Do you find tyres baffling? Not sure what you need to look for? What legal requirements surround them? Or even, how to buy a new set?

This quick and easy guide has been put together to help you make sense of tyre regulations and explain what you should be looking out for when maintaining your tyres.

Legal Requirements

First, let’s have a quick overview of the legal requirements which must be adhered to for anyone with a vehicle – in relation to their tyres.

Tyre regulations help to ensure that we all stay safe on the roads.

As such, you will also need to ensure that:

  • the depth of tread on a tyre is a minimum of 1.6mm across 75% of the tread – around the entire circumference of the tyre.
  • they are inflated to the correct air pressure – as set out by your vehicle’s manual.
  • the tyres do not have any bulges, lumps or tears on its surface

Should you fail to abide by these requirements you could face a £2,500 fine and three points on your licence for each tyre.

There is the added risk that, should you be involved in a car accident, your insurance policy would be invalidated – if your tyres are illegal.

Safety Checks & Maintenance

Worn tyres significantly impede the performance of your car – low tread depths reduce the effectiveness of braking, steering, and acceleration, all of which are vital in staying safe.

What to Check?

There are five main points that you should check:

  1. The overall condition of your tyres
  2. Each tyre’s tread depth
  3. Each tyre’s air pressure
  4. Any signs of irregular wear
  5. The spare tyre (if you have one)

Tyre Pressures

An important thing to remember is that a tyre may not look flat when it is underinflated.

Always air (pun intended) on the side of caution and check the pressure at least once a fortnight with a pressure gauge.

The correct tyre pressure for your vehicle can be found in the Vehicle Manual.

Testing Pressure

The best time to test a tyre’s pressure is when they are cold – this is due to the fact that warm rubber expands.

If you have driven for more than 5-10 minutes before testing your tyres, the reading you will get when testing the pressure will be affected.

If a tyre has the wrong air pressure then the rate and location of tyre wear will be affected.

Overinflated tyres will wear quicker in the centre of the tread, whereas under-inflated tyres will wear quicker on the edge of the tread.

By not having even wear across the whole surface of your tyre, the handling, braking and overall performance of the tyre will become unstable.

Tread Depth

The legal limit for tyre tread is 1.6mm. The best way to check the tread depth is with a tyre tread gauge.

However, if you are worried that your tyres have reached the 1.6mm level, there is a simple test you can perform.

Take a 20p and place it in-between the main grooves of the tyre. If the outer band of the coin is visible, the tyre may have insufficient tread depth.

Choosing new tyres

Buying new tyres needn’t be stressful or confusing.

Granted, if you have never done this before then it can seem slightly daunting, however, it is a fairly straight forward and simple process.

Do Your Research

Research which tyres you are going to buy can be as easy, to be with, as going out to the car and checking what is currently fitted – this information will be found on the side of the tyre along with the tyre size.

If you are happy with the tyres and wish to buy the same set again, there is nothing at this stage from stopping you do just that.

However, if you are interested in improving your drive – be it with tyres that offer more comfort, less noise, better braking or offer more fuel economy – a good idea is to either speak with a professional or go online.

Luckily, there are plenty of online resources to aid you in your tyre research and, of course, the staff at Blackcircles.com are always happy to help you with any questions you may have.

When doing an online search, you will find that there is a host of tyre information at your fingertips. One important characteristic to look at is the tread pattern.

The tread pattern of a tyre plays a vital role in the performance of a tyre and vast sums of money are spent by tyre manufacturers in researching and designing new tread designs.

The Different Tread Patterns

Symmetrical – the names a bit of a giveaway as to what you can expect, appearance-wise. They have a consistent pattern on either side of the tyre. Generally, they are designed with small to medium-sized cars in mind.

Asymmetrical – this design has gained in popularity over the past decade. This has been due to the fact that a large proportion of modern cars have been designed with asymmetric tyres in mind. The tread pattern is particularly useful for improved cornering and handling.

Directional – this type of tread pattern more often than not features a prominent V-shape tread pattern. The purpose behind this is to effectively slice through water as well as enhancing a car’s acceleration and braking.

Consider Your Driving Style

The tyre market today has more choice than it has ever had. Each category of tyre having been developed to offer solutions to different cars, weather conditions and circumstances.

When buying a new set of tyre, there are some important questions you will need to ask yourself.

These include:

  • What is your driving style?
  • What type of roads do you drive on?
  • Where in the country do you live?

Let’s say, for example, you live in a part of the country which is hit by a lot of rain – looking into tyres which have been designed to reduce the risk of aquaplaning would be a sensible place to start.

Or, if you are going to spend a lot of time on motorways, then tyres which have been designed to reduce the amount of rolling resistance would be of interest to you.

The EU tyre label on a tyre, which can be seen at the point of purchase, or on a retail website such as Blackcircles.com, can give you a quick look at the specific strengths of a tyre.

What is EU Tyre Labelling?

In November 2012, the EU introduced a new tyre labelling regulation – their main aim being to significantly enhance the safety, environmental and economic efficiency of road transport.

These standardised labels give motorists a quick glace at the tyre’s performance ability in specific areas.

What the Label Tells Motorists

There are 3 main criteria that all tyres are now ranked and labelled on in the EU – Fuel Efficiency, Wet Grip and Noise Levels.

Fuel Efficiency

A vehicle’s fuel consumption is directly affected by the rolling resistance of a tyre.

The goal, when trying to reduce the amount of fuel a car uses is to have low rolling resistance.

If less resistance is produced by a tyre when in motion, then the engine will not have to work as hard to propel the car. This, in turn, helps to drop fuel consumption and therefore CO2 emissions.

Wet Grip

The wet grip label provides you with information on its grip on roads that are wet.

The better a tyres grip on wet surfaces, the less braking distance on wet roads – very important in regards to safety for those who are driving in the rain.

Noise Levels

On the label, a tyre’s noise levels are expressed in decibels, the rating is conveyed by one, two or three sound waves.

One wave indicates that it has the best noise level performance – and showing the motorist that the noise level is at least 3dB below the future legal limit.

More To a Tyre

Despite the tyre labelling being a good principle, it shouldn’t be the only thing that you base a purchase on.

On average a magazine performing a tyre test will look at around 15 criteria – and a tyre manufacturer will test around 50 when developing a tyre.

So, although the tyre label is a beneficial tool and a good starting point, we encourage you to look further than the tyre label.

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