How to check if your tyres are legal

How to check if your tyres are legal

What is the legal tyre tread depth?

Making sure your tyres are road legal is not only a requirement by law, but also increases your safety as well as the safety of other road users.

The minimum legal limit for tyres in terms of tread depth is 1.6mm – below that, your tyres are not road legal and need to be replaced. You should be checking tyre tread depth regularly before they reduce down to anywhere near the minimum.

Understanding the legal tyre tread in the UK is crucial – your vehicle’s tyres need to function properly to maintain proper grip on the road surface and slow you down when braking.

Tyre tread can vary from vehicle to vehicle depending on the type of tyres fitted but, as a general guide, a new tyre will have a tread depth of between 8 and 9mm.

This tread will then wear down over time and, again, will wear at different rates depending on your driving style, how regularly you drive and the road conditions upon which you are driving. 

What is the legal tyre tread depth? Image 1
What is the legal tyre tread depth? Image 2

What is the Expert Recommended Minimum Tyre Tread Depth?

Despite the legal minimum tyre tread depth being 1.6mm, most experts recommend that a tyre be changed once its tread depth goes below 3mm. Tests have shown that the difference in stopping distance required before coming to a complete halt is significant – especially in wet weather conditions – between a tread with 3mm in depth and one with 1.6mm in depth.

In the wet, this difference can be as much as 44%, largely because a tyre’s tread helps with the dispersal of water when on the road. With less tread, the chances of aquaplaning – losing control of the vehicle as tyres struggle to achieve sufficient grip – increase as less water can be shifted. As such, experts recommend not going below the 3mm mark so as to always maintain a healthy stopping distance and ability to grip the road, even in wet conditions.

How to Check Your Car Tyre Tread

Are my tyres legal? It’s a common question and it’s really important that you know the answer. There are various types of tyre tread gauges on the market that will tell you the exact depth of your tread, with digital and analogue ones both available with varying degrees of precision. 

The majority of these will be very simple to use and just need to be inserted into the tread grooves across the central ¾ of the tyre before giving a reading.

How to Check Car Tyre Tread Depth - The 20p Test

How to Check Car Tyre Tread Depth - The 20p Test

If you don’t have a tyre tread gauge, you can still see if your tyres meet tyre tread legal requirements by simply using a 20 pence piece. 

As the outer edge of a 20p coin is about 2mm, when it’s inserted into the tread grooves across the central ¾ of the tyre, you can instantly see if the outer edge is visible or not.

If any of the outer edge is visible, you need to replace that tyre immediately as it’s very likely to be below the required 1.6mm and therefore below the legal tyre tread in the UK. If you can’t see the edge, this means the tread is legal but it may still be below the 3mm depth recommended by safety experts.

Dick Lovett provides expert care and servicing and will be able to help you with replacing your tyres when needed.

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