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M1 motorway is being resurfaced with recycled tyres

Highways England giving the M1 recycled tyre surface

A new road surface that recycles old tyres is being trialled on the M1 motorway by Highways England, as a test of its durability.

Highways England is committed to investing in innovation to help us meet the economic, environmental and efficiency challenges we face in our changing world,” said spokesman Martin Bolt.

It’s estimated that over 500,000 disused tyres are shipped out of the UK each year to landfill sites in the Middle East and Asia. The new asphalt made by Tarmac, which uses granulated pieces of rubber, could make use of 750 waste tyres for every kilometre of road.

Highways England giving the M1 recycled tyre surface

Bolt continued: “This trial could well be the first step to rapidly reducing the number of tyres piling up in the UK and beyond. The economic and environmental potential of this new asphalt is significant and we are delighted to be working with Tarmac in this trial.”

A total of £180,000 is being invested in the research, funded through Highways England’s Innovation Designated Fund.

If the trial is successful, the new material could be deployed throughout the strategic road network and beyond. Old tyres will get a new lease of life across the country, not to mention new value beyond being on a car.

Highways England giving the M1 recycled tyre surface

“Technical innovation has a key role to play in improving the environmental performance of our roads,” said Paul Fleetham, managing director of Tarmac.

“As a previously overlooked waste stream, used tyres offer a significant opportunity to unlock the benefits of a circular economy.

“There has been a very positive response to our rubberised asphalt since the first local authority trial was announced in May and we’re very pleased to be working with Highways England to explore its potential to support the sustainability of the strategic road network.”

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A shocking 7 IN 10 cars are running worn brakes or tyres

MOT advisories on tyres and brakes

New DVSA MOT data collated by Warranty Direct shows seven in 10 cars on the road have brakes or tyres that would warrant an MOT advisory (or indeed a combination of both).

The data was used in combination with claim stats from more than 50,000 Warranty Direct policies between March 2018 and May 2019.

During that time, there were 4.8 million instances of sub-optimal tyres and 4.6 million below-par brakes. Overall, tyres accounted for 35 percent of advisory cautions, while brakes made up 34 percent.

A total of 8.7 million vehicles left an MOT station between March 2018 and May 2019 with advisories on their records. The number of individual advisories topped 15 million, so each of these cars had an average of around two MOT advisories.

What is an MOT advisory?

MOT advisories on tyres and brakes

An advisory is a fault that doesn’t warrant a fail at the time of the test, but should be addressed before the next MOT test. It’s generally considered that an advisory will turn into a minor or a major fault (and thus a fail) during the following 12 months.

Being a millimetre or two above the minimum tread depth on a tyre is one example of an advisory.

“The recent high number of advisory issues are of significant concern and indicate a large proportion of drivers are taking potential, unnecessary risks when it comes to vehicle safety,” said Simon Ackers, CEO of Warranty Direct.

Part-worn tyres

“Ignoring or leaving advisory issues for too long could lead to serious accidents and high repair costs for drivers. We recommend all motorists take the correct safety measures and deal with any advisory issues as soon as possible.”

Brakes and tyres top the list of defective items that cause road accidents in the United Kingdom.

Brakes took the lead in 2017, causing 570 accidents. Inadequate tyres caused 472 accidents during the same period.

Brakes and tyres: how to stay safe

MOT advisories on tyres and brakes

When it comes to tyres, a minimum 3mm of tread is recommended across the width of the tyre. Anything less than 1.6mm is an MOT failure

Also look out for cracking, flat spots and damage to your wheels as other forms of degradation. Keep an eye on your tracking and wheel alignment to maximise the life of your tyre.

MOT advisories on tyres and brakes

As for brakes, pads will be a major fault if they have worn below the wear indicator. If they’re below 1.5mm, the fault is considered dangerous: both are an MOT fail. The RAC recommends your pads should be replaced if the material wears below 3mm.

For discs, significant wear will constitute a major fault. Being insecure or fractured is considered dangerous. The more discs wear down, the more likely they are to crack. 

Will old tyres be banned in 2020?

Proposed ban on old tyres

The government is consulting on plans to ban old tyres for buses, coaches, lorries and minibuses.

A new law banning tyres aged 10 years and older could be introduced this year and come into force in early 2020.

The 10-week consultation asks whether old tyres should be banned on commercial vehicles and seeks opinions on whether the ban should be extended to taxis and private hire vehicles.

Road safety minister Michael Ellis said: “Our priority is keeping people safe on our roads, and we are taking action to reduce the number of people killed or injured.

“There is increasing evidence that age affects the safety of tyres, which is why I think older tyres should not be used on large vehicles.”

The consultation follows a campaign by Frances Molloy, whose son died in a coach crash caused by a 19-year-old tyre in 2012. Her work with the ‘Tyred’ campaign led to the government consultation.

Time for a ban on old car tyres?

old car tyre

The proposed ban on old tyres for large vehicles begs the question: should similar legislation apply to old car tyres?

Even though tyres degrade with age, “there are no hard and fast rules on when they should be replaced”. Defects are likely to be spotted at an MOT test, but drivers should check their tyres for signs of ageing.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) says that “tyres do deteriorate with age, which increases the risk of tyre failure”, and “tyre manufacturers do not seem to have a consistent recommendation because the roadworthiness of a tyre depends on many factors, including the condition in which they are stored, the use to which they are put, road conditions, how well they are maintained and the driver’s driving style.”

RoSPA’s recommendation is to regularly check tyres for age-related defects, such as

    • Cracking/crazing on the side wall of the tyre, caused by its flexing
    • Distortion of tyre tread
    • Deformation of the carcass of the tyre

Tyres that display these signs of ageing should be removed and not put to further use.

Although tyres must have at least 1.6mm of tread throughout a continuous band around the centre three quarters of the tyre, most manufacturers recommend that tyres are changed when they reach 3mm of tread depth.

Drivers don’t know the dangers of part-worn tyres, says AA

Part-worn tyres

One in five British drivers have bought part-worn tyres, despite more than 98 percent being sold in an illegal state. That’s according to analysis by AA Cars suggesting our knowledge of tyres is a bit, well, rubbery.

Among that one in five, one in 10 said they would never buy part-worn tyres again. But 13 percent plan to in the future.

Even though a third (33 percent) of people see part-worn tyres as cost-effective, 62 percent were wrong when asked what the legal minimum tread depth was. This is 1.6mm, although many part-worn tyres are sold with around 2mm of tread remaining. Doesn’t sound like value for money to us…

The kicker, though, is that more than 20 percent of drivers reckon most used tyres sold in the UK are perfectly legal. The reality, by comparison, is frightening. 

Part-worn tyres

Besides the safety concerns, there is also potential cost involved. Never mind having to replace your newly-bought used tyres sooner than you’d hoped, you could also face a fine if caught with illegal rubber. This can be up to £2,500, with three points on your licence thrown in for good measure.

“Secondhand tyres might boast cheaper price points than new ones, but the tread left on these tyres is typically materially less, meaning you’ll be looking for yet more replacements in no time at all,” said James Fairclough, CEO of AA Cars.

“It’s also worth considering that a large proportion of the secondhand stock in the UK actually fails to meet the minimum legal safety standards.”

Part worn tyres

Update: Staggering 99 percent of part-worn dealers sell illegal tyres

dangerous part worn tyres

Update December 2018: As many as 99 percent of part-worn tyres found to be illegal

TyreSafe has conducted further investigations during October, tyre safety month. The shocking reveal is that 99 percent of part-worn tyre sellers were trying to sell illegal and dangerous rubber.

A total of 18 investigations were conducted, spanning 68 traders across the United Kingdom. Just one carried stock that could be considered usable legally and safely.

During tyre safety month a variety of regulatory bodies and authorities took part in investigating 29 businesses in the North East. None were compliant in their offerings.

“How can it be acceptable that three-quarters of the part worn tyres offered for sale were unsafe,” said Stuart Jackson, Chairman of TyreSafe.

“Tyres are the only part of car in contact with the road and essential to road safety – selling dangerous examples to unsuspecting motorists is putting lives at risk.”

Part worn tyres

We don’t want to put people off the idea of buying second-hand, though. Like anything pre-owned, you have to know what you’re looking for. Here are some top tips for buying second-hand tyres.

Tread depth of tyres

This is the most obvious one. You’ve got to make sure there’s actually enough meat on them. You wouldn’t buy tomahawk steak without any meat on it. You can do the 20p test to make sure there is a minimum of 3mm.

Do it across the tyre, too. Uneven wear is neither uncommon or desirable, whether it’s happening on your car, or it’s happened on a tyre you’re buying.

We wouldn’t buy anything with less than 4mm tread all round – it’s barely worth the cost of mounting them.

Age and health of tyres

Tread isn’t the only indicator of a tyre’s health. Look closely at the sidewalls for cracking, tears or frayed rubber.

These could be signs the tyre has undergone a bit more stress than you’d like, is getting on age wise or has sustained sun damage.

Over time the sun can dry tyres out, compromising the compound. Browning or yellowing of rubber can also indicate this.

A matching set of tyres

Whether you’re buying a full set or just replacing one of your own, it’s good to have matching rubber. Being non-matching should be considered an immediate strike against a set of four for sale second-hand.

Part worn tyres

August 2018

A survey by TyreSafe and Trading Standards discovered more than 90 percent of vendors selling part-worns to be breaking the law.

A total of 139 out of the 152 businesses visited offered dangerous and illegal rubber for sale. Issues ranged from insufficient tread-depth to uneven wear, flat spots and sidewall perishing.

During ‘mystery shop’ test purchases, some vendors fitted rubber with water inside, while others provided the wrong size altogether. Supply of tyres with irreparable damage, including still-embedded nails, was rife.

A recent case in Hemel Hempstead resulted in £7,000 worth of fines for the vendor and a prosecution by Hertfordshire Trading Standards, with a custodial sentence considered.

“An atrocious track record”

“While the shocking findings of joint investigations may reveal some part worn dealers are compliant, even if it is fewer than one-in-10, motorists have a 90 per cent chance of visiting an outlet selling illegal tyres,” said Stuart Jackson, Chairman of TyreSafe.

“As far as TyreSafe is aware, there is no other retail sector with such an atrocious track record.”

“TyreSafe applauds the magistrates’ comments and penalties in this latest conviction but it must be acknowledged that the retail of dangerous and defective tyres by part worn dealers is unacceptably commonplace nationwide.”

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Michelin warns changing tyres early is bad for the environment

Michelin warns changing tyres early is bad for the environment

Tyre manufacturer Michelin has taken the unusual step of warning motorists that changing tyres before they wear to the legal tread minimum is costly, unnecessary and bad for the environment.

The minimum legal tread level is 1.6mm, but experts regularly advise changing tyres when tread wears down to around 3.0mm. As well as keeping drivers on the right side of the law, many assume tyres don’t perform as well when tread gets low.

But Michelin insists that modern tyre technology makes it possible for tyres to provide high levels of performance and grip from new, and through all of the tyre’s life down to the legal tread wear limit.

Indeed, the tyre maker says changing tyres too early could result in 128 million additional tyres being used a year in Europe. This amounts to nine million tons of additional CO2 emissions every year.

It also explains that tyres become more fuel efficient as they wear, meaning drivers could be disposing of their old rubber when it’s at the most economical.

Research commissioned by Michelin has revealed changing tyres at 3mm instead of 1.6mm would cost drivers in the EU an extra €6.9 billion a year in unnecessary tyre purchases and additional fuel consumption.


More car safety advice on on Motoring Research:


A spokesman said: “A consumer would not throw away his shoes just because they need cleaning, or the tube of toothpaste which was half full, so why would he do this with tyres if he can be convinced that it is safe to do so? Premature removal reduces the useful life of the product and would increase the frequency at which tyres are replaced.”

The firm adds that although tyres perform differently when worn, some premium tyres perform better in the wet at the legal minimum tread compared to brand new budget tyres.

The law about tyres

The legal minimum tyre tread is 1.6mm across three quarters of the centre of the tyre, and the tyre must be free of bulges, cuts and tears. If the police catch you driving with a tyre below this tread, you could be hit with an on-the-spot fine of £100 and three penalty points per tyre. If it goes to court, this could escalate to £2,500 per tyre.

Tyres with tread below this legal minimum will fail their MOT, while tyres approaching 1.6mm will result in an advisory.

You can check the tread of a tyre using a 20p coin. Place it in the main tyre grooves in the centre of the tyre. If the coin’s outer band is hidden, then tread is above the legal limit. Check your tyres at least once month or before any long journey and seek a professional’s opinion if you have any doubts.

Michelin warns changing tyres early is bad for the environment

British drivers are risking £27m in fines over this minor fault

British drivers are risking £27m in fines over this minor fault

British drivers are risking £27m in fines over this minor fault

A freedom of information investigation has revealed that 2.5 million vehicles failed their MOTs for illegal tyres last year – while police hit almost 9,000 drivers with fines for defective rubber.

If you’re caught driving with less than 1.6mm of tread, you could face a penalty of up to £2,500 and three points on your licence – per tyre.

The Confused.com investigation found that 10,766 endorsements were handed out for defective tyres in 2016. Multiplying this by the maximum £2,500 penalty, motorists could be risking nearly £27 million in fines for not checking their tyres.

While driving with bald tyres can have a dangerous effect on a car’s handling and stopping distance, especially in the wet, the research also revealed that drivers often aren’t in a rush to get their tyres changed.

Out of those who were found to have illegal tyres, more than a third (34%) did not get their tyres replaced straight away because they didn’t have the time, while almost a quarter (24%) said they couldn’t afford new tyres.

A further quarter (23%) admitted to driving with dangerous tyres because the garage could not fit them in sooner.

Confused.com’s motoring editor, Amanda Stretton, said: “It’s pretty shocking to find out that 2.5 million drivers have failed their MOTs as a result of not checking their tyres regularly.

“We understand that arranging to have your tyres changed seems like a hassle, and we know some drivers are concerned about how big a hole it’s going to burn in their pockets. But motorists need to ask themselves if it’s really worth risking three points on their license and enormous fines of up to £2,500 per tyre.”

The website has launched a new tyre tool that lets drivers compare the cost of tyres.

“Confused.com’s tyre tool helps to lower the cost of buying new tyres by allowing you to compare prices in advance,” added Stretton, “so there are no nasty surprises once you get to the garage. Plus, you can pay on the day and the cost of fitting and disposal of your old tyres is completely included in the price.”

The 5-minute guide to car tyres

The 5-minute guide to car tyres

The 5-minute guide to car tyres

Which component contributes most to car safety? Airbags? Side-impact bars? Electronic stability control? We spoke to a chassis engineer with more than 40 years of experience, and his answer was unequivocal: tyres.

Think about it. Those four rings of rubber are the only thing between your car and the road surface. Every acceleration, braking and steering force passes through them. And the contact patch is smaller than you think – about the size of your computer keyboard across all four tyres.

So, there’s a reason all racing drivers are obsessed with tyres – and they’re just as important for road driving, too. Read our 5-minute guide to to make sure you choose the right tyres and stay safe.

Are your car tyres safe?

The 5-minute guide to car tyres

The law says you must replace a tyre once the tread-depth drops below 1.6mm across three quarters of its surface. An easy test is to place a 20p piece in the groove of the tyre. If the outer band of the coin is hidden, your tyre is legal.

However, bear in mind that a new tyre has a tread-depth of around 8mm, so grip will be reduced – particularly in the wet – well before it reaches the legal limit. Consumer group Which? recommends replacing your tyres when depth reaches 2-3mm.

You should also check tyre pressures regularly. Over-inflated rubber could increase your risk of skidding or having a blowout, while too little pressure will increase fuel consumption and have a detrimental effect on handling.

The correct tyre pressures for your car will be listed in the handbook. Alternatively, use the Tyre Pressure Checker tool on the TyreSafe website.

Understand tyre sizes

The 5-minute guide to car tyres

Tyres come in a wide range of different sizes. Check your car handbook, or read the markings on the outer sidewall to see what size your replacement tyre should be.

For example, a typical tyre size is 195/50 R15H. Breaking this down gives you:

  • 195 – tyre width in mm
  • 50 – tyre sidewall profile, as a percentage of tyre width
  • R – stands for ‘Radial’. All modern tyres are radial-ply
  • 15 – diameter of the wheel rim in inches
  • H – speed rating (see below)

Regardless of the national speed limit being 70mph, you must fit tyres rated for the maximum speed of your car. Speed ratings are marked with letters and range from N (88mph) to ZR (over 149mph). You’ll find a full list of speed ratings on the TyreSafe website.

What about the tyre energy label?

The 5-minute guide to car tyres

Every tyre sold since 2012 comes with an energy label – much like you’ll find on fridges and other white goods. This allows you to compare tyre performance at a glance, with simple graphics showing how that product stacks up for fuel economy, wet-road grip and noise.

Fuel economy

This is based on the tyre’s rolling resistance – i.e. how much friction it generates with the road. Measurements are taken on a calibrated test rig; the lower the rolling resistance, the better the fuel economy. The most efficient tyres earn an ‘A’, while the least efficient are rated ‘G’.

Wet-road grip

Good grip is most important when the roads are wet, so this rating is based on wet-braking performance in a straight line. Experts say an A-rated tyre can stop in 30% less distance than a G-rated one. That’s potentially the difference between a near-miss and a dangerous crash.

Noise

Anyone who regularly drives the concrete section of the M25 will know just how noisy tyres can be. This final infographic puts the the tyre into one of three categories, based on the noise it emits in decibels – measured from outside the car – when cruising at a steady speed. One black bar means a quiet tyre, while three bars is noisier – albeit still within legal limits.

Run-flats, winter tyres and part-worn tyres

The 5-minute guide to car tyres

So, you’ve checked the size and checked the label. Now think about the type of tyre you need to buy. Apart from standard ‘summer’ tyres, you might also think about run-flats, winter tyres or part-worn tyres.

Run-flat tyres

These are fitted as standard to some new cars, particularly BMWs. Their reinforced structure means you can carry on driving even with a puncture, although only for around 50 miles at speeds up to 50mph. ‘RFT’ or ‘RunFL’ markings on the sidewall indicate your tyre is a run-flat.

The downsides of run-flat tyres are cost and comfort; they are more expensive to buy and their stiffer sidewalls mean a firmer ride. Also, Tyresafe advises that they should not be used on cars without a pressure-monitoring system, or you may be unaware the tyre has deflated.

Winter tyres

These can be recognised by a snowflake symbol on the sidewall. They offer much-improved grip on snow and ice – and indeed on dry roads if the temperature is below 7deg C.

Winter tyres are mandatory during the colder months in some European countries, and many people keep them on a second set of ‘winter wheels’ (often steel rims, to preserve their shiny alloys for summer). However, unless you live in a remote part of Wales or the Scottish Highlands, they’re not essential in the UK.

Part-worn tyres

It isn’t illegal for garages to sell part-worn tyres, although they must be properly marked and in good condition. Even so, we’d suggest this money-saving measure is a false economy that could affect your safety.

How to save money on tyres

The 5-minute guide to car tyres

The first thing to say here is that you shouldn’t look to economise on tyres. They are arguably the most safety-critical part of your car, so buy the best you can – preferably the original equipment (OE) items fitted to your car when it was new.

If OE tyres aren’t available, we recommend choosing one of the ‘premium’ brands: Bridgestone, Continental, Dunlop, Goodyear or Pirelli. These consistently come out near the top in tyre tests.

If you need a tyre at short notice, the cheapest option will probably be an independent tyre fitter, rather than a franchised car dealer. Make a few phone calls to compare prices and ensure the fee you are quoted includes new valves, fitting and balancing. Remember, you can haggle.

If you have more time, buying online will almost certainly prove cheaper – and you may be able to have the tyres fitted at your home or office. Again, it pays to shop around as there are plenty of retailers competing for your business. Popular websites include Asda Tyres, Black Circles, MyTyres and Tyre Shopper.

Tyre fitter

Tyred out: why fast-fit centres are becoming slow-fits

Tyre fitterLess than half of motorists visiting a fast-fit centre are getting their new tyres fitted on the first visit, according to new research from e-commerce firm epyx.

60% of drivers had to make a second visit to get the right tyre – and it’s because there are more brands and sizes of tyre than ever before.

Faulty tyre pressure system is now an MOT fail

The figures show that fast-fit centres are now only half as fast as they were 10 years ago.

It’s not the fast-fit centres’ fault though, says the appropriately-named epyx head of business development David Goodyear: it’s simply a reflection of how huge the range of tyres fitted to today’s cars is.

“It would be nearly impossible for a fast-fit centre to carry all the stock needed to cover the majority of the current car parc, such is the diversity of size and manufacturer.”

Not only are there more sizes than ever before, but many premium brands also have bespoke tyres developed especially for them: on cars such as Porsche, BMW and Jaguar, tyres carry a brand-specific identifier on the sidewall denoting the rubber is only for that car.

Enter the franchised dealer, says Goodyear: not traditionally considered an outlet for new tyres, the fact they only have to carry tyres to fit their own range of cars can give them an advantage.

“If they choose to carry a reasonable selection of stock, then they should be able to comfortably beat the first-time-fit figures being achieved by fast fits.”

Do you have experience of a fast-fit fitter being anything but? Have the bespoke tyres of your own car caused you headaches? Do share your experiences with us.

Tyre pressure system is MOT fail

Tyre-pressure-check

A faulty Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) now results in automatic MOT failure – even if your tyres are in good condition and correctly inflated.

That’s the message from Tyresafe, the UK’s tyre safety association, which has produced a video to promote the benefits of TPMS.

Some TPMS systems work differently to others, but all remotely monitor air pressure in the tyres.

Millions of cars in the UK are already fitted with TPMS systems, which became mandatory on all new models last year. They work by monitoring air pressure in the tyres, warning the driver if they are under-inflated or punctured.

TPMS systems are designed to last many years, but may need occasional servicing. The most likely causes of faults are a flat internal battery and corrosion on the sensors.

Beyond a failed MOT, incorrect tyre pressures can have other consequences, including increased fuel consumption, reduced grip and unpredictable handling.

For that reason Tyresafe recommends that drivers don’t rely solely on TPMS, but manually check their tyre pressures at least once a month – and before any long journey.