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Tyre tread - What is it and why is it so important to the safety of your vehicle?



The tyres on your vehicle are an essential safety feature for your vehicle. If you think about it, the tyres are the connection between your vehicle and the road you are driving on. If that relationship breaks down, then you can be in real trouble. 


It is therefore vital that you maintain and monitor the condition of your tyres, although modern cars can help you with this also. tyre tread guide to safety


There are many well-known tyre manufacturers in the market today. These may include Pirelli, Michelin, Continental, Goodyear, Hankook and Bridgestone.


They all may produce quality tyres but with different tread patterns. However, the tread on each and every one of the tyres produced is key to the safety of the vehicle they are fitted to.


Here we provide you with a guide to one key aspect of tyre safety, tread depth. We explain why the depth on your tread is important, how you can monitor it and how to avoid excessive wear that can compromise the safety of your vehicle.

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Tyre tread - what is it?

The tread depth of your tyre is the difference between the upper surface of the tyre (the area in contact with the road) and the bottom of the groves on your tyre.

The tread on your tyre is what keeps your wheels in contact with the road. Different tyre manufacturers will use different tread patterns and designs, but they are all intended to do the same thing.

When a tyre is new, you will have approximately 8mm of tread depth on the tyre. The more you use the tyres, the more the tread will wear, and the tyre tread is less. The lower the depth on the tyre, the greater chance of skidding and the longer it takes to stop when braking.

Tyre tread - what is it?

Tyre tread - the legal limits

The legal limit for your tread depth on a tyre is 1.6mm over the middle part of the tyre, and around the entire circumference of the tyre in the UK.

If you drive on a tyre that is below the 16mm, then you risk a fine of £2,500 and 3 points on your license. If all four tyres are ‘bald’, then that is a £10,000 fine, and you are at risk of losing your license entirely.

Although the legal limit is 1.6mm, many tyre experts and safety organisations state that you should be looking to change your tyres well before you get anywhere near only 1.6mm left. Research undertaken at MIRA shows that a tyre with 3mm tread depth is 25% more efficient than tyres at 1.6mm. That means around 8m more in stopping distance for the lower tread tyre.

What causes uneven tyre wear?

There are several reasons that a tyre may wear either unevenly, or more quickly than you would expect. These include:

  • Driving with incorrect tyre pressure - either the tyre pressure is too low, or too high. Either way, this can cause uneven wear on the tyre tread.

  • Driving when your vehicle is overloaded - a heavy vehicle may need an adjustment in tyre pressures to cope with the strain. In extreme circumstances, driving when overloaded can see the tyres get too hot. This can impact the efficiency of the tyre and make an accident more likely.

  • Driving aggressively - this can lead to rapid acceleration and sharp braking, which, in turn, can lead to damage to your tyres and excessive wear. Alignment: Misaligned wheels will wear unevenly.
  • What causes uneven tyre wear?

    How to check your tyre tread depth

    Tyres are made with tread wear indicators (TWI’s) at the legal limit of 1.6mm. These are found in the grooved out areas of the tyre. They will often be found in adjacent areas on the ringed grooves so that you can check the tread depth across the whole tyre.

    Tyre tread indicators Of course, this only allows you to check one cross-sectional area of the tyre. There are other ways you can check tread depth also.

    Tyre depth gauge - these are readily available at the likes of Amazon and eBay. As simple as they sound, they measure the depth of the tread at any given point on the tyre.

    You simply push the gauge into the tread and the remaining depth is measured on the side. It really could not be simpler to use.

    The 20p test - an even more cost-effective method of measuring your tread depth is to place a 20p coin in the grooved out areas of the tyre. If you can see any part of the outer band on the coin face, then your tread depth is probably too low. how to measure tyre tread

    How to protect the costs of your tyres against accidental damage

    Now we have seen the importance of maintaining your tyres, what can you do about protecting the costs of replacing them if you had to? Unfortunately 'wear and tear' is an everyday aspect of vehicle ownership. If your tyres wear out then you will have to change them.

    What happens if you damage the tyres unexpectedly? This can happen if you pick up a nail in the tyre tread, for example.

    Easy Gap is able to offer Tyre Insurance to cover the costs of replacing or repairing your tyres if they are accidentally or maliciously damaged. We are also able to incorporate Alloy Wheel Insurance with our Tyre and Alloy Wheel Insurance if you wanted to also cover the costs of cosmetic repairs to your alloys.

    These products do not cover you if the tyres simply wear out. They are not a maintenance package, as such. However, covering unexpected costs can be handy, especially where tyres are so crucial to the safety of your vehicle.
    How to protect the costs of your tyres against accidental damage