How To Check Tyre Tread Depth

How to check tyre tread depth blog title

Car tyres are subject to tough wear and tear as the tyre’s tread is the only part of the vehicle which comes into contact with the road, providing grip and stability, as well as withstanding extreme temperatures, resisting abrasion and heavy impact.

The groove is the sunken part of the tyre’s tread and is fundamental in determining the tyre’s quality. There are various types of tread with different groove patterns as tyres are manufactured specifically for different qualities.

Tyre quality plays a large role in the overall handling of the vehicle such as braking and steering. This is especially true during wet conditions where the tyre tread grooves help to disperse water from the contact patch and the road surface. Insufficient tread depth will prevent the tyres from clearing water properly from the road – this in a worst-case scenario may result in aquaplaning, where the tyres lose contact with the road completely and the driver is unable to control the vehicle.

aquaplaning car

Legal Tyre Tread Depth

1.6mm is the legal minimum for tyre tread depth across the central ¾ breadth of the tyre, in both the UK and Europe.

New tyres have a tread depth of 8mm, however once tyre wear reaches below 3mm, stopping distance increases rapidly. The majority of tyre manufacturers and garages will recommend changing tyres once they reach 3mm for safety purposes.

How to Check Tyre Tread Depth

Tyres wear at different speeds, the front two typically need changing more frequently as they bear the weight of the engine. Tyres should be checked regularly, this is especially important for those travelling long distances on motorways.

driving on a wet motorway

Depth Measuring Gauge

Inexpensive digital tread depth gauges are available from various retailers, allowing drivers to check car tread depth quickly and accurately.

The 20p Test

Many drivers are happy using the coin method – a 20p coin is inserted into the groove on the tyre tread, if you can’t see the outer band of the 20pcoin, then your tyres are still legal. However, if you can see the band, the tyres should be changed immediately.

The Consequences of Illegal Tyres

The UK is renowned across the world for its cold and wet weather conditions – poor driving conditions are responsible for countless accidents each year, making sufficient tyre tread depth all the more important.

The penalties for driving with worn tyres are severe – for each tyre worn past the 1.6mm minimum, comes with it the risk of a £2,500 fine and 3 penalty points. Driving with all 4 tyres worn, may result in a revoked driving license and a £10,000 fine.

Insurance companies may not pay out in the case of accident if the tyres are found to be worn over the legal limit.

If in doubt, visit your local garage and ask a professional to check your tyres.