Does your vehicle have depth? Tyre tread depth, that is. A survey recently discovered that almost 70% of drivers don’t know what the legal minimum tyre tread depth is. Almost a third of those surveyed said that they didn’t bother to check their tyre tread depth, but tyre issues account for almost 40% of fatal and serious injuries caused in vehicle accidents.
For those who don’t know, the UK minimum for tyre tread depth is 1.6mm, in a continuous band across the central three quarters of the tyre and its entire outer circumference. To help you measure it, most car manufacturers supply a gauge you can use to check. If you don’t have one of those handy, then use a 20p coin. Place the coin in the grooves of your tyre and if the outer band of the 20p cannot be seen, then your tyre tread depth is above the legal limit. If it can, then you’ll need to change your tyre.
Some manufacturers also include a Tyre Wear Indicator (TWI) in modern-day tyres. These do what they say on the tin, they indicate when your tyre is getting worn. You should still use a gauge or 20p coin to make absolutely sure your depth is above 1.6mm.
So why is tyre tread depth so important? Your tyre treads help your tyre grip the road. Without the correct depth, your tyres cannot grip as effectively, and you risk losing control of your vehicle. This is increased substantially in wet weather, so if you’re driving in a downpour with worn out tyres, you’re running a significant risk of skidding and having an accident.
Conversely, most vehicles have 8mm of tread depth when first bought, so your tyres are likely to have seen a lot of road by the time they reach a depth of 1.6mm. That said, most vehicle manufacturers recommend you replace your tyre before the minimum depth is met – ideally when you’ve got around 3mm left.
If an accident isn’t enough to grab your attention, then a potential £2,500 fine and 3 penalty points per tyre, for having illegal tread depths should. You also risk invalidating your insurance if your tread depths are found to be below 1.6mm.
Testing your tyre tread depth isn’t a difficult or time consuming task. You should check your tread depth regularly, depending on your tyre type (whether it’s made from harder, more durable compounds or not), driving style and frequency (more aggressive driving leads to worn out tyres) and the time of year (in winter, checks need to be done more often). As you get close to 3mm, you should begin checking weekly and consider replacing your tyres.
Only a few minutes spent putting a gauge or 20p to your tyres regularly can save you a lot of time and money in the long run. It could even save you from a fatal or serious accident. So get into the habit now and it’ll pay off in the long run.