The tread is the grooved outer layer of your tyre that is in direct contact with the road. The rubber compound is designed to grip the road, resist general wear and tear and cope with high temperatures generated by friction. Sufficient tread is vital to keep you safe in all conditions. New tyres come with at least 7mm of tread. The legal tread limit is 1.6mm - anything below can incur a fine of up to £2,500 and 3 points for each illegal tyre. Recent research is calling for the legal limit to be raised to 3mm. In an emergency, the risks are many times greater if tread depth is close to the legal limit. Braking distances are significantly increased as a tyre becomes more worn. The level of tread becomes imperative in the wet, where worn tyres contribute to 1 in 10 accidents in wet conditions*. Because it is the only part of the vehicle that grips the road, the depth of tread on your tyres is a very important for the safety of your vehicle. It also signals the health of the tyre. Driving with low tread depth increases the potential for tyre failure and aquaplaning. Low tread depth in winter weather conditions can severely reduce grip and control. Motorists driving with tyres under the legal limit also risk a fine.
Check your tyre tread
However you check your tyre tread depths, if they are approaching the legal limit or if you have any doubts, get them checked professionally by a tyre specialist.
The first step in checking tyre tread depth is to get good access to your tyres.
- Park on a wide, flat and even surface in a safe place off the public highway with the engine switched off and put the keys in your pocket.
- Put on the handbrake (parking brake) and engage first gear (for manual gearboxes) or park (for automatics).
- Once you have clear and safe access to the tyres you can begin the inspection.
With the tyre tread you can begin to check the depth of the tread and the condition of tyre. Don't rely on guesswork: purchase an easy-to-use tread depth gauge so that you can monitor your tyres. Measuring tread depth is not difficult with this simple device and requires only a few minutes of time. The legal minimum tread depth in Europe is 1.6 mm across the central three-quarters of the tread width and round its entire circumference. Check the depth of the main tread grooves in several places across and around the tyre, using the gauge as instructed by its manufacturer.