Tyre law in the UK is fairly straight forward with only a few rules to follow. While being simple it’s also extremely important to ensure you are within the law – not just to avoid hefty fines or MOT failures but to keep yourself and other road users safe.
Tyres are the only part of your vehicle that remain in contact with the road, so it is vital that they are maintained. The law in the UK helps to provide detail for what to look for when maintaining a tyre and staying safe on the roads.
The specific requirements to meet legal tyre standards in the UK are; minimum tread depth, fit for purpose, free from defects and correct tyre pressure.
What is the minimum legal tread depth?
In the UK, the minimum tread depth for cars, trailers and goods vehicles weighing less than 3,500kg is 1.6mm across the centre 75% of the tread and around the entire circumference of the tyre.
To check your tread depth you can use a specific tread depth gauge, look at the tread wear indicator on the tyre its self or another quick check is the ’20p Test’ – to find out more about checking your tread depth and what the 20p test is, read our ‘How to Check Your Tread Depth’ article.
What makes a tyre fit for purpose and free from defects?
For a tyre to be considered ‘fit for purpose’ it must not have any of the following:
- Any lumps or bulges (potentially caused by structural damage).
- A cut or tear larger than 25mm or 10% of the width of the tyre and which is deep enough to reach the ply or cord.
- Any part of the ply or cord exposed.
To ensure your tyre is free from defects and considered fit for purpose, it’s important to visually inspect your tyres regularly. This can take less than one minute per tyre to do and could save you from a nasty accident.
What is the correct tyre pressure?
Tyre pressure varies between vehicles and tyres – to ensure your tyre pressures are correct it is recommended to check them at least once a month and before long journeys. To find the correct tyre pressure for your vehicle you can look in the vehicle owner’s manual or it is often found on a sticker attached to the vehicle either in the driver’s door check or on the back of the petrol flap.
Incorrect tyre pressure can result in increased braking distances and less grip, as well as having a negative impact on tyre wear and fuel consumption. To check your tyre pressure you can use a personal pressure gauge or tyre inflator, however most fuel stations have coin operated inflators that are very simple to use.
What happens if my tyres aren’t legal?
Other than increased risk of an accident and endangering yourself and other road users, if you are caught with an illegal tyre you could face prosecution for driving a vehicle in dangerous condition. One illegal tyre could land you with a fine of up to £2,500 and 3 points on your licence – if all 4 tyres are outside the legal requirements you could face a £10,000 fine and 12 points! If you are involved in an accident and your tyres do not meet the legal requirements, your insurance may also be invalidated as a result.
To learn more about maintaining your tyres and their health, take a look at our article on ‘Checking Tyre Health’ for tips on how to ensure your tyres are safe and meet the legal requirements.