More than half of drivers don't know minimum legal tyre tread depth

Published 03 October 2019

More than half of UK drivers don't know the correct legal minimum tyre tread depth of 1.6mm, according to research by AA Cars.

The concerning news comes at the start of tyre safety month and shows that 62 per cent of the 20,000 motorists asked, either guessed incorrectly or simply didn't know. 

Six out of ten weren't aware that the maximum fine for driving with tyres below the legal minimum is £2500 along with three penalty points on your licence.

Worn or incorrectly inflated tyres pose a serious safety risk. A car with 1.6mm tyre tread will take 14 metres (that's 46 feet) longer to stop at a speed of 50mph compared to a car fitted with new tyres that have an 8mm tread depth.

Despite that, a Halfords survey found that 13% of motorists claim to have driven with tyres below the legal tread depth. 

Yet you can buy a tread depth gauge for as little as £1.50, while home tyre inflators start at little more £10.

>> Top 10: Best tyre inflators

Halfords also offers a free tyre check - comprising a pressure check and inspection for tread depth, wear and damage by ATA trained technicians 

Meanwhile, the AA Cars survey found that 7 per cent of motorists still believe that used tyres are just as safe as new equivalents. One in five believe that most used tyres sold in the UK comply with regulations.

A third of drivers believe used tyres are either more cost-effective than new ones or just don’t know whether new or used tyres offer better value. 

"The safety case for buying new tyres over used ones has been well-documented but drivers must understand the argument that part-worns offer better value for money is a fallacy too," says James Fairclough, CEO of AA Cars.

"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. 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."


DeadBat    on 3 October 2019

I don't see why someone would even consider buying used tyres. You wouldn't buy shoes with half worn soles, right?

connollyt    on 3 October 2019

would agree but depends on your budget and how your finances are

DeadBat    on 3 October 2019

You can get new tyres even on the small budget. You can spend £200 on second hand tyres which will last year or so or spend £350/£400 on a set that will last 2-4 years depending on the driving style.

I've have a set of Uniroyals Rainsport 3 and after over 16k miles they still have over 6mm thread.

The problem is when people buying so called "premium" cars without thinking about maintenance costs.

De Sisti    on 5 October 2019

You can if you visit some charity shops. ;-)

Roger128    on 7 October 2019

Why would anyone know what the legal tyre tread is? There are wear bars on tyres to tell you when it's time to change!

Phil McMillan    on 7 October 2019

Why would anyone know what the legal tyre tread is? There are wear bars on tyres to tell you when it's time to change!

Even with wear bars, you should be checking your tyres regularly across the whole width and at various points around the tyre. You will then know when a replacement is likely to be needed.

   on 7 October 2019

check out the michelin test (the truth about worn tyres by michelin)

Old Smokey    on 7 October 2019

Strangely, for buses and large vehicles the limit is 1mm, which is what it used to be for cars until something like 20 years ago.

I suspect we (and the EU) compromised on a common standard with the US, who use Imperial units, and 1/16", their limit, is almost exactly 1.6 mm.

aethelwulf    on 8 October 2019

A bit too low is 1.6mm. By then the tread is almost indistinguishable. But tread is really for the rain in the UK . Dry roads need no treads otherwise why are racing cars not fitted with deep tread?

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