Checking your tyre tread: How a spare 20p could save your life

by chris sanders on 2nd September 2014

When it comes to car safety, checking your tyre tread should be high on your list of priorities – especially as the wet and icy weather draws closer. As it’s currently Tyre Safety Month, we thought we’d take the opportunity to explain how you can check your tyres properly.

There are a surprising number of people driving around on our roads with illegal tyres without even realising. EU Law states that the legal tyre limit is 1.6mm and if you are found to be driving with illegal tyres you run the risk of a fine and penalty points. Your tyres will always be checked as part of your annual MOT and service however it is your responsibility to check them throughout the rest of the year.

We know it’s one of those tasks that you sometimes forget or vow “to do tomorrow”, however, aside from breaking the law, if your tyre tread isn’t deep enough vehicle stopping distance is dramatically increased. Your tyre will also have less contact with the road and your vehicle is at an increased risk of skidding and aquaplaning in wet weather.

Whilst the legal limit is 1.6mm, many tests have been carried out to test how safe tyres are at this tread depth. As explained in one of our previous blog posts, breaking performance is surprisingly poor when a tyre has a tread depth at the legal limit. As a result of these findings, many tyre safety campaigners recommend that the legal limit be raised to 3mm to reduce the number of accidents on our roads.

So how can you quickly check you are within the law and have safe tyres? Tyre Safe, one of the UK’s leading tyre safety organisations, recommends that you take the 20p test. The test is simple. Insert a 20p coin into the lowest tread depth of your tyres. If you can’t see the outer rim around the edge of the coin, then your tyre is safe and has a minimum of 3mm tread depth. If you CAN see the rim then your tyre tread is less than 3mm and should be checked by a professional.

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It’s important to remember that your tread depth won’t necessarily be the same all the way around your tyre, so be sure to check it in several different places. You should aim to check your tyres every two weeks – especially if you use your vehicle on a daily basis. It’s also a good idea to check your tyre pressure every two weeks too, that way, you know you will be prepared for any bad weather that comes our way!

If you are concerned about driving during wintry conditions, completing these tests is a good start in making sure your vehicle is safe. If you want to be extra sure you will be safe whilst driving this winter, you could invest in winter tyres that are specially designed to cope with snow and icy conditions.

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