UK Tyre Law* & the Importance of Checking Tyres Regularly
Over time, many drivers may forget how important the tyres on the car are. Having good tyre tread will help you to stop quickly within an emergency situation. If you are stopped by the Police, the likelihood is that your tyres will be inspected. Being caught with defective or illegal tyres may result in a fine of up to £2,500 and 3 penalty points per tyre found to be illegal or defective. Many drivers do not even know they are breaking the law until it’s too late. It is therefore important to check your tyres regularly both for tyre tread depth and for any cuts or bulges. A bald or low treaded tyre will impact negatively on stopping distances especially in wet conditions and bulges and cuts in the tyres may result in tyre failure. It’s not just about breaking the law but more importantly, safety.
UK tyre law and the importance of checking tyres regularly require compliance with a variety of different regulations. Requirements range from what the manufacturers are responsible for such as sidewall markings etc to responsibilities on the motorist to maintain upkeep and to ensure they have the correct tyres fitted on their vehicle.
It is recommended that drivers check tyres on a weekly basis for tyre depth; tread condition, inflation, pressure, tread and sidewall damage, and any signs of erroneous wear and tear. It is also considered illegal if a vehicle is operated outside the service description indicated on the tyre sidewall. For example, a tyre with a low speed rating is fitted to a car requiring a higher speed tyre or incorrect weight capacity tyres are fitted. Both can result in prosecution.
Tread depth for cars and light trailers (up to 3500kg gross weight or 8 seated passenger vehicles (including driver)) are to maintain a minimum tread depth of 1.6 mm over the central ¾ width of the tyre tread around the complete circumference of the tyre. However to be safe it is recommended that you maintain a higher tread depth, as the lower the tread depth becomes, stopping distances increase especially in wet conditions. Motoring organisations recommend changing tyres at 2mm and many vehicle manufacturers recommend changing tyres at 3mm of tread depth. During the winter months, it is recommended to maintain a minimum of 3mm tread as stopping distances are ten times longer in snow and ice conditions.
It is also a requirement to ensure that your tyres are free of any cuts or bulges. Cuts in excess of 25mm or 10% of the section width of a tyre (whichever is greater) are illegal. Cuts, no matter how small, which expose the ply cord automatically makes the tyre illegal to use. Inspect the tyre away from the rim internally and externally whenever possible for lumps, bulges, or tears.
Tyres marked “Temporary use only” are restricted to 50mph.
*Information correct as at Feb 2017