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Why you should pay attention to tyre tread

calendar Published on: Friday, 8th March 2019 | female icon Author: Aminta Gagnon

Unless you suddenly get a flat, you might not tend to put much thought to your car tyres.However, these carefully engineered components play a crucial role in keeping you safe when you’re behind the wheel, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them and make sure they’re ingood condition. A big part of this is ensuring they have enough tread. New tyres usually have a tread depth of approximately 8mm, but over time the rubber wears down.

Keep reading to find out why it’s important to pay attention to the level of tread on your tyres, and for quick and easy tips on how to check them.

Staying on the right side of the law

In the UK, it’s illegal to drive with tyres that have a tread depth of less than 1.6mm. So, if you’re caught with tyres worn down below this level, you risk getting into trouble with the law. You could be fined £2,500 and hit with three penalty points on your licence - and that’s per tyre.

Being found to be driving with too little tyre tread could also cause your insurance premiums to rise, and if you have an accident while driving on unsafe tyres, your cover provider may refuse to pay out.

So, if you want to stay on the right side of the law and avoid financial penalties, it pays to keep tabs on your tyre tread.

Reduced stopping distances

Being able to slow down or stop quickly while you’re driving is a must - and to do this, you need enough tread on your tyres. As the grip wears down, it becomes much less effective at slowing you down when you press the brakes. Research commissioned by the British Rubber Manufacturers Association found that stopping distances increase considerably as tyre tread wears down. The study revealed that while travelling on hot rolled asphalt, it took vehicles with a tyre tread of 1.6mm 36.8 per cent longer to stop than vehicles with a tread of 6.7mm. The difference was even greater on smooth concrete at 44.6 per cent.

Because it takes longer to brake if you’re travelling on worn rubber, safety experts advise drivers to switch to new tyres once their tread depth falls to 3mm, instead of waiting until they hit the legal minimum. By heeding this advice, you should find you’re better able to react to dangers on the road - helping to keep you, your passengers and other road users safe.

Greater resistance to aquaplaning

Aquaplaning while driving can be extremely scary and dangerous. This happens when your tyres aren’t able to displace the water between them and the road surface, and it causes you to lose control of your car. You can’t brake or steer until your tyres come back into contact with the road.

Aquaplaning is much more likely to happen to you if your tyres have a low level of tread. This is because as well as giving you grip on the road surface, tyre tread is designed with a pattern of grooves that helps to remove water as you travel. A typical tyre with a good level of tread can displace enough water to fill a bucket every seven seconds, but as they wear down, they become less efficient at doing this, leaving you at an increased risk of losing control while driving on wet surfaces.

If you’ve ever experienced the loss of control caused by aquaplaning, you’ll know how hazardous it can be - and so this is another important reason to pay attention to your tyres.

How to check your tyres

Given the dangers associated with having too little tread, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of checking your tyres on a regular basis. They will be examined by a technician when you take your car in for a service or an MOT, but you may need to look at them in between these official checks, particularly as they start to get close to the safe limit.

The easiest way to do this is to use a tyre tread gauge, which is cheap to buy and will give you a precise reading of how much tread is left on your tyres. If you don’t have one of these gauges to hand, you can reach for a 20p piece instead. Simply insert the coin into the main grooves in your tyres and ensure your eye line is level with the coin. If you can see any of the outer band of this coin, this means your tyres probably have too little tread and may even be illegal. Bear in mind that whether using a gauge or a coin, you’ll need to test in at least three different locations on each tyre in case there is uneven wear across the rubber.

Experts advise that you check your tread at least once a month, and if you are in any doubt about whether your tyres are safe, make sure you book an appointment to get them looked at by a specialist. By being proactive when it comes to this aspect of car care, you stand to be a safer driver - and you’ll also ensure you don’t accidentally break the law or invalidate your insurance, so it’s well worth making the effort.

If you’re concerned about the condition of your tyres, you can call into your local Tyre City centre and one of our team will check them for you at no cost. We’ll give you a full report and, if you need any replacements, we’ll provide a quote.