0% worn. Excellent.

  • 7 mm: Approximately 15% worn. Very good.

  • 6 mm: About 30% worn. Good.

  • 5 mm: Around 45-50% worn. Okay.

  • 4 mm: The tyre is approximately 65% worn. Acceptable.

  • 3 mm: Tyre is nearly 80% worn. Replace asap.

  • 2 mm: Tyre is 95% worn. Extremely worrying!

  • 1.6 mm: The tyre is now at its minimum legal limit. Replace immediately!

  • Under 1.6 mm: You are breaking the law!

It’s worth noting that if you’re found to have illegal tyres fitted by the police, you’re at risk of incurring a £2,500 fine, and 3 points on your drivers licence – for EACH tyre!

To avoid ending up with bad tyre tread depth, and the subsequent loss of grip, Protyre and Continental recommend that you check your treads on a regular basis. Either use a tyre tread depth gauge, or, if you don’t have one to hand, the quick and easy 20p Test.

Having the correct tyre pressures really matters

At the end of the day, the only contact your vehicle makes with the road is from four tyre contact patches – each no larger than the size of a smartphone. When you think about driving in these terms, you begin to appreciate exactly how important your tyres are, and how vital it is to ensure that they’re in optimal condition.
This process includes ensuring that your tyres have the correct pressures. If you don’t – whether they’re under inflated or over inflated – the outcome will be (avoidable) tyre degradation, and, as a result, the increased possibility of a loss of grip, and – worse still, in extreme circumstances – complete tyre failure.

An under inflated tyre results in having too much contact with the road, affecting the optimal tyre shape so that it is too flat at the base. This leads to increased erosion of the tyre tread, and loss of grip with the road. Wear typically takes place at the edges of the tyre, in what is known as uneven tyre wear, and typically this will affect the vehicle’s handling.

Under inflated tyres are also softer than they need to be, and that means they’re prone to damage by sharp objects – such as nails and glass. Why? Because there’s a greater chance that due to the (under inflated) softness of the tyre, sharp objects won’t be able to glance off it, and that means there’s an increased chance of sustaining a puncture.

Over inflated tyres result in different – though equally dangerous – problems. Too much air pressure increases the chances of having a high-speed blowout, because they’re too stiff and rigid, and lacking the flexibility they require to operate at their best. Over inflated tyres are more sensitive to sudden impacts, compared to correctly inflated tyres – such as jolts and thuds from contact with potholes, or objects left in the road.

And just like with under inflated tyres, they too also incur needless tyre wear, though in this instance at the tyre centre. Crucially, this results in reduced tyre tread just where it makes most contact with the surface, and where you need the most grip.

So how do I get my tyre pressures right?

You can normally find the correct tyre pressure values for your vehicle on the inside of its fuel cap, or inside the driver door. Top tip: tyre pressure readings tend to be at their most accurate when the tyres are cold. As such, try to check them before you start your journey.

Inflating your tyres

First, remove the tyre’s valve dust cover and attach the air hose. This hose will automatically measure the tyre’s pressure. Next, either top up or release the air, as appropriate, until the pressures are correct for all your tyres.
Protyre recommend that you regularly check your pressures, and especially before you set off on a long journey. If you’re about to start a driving holiday – when your car may be laden down with additional weight – it’s doubly important to do so. Your tyres will be under greater stress than usual, so it’s essential you check your pressures.

This is also the case if you enjoy a caravan holiday. Make sure both your car and caravan tyre pressures are correct before you set off on your travels.

Regularly check for tyre damage

If you get into the habit of regularly checking your tyres, you’ll go a long way towards attaining a good level of tyre safety. As already highlighted, tyre treads and tyre pressures should be regularly checked, but just as important is to keep an eye out for tyre damage. This often takes the form of cuts and nicks – from sharp objects – but also includes scrapes – from making contact with kerbs, and subsequently resulting in bulges. The same is true of impacts with potholes. All can result in serious damage to the sidewall – the part of your tyre that absorbs all the stress when you drive. And of course, contact with sharp objects can also result in punctures. All of these examples of tyre damage increase the possibility of experiencing a blowout, especially when driving at high speed.

It’s true – some tyres are better than other tyres

Yes, that’s correct. While tyres may all look the same to the majority of people, as leading tyre experts we know differently. Some tyres are significantly better than others. When it comes to tyres, never a truer word was said than “you get what you pay for”. That’s why premium tyres cost a bit more than cheaper ‘budget’ or ‘value’ tyres.

And while opting to fit cheaper tyres to your vehicle may seem like a good way to save you money at the time, the truth is that ultimately – in the medium and long term – they’re actually a false economy. Premium tyres will end up providing you with not just better value, but significantly better driver safety, too.

Why? Because premium tyres – like those manufactured by Continental – are made from superior compounds, compared to cheaper ‘budget’ and ‘value’ tyres. In an exact like for like usage comparison, the cheaper tyres will typically wear down much quicker than premium tyres.

As a result, cheaper tyres lose their tread depth faster, and that means that all too soon they’re providing reduced levels of grip. This is most noticeable when driving on wet surfaces, where stopping distances are significantly longer, and handling characteristics sloppier. The undeniable fact is that premium tyres are much safer, and ultimately better.

Investing in your driver safety

So why exactly are premium tyre compounds superior to those used for cheaper tyres? Because tyre makers like Continental invest millions upon millions year after year in R&D – research and development. Cheaper tyres just don’t benefit from the same levels of investment – that’s why they’re cheaper – and so provide drivers who fit them with comparably lower levels of safety.

Today’s motorists demand the highest levels of tyre performance and safety available. The same is true of the world’s automotive manufacturers. It’s something that Continental have endeavoured to achieve throughout their near 150 years of developing safety technologies.

And it’s this demand for a better premium tyre that’s resulted in one in every three new cars that are manufactured in Europe being fitted with Continental “Original Equipment”. More commonly known as “OE”, these are tyres designed to be fitted to a specific vehicle make and model. Original Equipment is developed in partnership between tyre and vehicle makers. The result is a tyre that brings out the vehicle’s best driving, handling, and safety characteristics.

Extended mobility solutions

This investment in premium tyre research and development has also resulted in Continental creating a range of tyre technologies that offer drivers additional levels of safety. Tyres fitted with their ContiSeal™ and SSR (Self-Supporting Runflat) extended mobility solutions postpone the need to immediately change tyres in the event of a puncture. Both technologies afford motorists the opportunity to drive to the nearest garage, where they can then safely change the tyre – rather than on the side of a busy road, exposed to dangerous traffic passing by.
Continental’s ContiSeal™ and SSR extended mobility solutions can be found incorporated into many of their premium tyre products, including the ContiSportContact™ 5.

Part worn tyres – the worst of the worst

Strange as it may be to believe, there are some motorists who – deliberately or not – put all of our lives at risk on the road. The problem arises because these drivers choose to fit part worn tyres to their cars. And while this practice is still legal in the UK, tyre professionals like us, Continental, and TyreSafe are vigorously campaigning to have part worns banned.

Why? Because – as the name suggests – part worns are tyres that have previously been driven on by their original, as new owner. By the time part worns have been resold to a second user, their tread depth is typically very low – often only just within the UK legal minimum, and always with only barely adequate grip.

You’ll recall how earlier in this article we stated just how important good tyre tread depth is? Well, choosing to fit part worn tyres is the diametric opposite of our impartial, expert tyre safety advice. Frankly, we believe it’s not just irresponsible to do so, but – figuratively speaking – criminal. Part worns are best avoided at all costs.

Talk to Protyre for impartial, expert tyre safety advice

If you’re worried about tyres and your driver safety, or unsure which tyres to fit to your vehicle, talk to the professionals at Protyre. We’ll provide you with impartial, expert tyre advice, as well as offer you the best fitting solutions.

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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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