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Car tyres a ‘stealthy source‘ of ocean pollution

Car tyres a stealthy source of ocean pollution

“Tyres sit uniquely at the intersection of air quality and microplastics.” That’s the opinion of Emissions Analytics, which is seeking to raise awareness of the impact vehicles tyres are having on our oceans.

Think of plastic waste and most people will picture bottles, packaging, bags – maybe even tea bags and clothes. But tyres are a major source of microplastics found in our oceans, and the problem is only going to get worse.

Emissions Analytics names three emerging threats: budget tyres, electric vehicles and SUVs.

According to an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) study in 2017, between 15 and 31 percent of the 9.5 million tonnes of plastics released into the oceans each year could be primary microplastics.

Two-thirds of which come from the washing of synthetic textiles and the abrasion of tyres while driving.

In the same year, a study by Pieter Jan Kole at the Open University of The Netherlands put the figure at 10 percent. “Tyre wear and tear is a stealthy source of microplastics in our environment, which can only be addressed effectively if awareness increases,” was the rather stark conclusion.

‘Big chunks of plastic’

Car tyre wear

The lack of awareness stems from a general misunderstanding of the composition of a modern tyre. “Tyres are essentially yet more big chunks of plastic,” says Friends of the Earth. “When they break down they behave and persist like other plastics in the environment.”

Emissions Analytics claims that over the course of 12,500 to 31,000 miles, a typical tyre will shed 10 to 30 percent of its tread rubber into the environment. Particles will end up by the roadside or washed into drains, which in turn takes the pollution into rivers and the ocean.

Just as concerning is the fact that Friends of the Earth estimates that up to 10 percent of tyre wear is generated as airborne particles, which contribute to air quality issues and lung problems.

The IUCN report refers to data that says while there is no reliable information on the transfer of microplastics from tyres to the world’s oceans, both Norwegian and Swedish researchers have pointed out that a large fraction of particles found in the sea seem to originate from car tyres.

Tyres and our oceans: emerging threats

SUV tyre next to the water

What about the emerging threats?

Emissions Analytics points to the fact that budget tyres wear rapidly and have high emissions. It also says that the instant torque and higher kerb weights associated with electric vehicles will increase wear rates, adding to the pollution issue.

The increased weight is also a factor associated with SUVs, along with the typically larger wheel sizes adopted by such vehicles. The larger the tyres, the greater the problem.

“On this basis we think tyres are set to be scrutinised and regulated more, and perhaps also reinvented for electric cars to perform well in durability and noise. There will be opportunities and threats that arise from these changes,” says Emissions Analytics.

It is also calling for a review of the European tyre labelling, with the environmental impact added to the ratings for rolling resistance, wet grip and noise.

Tyre fitter with tyre label

Friends of the Earth wants to see a government-backed test to identify how resistant each type of tyre is to wear and tear – with clear labels for buyers. It says tyres with the highest rates of tread abrasion could be banned from sale.

Other suggestions include a tyre levy to help tackle the problem of microplastic pollution, more efficient use of roadside gully pots used to catch debris, and increased road cleaning.

The problem isn’t going to go away. As the IUCN points out, calls for a ban on microbeads in cosmetics are welcome, but this source is responsible for just two percent of primary microplastics. The impact of tyres is far, far greater.

In the UK, we generate up to 19,000 tonnes of microplastics tyre pollution, which finds its way into our waterways, rivers and seas every year. Something to think about next time you’re changing a worn tyre.

One in ten drivers don’t know what tyre tread depth means

Tyre tread depth

A new study by Kwik Fit has revealed some worrying statistics around UK drivers’ knowledge of tyres. From the legal limits, to the very meaning of some tyre terminology, too many of us are in the dark.

The headline figure is that just 25 percent of drivers seem to be able to correctly state legal tread requirements. As for everyone else? Forty percent were incorrect, 20 percent admitted to not knowing and 4 percent said it depended on the make of rubber

Most worryingly, 11 percent of the drivers surveyed said they didn’t know the meaning of ‘tread depth’, let alone what the legal requirements are.

Do we check our tyres enough?

Tyre tread depth

The truth is, short of getting out there every month, it’s difficult to check them enough. According to Kwik Fit, 12 million drivers would admit to checking their tread less than once every six months. Fifteen percent say they never check. 

One in five have never checked their tyre wall condition, while 12 percent have never checked pressures. Just 44 percent of drivers say they check their pressures at least once a month.

‘Clamping’ bad rubber

illegal tyres

For a bit of fun, and to get the message across, Kwik Fit deployed ‘wardens’ to inspect car tyres and ‘clamp’ those that were dangerously low. Hidden cameras then captured drivers’ reactions. These usually went from anger at the clamping, to concern about their tyres and gratitude for the warning. They also got a free tyre for unwittingly taking part.

“These figures are alarming and prove we have a lot of work to do when it comes to tyre education,” said Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit.

“Tyre treads are designed to give good grip, which is especially important when the roads are wet. Without adequate tread, the performance of the tyre will decrease and ultimately affect the overall safety of the vehicle. For all the safety developments car manufacturers are making, we have to remember that tyres are the only part of a car that are in contact with the road and so it is vital that they are in the best condition possible.”

13 percent knowingly drive with illegal tyres

illegal tyres

A new survey reveals many motorists knowingly drive with their car tyres in illegal condition, while even more don’t know how to check them.

Around 13 percent of respondents in a poll by Halfords Autocentres said they had knowingly driven on tyres with illegal tread depths. Just over a quarter (27 percent) said they hadn’t checked their tyre tread in the last three months, while 42 percent said they didn’t know how to.

In total, 65 percent said they didn’t know the rules around worn tyres.

Tyre tread depth: the rules

illegal tyres

October is Tyre Safety Month, so what better time to make sure yours are up to standard? A tread depth of 1.6mm across the central three quarters of the tyre is the legal minimum. In fact, experts recommend tyres be replaced when the tread wears below 3mm.

Not adhering to the rules on tread depth could land you with a £2,500 fine and three penalty points PER TYRE. That’s a potential £10,000 fine and a lost licence for four illegal tyres.

Also, make sure there are no tears, and that the rubber isn’t cracking or perishing. Check the date on your tyres to make sure they’re still at their best and look out for flat-spots. Keeping your car’s suspension alignment in check will maximise the life of your tyres.

illegal tyres

“We were surprised to find that so many Brits are driving with tyres below the legal tread depth,” said Halfords Autocentres expert, Martin Barber.

“Tread depth can reduce braking and steering ability especially in unpredictable weather and wet driving conditions. After completing millions of tyre checks to help keep Britain’s cars on the roads, we’re proud to offer a free tyre check for every motorist.”

How to buy the right tyres for your car

How to buy the right tyres for your car

Tyres are the most important part of your car when it comes to safety. They’re the only bit of the car that actually touches the road, so every input you make – acceleration, steering, braking or otherwise – goes through them. 

The contact patch is smaller than you’d think, too – about the size of your computer keyboard across all four tyres.

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

Are premium brands better?

How to buy the right tyres for your car

Never has the mantra ‘you get what you pay for’ been more true than with tyres. They’re one of the few products where you really are better off plumping for a premium brand.

In a recent back-to-back test by Fifth Gear’s Jonny Smith, the dramatic differences between the name-brand and budget tyres was made apparent. Comparing two identical Mercedes-AMG C63 cars, the car with ‘premium’ Continental rubber performed much better in handling, braking and agility tests.

“Many people want to know why premium tyres are preferable to budget brands,” said Smith.

1212

“With tyres the only part of your car in direct contact with the road, it makes sense to ensure they’re the best quality possible.”

It’s not all about the high-performance stuff, though. Some tyres won’t be the right fit for your car. The track-focused Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R is perhaps not the choice for a Toyota Prius, for instance. Likewise, an eco set from a well-regarded brand won’t carry a McLaren Senna to a blistering lap time.

In direct comparisons using the tyre energy label, however, it’s still name brands that do best. A good mid-range tyre that performs well across fuel economy, wet weather and noise should suit most needs.

Tyre energy labels: explained

How to buy the right tyres for your car

Speaking of the tyre energy label, what is it? Briefly, it’s a good way of comparing tyre performance – and performance per pound. 

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

Fuel economy

This is based on a 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 rubber earns 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 percent 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 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.

Do I need certain tyres in certain weather conditions?

How to buy the right tyres for your car

The effects of the right rubber in the right conditions are immeasurable. Many experts believe that a two-wheel-drive car with winters will fare better than four-wheel-drive SUV with standard tyres. It doesn’t matter which wheels are driven if their drive isn’t put to the ground effectively. 

Winter tyres offer much-improved grip on snow and ice – and indeed on dry roads if the temperature is below 7deg C. Winter tyres are even mandatory during the colder months in some European countries. Just as slick rubber will dramatically increase performance on a dry track, so too will a winter tyre boost grip in colder, slushier conditions.

There is also rubber suited to all types of conditions. ‘All-season’ doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll only work in a blizzard…

We’ve had good experiences with the Michelin Pilot Sport 3, Uniroyal Rainsport 3 and Falken Azenis FK510 as strong performers in wet and dry conditions on the road.

Are your car tyres safe?

MOT advisories

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 tread 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. In both instances, your tyres will wear at an excessive rate, too. The correct pressures for your car will be listed in the handbook. Alternatively, use the Tyre Pressure Checker tool on the TyreSafe website.

Regularly check for flat spots, bulges, cracking and rubber degradation. A sun-dried tyre can be just as dangerous as insufficient tread. Also check they’re are still in-date. Yes, tyres have a use-by date.

Part-worn tyres: should you take the risk?

How to buy the right tyres for your car

On the subject of safety, part-worn tyres are often a false economy. If you’re paying two-thirds of the cost of a new set for tyres with 4mm of tread left, you’re paying more than half the price for half the product. 

Recent research has also indicated that as many as 90 percent of part-worn rubber in the UK aren’t safe for sale.

It isn’t illegal to sell part-worn tyres. Talk of a ban is in the air, however. If you really must, check for the usual factors: tread depth, pressure, flat spots, bulges, degrading rubber and damage. Also check the date on the tyre.

Tyre sizes: explained

How to buy the right rubber for your car

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.

How to save money on tyres

How to buy the right tyres for your car

We really can’t say it enough – don’t scrimp on rubber. They are the most safety-critical part of your car, so buy the best you can. And there are ways you can avoid paying over the odds for good quality rubber.

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 them 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.

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.”

Read more:

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.”

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.”

Read more: 

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