Tyres are the only part of your car that’s connected to the road - each tyre touching a space the size of your hand out flat - so it’s vital their conditions are monitored and well maintained. Tyres in good condition help you keep control of your car, reduce stopping distances and improve fuel efficiency. As it’s such a critical part of car maintenance, we’ve put together this useful guide.
Understanding the law on tyre conditions
Looking after your tyres not only improves road safety, it’s also a legal requirement. It’s recommended that tyres are checked monthly, as well as before any long journeys. There are two checks motorists should be aware of when they’re looking at their tyres1.
- Tyres should be correctly inflated to the specified tyre pressures given for that vehicle.
- The tread must be at least 1.6mm across three-quarters of the tyre surface
Failure to meet minimum requirements for pressure and tread depth could lead to a fine of up to £2,500 and three points on your licence for each illegal tyre.
Checking the condition of your tyres
The first step is to check for any damage – such as cuts, cracks, lumps or tears. Remove any objects stuck in the grooves that could potentially cause a puncture, like stones, nails and screws. If you have a spare tyre in the car it’s important to maintain that one as well.
How to check tyre pressure
Ensuring your tyre pressure is correct helps prolong its life and improve fuel efficiency – which is particularly important during long journeys. Checking this is easy to do, and can either be done during your visit to the petrol station, or at home if you have an accurate pressure gauge to hand.
- Begin by finding the recommended tyre pressure for your vehicle. This can be found in the vehicle manual, or on the vehicle website. Some cars have this information inside the driver door or on the inside of the fuel cap.
- Find the valve cap on the inside of the tyre. Quickly unscrew the cap and attach the pressure gauge firmly. When you’ve got your reading, either inflate the tyre if pressure is too low, or let out air if the tyre pressure is too high.
- Once you’ve adjusted your tyre to the correct pressure, remember to replace the valve cap.
- Tyre pressure should be adjusted if the vehicle is carrying additional weight - which can be found with the original pressure information.
How to check tyre tread
Tyre tread is what keeps your car gripped to the road, which is particularly important when driving in wet weather as it reduces the risk of skidding or aquaplaning and shortens your braking distance. If your tyre tread looks a bit worn down, there’s a really easy way of checking the depth:
- Place a 20p piece inside the main groove of the tyre. Do this in several locations as some parts may be more worn down than others.
- Look at where the rim of the coin sits in the groove. If the rim of the coin disappears, the tyre is of legal depth (refer to image). If you can see the coin rim, the tyre needs to be replaced as it doesn’t meet legal requirements.
When should I buy new tyres?
Recent government figures revealed that over the last year, almost one in 10 (7.7%) MOT failures were as a result of tyre defects2 - which could have been avoided. There are several signs you can spot for yourself before forking out for new tyres during an MOT, or being spotted by police. We’ve listed some below:
- Look out for tread wear bars, or small bands of rubber, that show when the tyre depth has reached its legal limit.
- Are there any uneven patterns of wear on your tyres? This could indicate other vehicle issues, so get this looked at by a mechanic.
- Any unusual lumps or bulges could potentially cause the tyre to fail, which may lead to an accident.
- Look out for any deep cuts or tears. Punctures larger than 6mm cannot be fixed with a kit.
It’s important that motorists are aware that punctures, cuts, burst tyres or punctures caused by braking are not covered by your car insurance policy. However, conducting these regular checks and maintaining good condition of your tyres will allow greater control of your vehicle when it’s needed most.
What happens if you use the wrong fuel?
Topping up with the wrong fuel is an extremely common mistake to make, but also one that can cause serious damage. Find out what you should do if you’ve accidentally used the wrong fuel here.
Preparing your car for a long journey
You may be ready for that long anticipated road trip – but is your car? Breaking down in the middle of nowhere is never a pleasant experience. Find out how to prepare for a road trip here.