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Tyre tread depth and tyre safety checks

Checking your legal tyre tread depth is one of the most important checks you can make on your car.

You could be at risk of a £2,500 fine and three penalty points for a worn tyre. That’s per tyre. If all four tyres are worn below the legal limit, you could potentially lose your licence and face a £10,000 fine.

What is the legal tyre tread depth?

The legal tyre tread depth for cars in the UK and Europe is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre, according to law. The tread must meet this minimum requirement across its complete circumference.

What is the expert-recommended minimum tyre tread depth?

Tyre and safety experts say the 1.6mm legal minimum is insufficient to ensure safety – most recommend a minimum tread depth of 3mm for tyre replacement.

Tests by the UK mechanic organisation MIRA found that, once tyres are below 3mm, stopping distances increase dramatically.

If there’s less tread depth, less water can be shifted, increasing the risk of aquaplaning and losing grip. In heavy rain, each tyre can shift one gallon of water every second, illustrating just how hard tyres work. Deeper tread means they can work better, improving grip.

How to check tyre tread depth – the 20p test

The 20p test is a simple, quick and easy way of checking the tyre tread of your car's wheels. Take a 20p coin and insert it into the tread grooves on the tyre.

If you are unable to see the outer band on the coin, your tyres are above the legal limit.

However, if you can see the band and that section of the coin is still visible, your tyres could be unsafe and require professional inspection by a mechanic. We suggest drivers do the 20p test around every two weeks and before long journeys.

What happens if you have an accident on illegal tyres?

Driving with tyres that have a tread below the legal limit - or even worse, are bald - is dangerous. It can put you and other motorists at risk.

If you are involved in an accident and the car you are driving has illegal or bald tyres, you should be aware of the consequences.Any insurance claim as a result of an accident could be invalidated, so potentially your insurer won't pay out any money any repairs needed to your vehicle.

However, driving with dangerous or defective tyres also puts drivers at risk of a fine of up to £2,500 and three points on their license.

That is per tyre, so four illegal tyres could mean a fine of £10,000 and 12 penalty points.

You can purchase tyre tread gauges that help you with assessing the tread depth of the tyre, you can also get more basic colour-coded tools that let you know if a tyre is legal or not at a glance.

For complete piece of mind, you can pop down to our garage and we can do a tyre check for you. Call us on 01274 581118 today.

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