We can’t be any clearer: don’t drive on part worn tyres

We can’t be any clearer: don’t drive on part worn tyres

08 Mar

By David Sholicar

When it comes down to it, part worns are essentially second hand tyres. They’ve been driven on by a complete stranger, discarded, and then resold. Since they’ve already had a ‘life’ before their new owner fits them, part worn tyres don’t have the essential tread depth you get with new tyres. And that’s a problem.

So how did it come to this?

They exist because in Germany – where most part worn tyres are imported from – most people change their tyres when they get down to 3 mm tread depth. They do this – even though, like in the UK, the minimum legal tread depth is 1.6 mm – because it’s well known that once the tread’s reduced to 3 mm, they rapidly deteriorate.
In our expert opinion, while part worn tyres are currently legal, they’re certainly not safe.

The importance of good tyre tread depth

Essential for driving in wet conditions, tyre treads were invented by those clever engineers at Continental Tyres at the turn of the twentieth century. They’re the grooves you can see in the rubber, designed to remove water from the “contact patch” between the tyre itself and the road.  This allows you to brake, steer and accelerate with control.

When you buy a brand new set of tyres, their tread depth is 8 mm. But gradually, over time, the  tread wears down, and as a result their grip diminishes. And by the time they’re down to 3 mm, they are – according to respected tyre experts – nearly 80% worn. With this figure in mind, it’s not too hard to imagine just how unfit for purpose part worn tyres really are. It’s can be even worse, with many part worns are sold in the UK with a tread depth of only 2 mm.

As a result, the ability to stop safely – fast – in the wet is significantly reduced. The simple truth is that you’ll simply travel further after you hit the brakes if your tyres are too worn, than if they aren’t. It’s why many experts, including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, recommend that all drivers change their tyres when the tread is down to 3 mm.

And that’s the worry with part worn tyres. 3 mm is the point when they typically start their new life with another driver…

Tyre tread depth and wear comparison

  • 8 mm
    Tyre is 0% worn. Excellent!
  • 7 mm
    Tyre is approximately 15% worn. Very good.
  • 6 mm
    Tyre is around 30% worn. Good.
  • 5 mm
    Tyre is roughly 45-50% worn. Okay.
  • 4 mm
    Tyre is approximately 65% worn. Acceptable.
  • 3 mm
    Tyre is near 80% worn. Plan to replace.
  • 2 mm
    Tyre is 95% worn. Alarming!
  • 1.6 mm
    Tyre is now at its legal limit, but that’s no reason to use it. Replace immediately!
  • Under 1.6 mm
    Tyre is now illegal, and subject to a £2,500 fine and 3 points on your license. Stupid and dangerous.

The majority of part worn tyres are illegal

The sale of part worn tyres in the UK is governed by strict regulations. The trouble is, it’s too easy to get around them. And that puts all road users at risk.

TyreSafe – the leading charity that campaigns for better tyre safety in the UK – undertook a survey and found that just 6% of the used tyres they inspected were sold in compliance with legal regulations. Worse still, results found that an astonishing 58% of these part worns had “defects impairing their safety, including poor repairs, structural damage and age-related deterioration”.

Their findings also brought to light another very serious issue: the quality of fitting. If you fit the wrong type of tyre to a car – or if you mix tread patterns on the same axle – it has a very negative affect on both cornering and braking. Evidence suggests that this – and other malpractice – is commonplace in the UK part worn tyre market.

Both TyreSafe and the National Tyre Retailers Association are continuously campaigning for the UK government to ban the sale of part worn tyres. Protyre are members of both organisations.

Mark Griffiths, Safety Expert at Continental Tyres said “Part worn tyres may look too good to be true and that is often the case, as the TyreSafe investigation shows. Continental’s Vision Zero initiative is about putting safety at the heart of all decisions to do with driving, and we would advise anyone looking to replace tyres to purchase brand new premium quality tyres from a reputable dealer for the sake of safety for all road users.”

Part worn tyres are a false economy

Everybody wants to save money, especially in difficult financial times, so we understand why some people choose to opt for part worn tyres. Compared to brand new tyres they seem cheap, and they can appear to solve a short-term problem, such as passing an MOT (though not necessarily).

But – even over the medium term – part worn tyres are a false economy. Why? Because once tyre treads are down to 3 mm, their rate of wear accelerates dramatically. Before you know it, they’re down to the barely UK road legal 1.6 mm minimum, and in need of changing again.

With this speed of deteriation, you’re at risk of getting on the wrong side of the law. Remember, in the UK the penalties for driving with tyres below the minimum legal tread depth are up to £2,500 and three points PER TYRE.

Unsure about part worn tyres? Speak to Protyre

All things considered, the simple truth is that part worn tyres should be avoided. If you’re lucky, and a retailer’s strictly following the rules and fitting them correctly, the tyres themselves aren’t safe, and they certainly won’t last. With road safety being such an important issue, it’s makes sense to speak to an expert. Speak to your local Protyre professionals for expert, impartial advice, quality fitting slutions, and much more.

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