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A tyre will start its life with approximately 8mm of tread, however, over time this will wear down. Tyre tread enables your tyres to maintain contact with the road and this grip increases road holding and driver control.
Adequate tread depth is crucial when it comes to driving in wet conditions as your tyre tread works to clear water away from the tyre and this enables you to retain contact with the surface of the road.
If you have insufficient tread depth, you risk losing contact with the road in wet conditions and this can lead to aquaplaning (when your tyres lose contact and travel on top of the surface of the water). When this happens, you lose control of your vehicle and you will be unable to accelerate, brake or steer effectively.
Tread Depth Limits
Tread depth wears gradually and at different rates, as it is dependent upon how far and frequently you drive, your driving style and the materials used in the construction of your tyre. This means that there is no set expiry date on tyre tread and you must check it at least once a month to ensure that your tyres are safe and legal.
The minimum legal tread depth limit for cars is 1.6mm across the central ¾ of the tyre. If you are found driving on tyres that have tread lower than the legal minimum you can risk receiving up to 3 penalty points on your driving licence and a fine of £2,500 per illegal tyre.
Although the legal minimum is 1.6mm, most tyre manufacturers would recommend replacing your tyres once the tread falls below 3mm. This is because at 3mm the tyre’s gripping and handling capabilities are drastically reduced, braking distances increase and your resistance against aquaplaning is significantly weakened.
In addition, tyre tread does not always wear evenly. This means that the outside edge, inside edge or shoulder will noticeably show more wear than anywhere else on the tyre. This usually indicates that your wheels have become misaligned – if you do notice this, make an appointment to have your wheel alignment checked.
How to Check your Tread Depth
Simply place a 20 pence piece, on one of its flat edges, in to the tread grooves across three different areas on your tyre. If any part of the outer band of the coin inside the groove is visible above the tread then your tyres are illegal and must be replaced immediately.
Alternatively, you can purchase a tyre tread depth gauge to help you check your tyres. Some manufacturers provide tread wear indicators which you will only begin to see when your tyres need to be replaced.
This helpful video from TyreSafe shows you how you can accurately check your tyre tread depth here:
Tread Depth Survey Results
Take a look at this infographic which explains the results of the TyreSafe Tread Depth survey.