Keeping you up to speed
Your tyres are perhaps the most important part of your car, as they are the only point of contact between you and the road. Worn or under-inflated tyres are not only dangerous, they could also be illegal, leaving you liable for a fine of up to £2,500 per tyre.
So how should you check and maintain your tyres, and what are the legal limits for tyre safety?
You should check your tyres once a month, or at any time that you think that there might be a problem, such as a tyre looking low or if you notice a difference in the way your car handles.
You should find your recommended tyre pressures either on a label on the driver’s door frame or inside the fuel filler cap. If you can’t find it, consult your owner’s manual or check online.
Tyres should always be checked when they are cold – that is when the car hasn’t been driven for around two hours, or has only gone the short distance to your local garage. Do not use the tyre pressure listed on the tyre itself, as this is the maximum that the tyre can take, not the recommended pressure for normal use.
Under-inflated tyres will not only affect your handling, but they will also reduce your fuel economy, as there is more drag on the road. Low-pressure tyres will also wear out quicker and more unevenly, costing you more in replacements.
As well as checking the pressure, you should also check the tread of your tyres regularly. Tyres will all wear out over time, but there are some problems that can cause uneven wear, such as:
You should check the tread all the way around your tyres, especially in the middle three quarter section that is in contact with the road. Some tyres have a wear indicator at the minimum depth, or you can buy tread depth gauges to check your tread.
You must have a minimum of 1.6mm of tread in a continuous band around the middle three quarters of each tyre for it to be legal on UK roads. If your tyres are worn beyond this, your car will fail its MOT test and you risk prosecution. Not only is the owner of the car liable, but also the driver at the time the vehicle was stopped and found to be at fault.
In most cases, you will receive a fixed penalty notice, but the police have the option of referring you to the courts for prosecution. In this case the maximum fine is £2,500 and three penalty points on your licence. However, this is not per vehicle, but per tyre, so you could face a fine of £10,000 and disqualification if all your tyres are badly worn.