Tyre health is important all year round, however the cold and wintery weather can make driving even more difficult and make our vehicles tyres work even harder to keep us safe on the road.
Therefore, having tyres with a healthy amount of tread and fall within the legal requirements is paramount for us and other road users. Not doing so could land drivers with a potentially huge fine and even a driving ban.
John Wilmot, CEO and founder of lease comparison site LeaseLoco, shares his expert advice on vehicle tyres and warns drivers of the penalties of driving with bald or damaged tyres as we head into the cold, winter months.
What impact does wet and wintry weather have on your tyres?
Driving in the wet and wintry weather can have an impact on your vehicle’s tyres in a number of ways. Colder temperatures make the rubber compound harder compared to warmer summer months, meaning that drivers can experience reduced grip and stopping time.
Excess water on the roads from a sudden downpour can also increase the risk of aquaplaning and even hydroplaning, resulting in a sudden loss of traction and the inability to to brake or steer your vehicle.
Treating icy roads with salt and grit is a common sight in the colder months, but it can have an effect on your tyre tread. The grit scattered on our roads can erode the tread of your vehicle’s tyres, making them more likely to wear out prematurely. The salt and grit can also damage the tyres, in some cases causing cracks and splits.
Why are bald and damaged tyres dangerous?
Driving with bald or damaged tyres is not only dangerous for yourself and other road users, it’s also illegal. Tyres that are bald or have tread lower than the legal requirement means your vehicle will have less grip on the road, making it more difficult to brake and accelerate safely, especially in wet or icy conditions during the winter months. It can also increase the risk of getting into an accident, skidding or aquaplaning during poor weather conditions.
Damaged tyres should also be a major concern to drivers, as they can increase the risk of bursting whilst on the move and causing a loss of control of the vehicle. Examples of damaged tyres to look out for include punctures, cracks or bulges in the tyre wall and uneven wear on the tread.
What is the legal requirement for tyre tread in the UK?
The legal minimum tread depth for tyres in the UK is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tread, around the entire circumference of the tyre. This is the minimum requirement for all cars, motorcycles and light goods vehicles. Motoring organisations such as MIRA do recommend you replace your tyres once they dip below 3mm, often the point where stopping distances increase and grip starts to reduce.
What fines are given to motorists with illegal tyres?
There are hefty fines for motorists who are caught driving with tyres that are below the legal requirement. If you’re caught by the police with tyres below 1.6mm minimum tread depth, the maximum fine can be up £2,500 and three points on your driving licence, per tyre. That means if you’re driving around on four illegal tyres, you could be fined a whopping £10,000 and receive 12 penalty points, resulting in an instant driving ban for at least six months.
How can I check the tread on my tyres?
You can check your tread depth yourself by using a tyre tread gauge that is really easy to use and can be found in your local motoring retailers or online. Many are digital and will provide you with an accurate measurement.
Another quick way of checking the tread on your tyres is the 20 pence piece test. To do the test, simply place a 20p coin into the main tread grooves of your tyre.
If the outer band of the coin is obscured when it is inserted, then your tread is above the legal limit. If the outer band of the coin is visible, then your tyres may be illegal and unsafe and should be checked immediately by a qualified tyre professional. The 20 pence piece test should be only seen as a rough guide and recommended that tyres are checked by a professional or a tyre tread gauge to get a definitive answer on whether they are safe to use.