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Tyre safety month: How to keep your tyres in order

As the main contact patch between car and road, a tyre is crucial when it comes to safety. Here’s what to look at.

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October marks tyre safety month, highlighting an often overlooked aspect of car maintenance. As the main point of contact between the car and the road, tyres are absolutely crucial when it comes to a vehicle’s overall safety.

Despite this, many people fail to routinely check their corners. According to a recent survey of 2,000 drivers by Halfords, some four million cars could be on the roads illegally with bald tyres, after 13% of 2,000 motorists admitted to driving with tyres which were below the legal tread depth.

The good news is that checking your tyres needn’t be complicated. Here’s what to look at to ensure that you’re safe on the road.

Tread depth

The legal minimum tread depth here in the UK is 1.6 millimetres. Leave your tyres to go below this and not only are you risking your safety, but there’s a chance that if found then you could face a fine – up to £2,500 per tyre – and penalty points on your licence.

With more water on the roads at this time of year, the risk of aquaplaning is higher too.

You can pick up a perfectly decent tyre pressure gauge for only a couple of quid at plenty of retailers or service stations. However, you can also use a 20p piece if you don’t have a gauge.

Insert it into the groove of the tyre and, if the outer band of the coin is obscured, then the tyres are legal. If you can see the groove, however, then it’s time for new tyres.

It’s quite normal for the driven wheels to wear more quickly than the non-driven wheels. For most modern cars, that means that your front tyres will wear down much more quickly than the rear tyres. For rear-wheel-drive vehicles (like most BMW or Mercedes saloons, for example), the rears may wear faster.


Correct tyre pressure is very important for safety, as well as providing your car with the best combination of performance and fuel economy.

You may also need to bump up your tyre pressures if you are going for a long journey with a fully-laden car. Check your owner’s manual and the tyre pressure placard for the correct pressures.

Tyres that are over-inflated can puncture more easily, while tyres that are under-inflated will increase your fuel consumption – which, in turn, means larger fuel bills.

Checking tyre pressures is simple. The correct pressure for your vehicle can be found either in the car’s handbook, in the driver’s door opening or underneath the fuel filler cap. Find it, and ensure that all four tyres match this pressure. You can do this via a home compressor, or by an air supply found at most petrol stations.

General condition

Being completely black and sitting underneath dark wheelarches, it can often be tricky to spot any issues on the walls of the tyre. It’s easy to check, however.

Run your hands over the sidewall of the tyre and feel for any strange lumps or bumps. Do a visual check, too, and keep an eye out for any cuts or bulges.

If your tyres have been fitted for some time, there’s a chance that they could be dry and cracked too. If this is the case, then it’s probably a good idea to swap them out for some fresh rubber.

If you find any issues, it’s always worth changing the tyres.

More tyre advice at The Car Expert

Jack Evans
Jack Evans
Articles by Jack Evans are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.

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  1. Next time you park your car in a supermarket or retail park car park have a look at the tyres on parked cars on the way to the shop(s). I am shocked at the condition of many car tyres, barely visible tread and many tyres obviously under-inflated. It’s not just “old bangers”, some of the worst offenders are newish large SUV’s which is especially worrying given their size and weight, not what you want behind you on a wet road if a sudden reduction in speed is required.

    Are people buying, or more likely taking out PCP’s on these vehicles without realising that the tyre replacement costs will be far higher than those of a normal car and can’t afford to replace them?

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