Spring is finally here, and for many of us, it’s time to get back out on the road. Whether you’re travelling to see friends and family, seeing the countryside or getting out your classic car, it’s vital that you make sure your tyres are in good shape – and road legal.
Tyre care matters
Your tyres are the only part of the vehicle that has contact with the road – so keeping them well maintained is essential. It will make vehicle handling easier, and allow for greater fuel efficiency, as well as cutting down wear and tear – saving you money at the pumps and in maintenance costs. Poorly-maintained tyres could also mean a failed MOT – according to the DVSA, around 10% of all MOT failures are down to poor tyre maintenance.
As well as all this, there are regulations for tyres that you must meet – failure to meet these requirements could lead to a fine or penalty points.
These are the legal requirements for tyre treads – if your tyres don’t meet these measurements, they are not road legal and need to be replaced.
- Passenger vehicles for up to 8 seated passengers, good vehicles up to 3,500kg max weight and light trailers up to 3,500kg max weight must have 1.6mm throughout a continuous band in the central section of the tread around the entire tyre.
- Vehicles larger than 3,500kg or eight seated passengers and motorbikes over 50cc must have 1mm throughout a continuous band in the central section of the tread around the entire tyre.
- On mopeds and motorbikes under 50cc, the tread pattern must be visible.
Why is it important? The tyre tread grooves are important for driving in wet weather – something we’re all too familiar with in Britain. The grooves help remove water from the contact area between the tyre and road, allowing you to brake, steer and accelerate properly. Whilst meeting the legal minimum tread depths will stop you from getting in trouble with the law, tests show that when the tread drops below 3mm, it significantly affects the stopping distance when braking.
How to check: a tyre tread gauge is a simple piece of kit, small enough to keep in the glovebox. You can get standalone depth gauges or ones that are integrated with a pressure gauge as well. The RTG2 Tyre and Depth Gauge is a standard set, with analogue kit. Or for an integrated option, look at the RTG7 Programmable Digital Tyre and Tread Depth Gauge. Just insert the gauge into the tread to take a reading. You need to check the tyre tread regularly.
There aren’t any legal requirements for tyre pressure, but this doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Well-inflated tyres will help improve fuel efficiency and make handling easier. Don’t forget – it’s not just under inflated tyres that are dangerous: over-inflated tyres have less contact with the road, which can reduce traction and increase braking distance.
What is my tyre pressure? You can find out what your tyre pressure should be from your vehicle handbook.
How can I check my pressure? The most accurate way to check your tyre pressure is to use a tyre gauge. There are several types – including analogue and digital gauges. Simply insert the gauge into the tyre valve and you’ll have a reading. A simple analogue gauge – like the RTG1 Tyre Gauge – is a good value option to get a reading. However, for a more advanced solution, the RTG7 is a digital gauge that measures tyre pressure and tread depth, and is programmable – so it will store the recommended tyre pressures for your car for future reference.
How can I inflate my tyres at home? We recommend using a tyre inflator to pump up your tyres. These are small, efficient devices that are powered from your in-car 12V socket (cigarette lighter), a mains plug or, in the case of larger models, from the vehicle battery. For regular car tyres, we recommend the Ring RAC610 or RAC660. The RAC610 is a basic inflator with an analogue dial. For a more advanced piece of kit, the RAC660 is a good choice – it inflates a 13″ tyre in under 2 mins with either DC or AC power, has a digital screen, adaptors for bikes, LED light, preset function and case.
Other tyre essentials
If you see anything that looks irregular on your tyre, like lumps, bumps, cuts, tears or anything that looks like it shouldn’t – it’s time to get your tyres looked at. It is also illegal to have different types of tyres fitted to the same axle – don’t mix and match radial and cross-ply tyres. A garage will be able to advise on this.
Most people wait until they’ve failed their MOT before addressing the health of their tyres. To make sure you’re being safe, don’t wait: have a look at your tyres today.