Michelin dismisses advice to change tyres before they reach minimum tread depth

Published 30 September 2016

The minimum legal tread depth for tyres in the UK is 1.6mm, but many garages and tyre makers advise drivers to change their tyres when tread depth reaches 3mm or even 4mm. However, tyre maker Michelin believes the practice to be unnecessary, suggesting modern, premium tyres should perform well right until tread depth reaches 1.6mm.

The brand suggests that there are cost and ecology reasons for holding on to tyres until they reach minimum depth and that safety concerns should be minimal. The current legislation on minimum tread depth dates back to 1989, since when tyre technology has improved dramatically.

Consequently, modern tyres, even when substantially worn, should typically outperform older tyres or tyres from budget manufacturers. Furthermore, changing tyres at 3mm or 4mm means more frequent trips to the garage and increased cost, plus it means a greater impact on the environment when it comes to disposal or recycling.

More frequent tyre changes also mean tyre makers have to produce more – which isn’t ideal for the environment. Furthermore, rolling resistance also improves with tyre wear, meaning slight improvements to fuel economy and lower emissions when a tyre is partly worn compared to when it was brand new.

Michelin claims it “is not only making a stand against the planned obsolescence called for by manufacturers who plead in favour of replacing tyres at 4 mm of remaining tread depth, but it is supporting long-lasting performance for customers”.


daveyjp    on 30 September 2016

So Michelin honestly believe a tyre with 1.6mm of tread should now perform as well as one with 8mm of tread in a light dusting of snow on a slight incline? Pull the other one.

Even for more fundamental matters such as braking in the wet, they really need to show their evidence to back up their claim.

Edited by daveyjp on 30/09/2016 at 16:18

bakeart    on 30 September 2016

Since I run on Michelins, I'll take their word for it.

Engineer Andy    on 30 September 2016

to bakeart:

I would be cautious - replacing worn tyres is far easier than dealing with the ramifications of a serious accident, and you don't want to test their theory (where's the proof?) than tyres at 1.6mm thread will work fine in very wet conditions. What they DON'T say is that running OLD tyres is at least as bad as very worn (or unevenly worn) tyres - older tyres become very hard and brittle and are prone to cracking, meaning the don't work as they would do in the early years, so grip is presumably significantly reduced.

I can attest to that, having changed my last set at only ~40k miles and 4-5mm tread, but they were 6.5 years old. I had some VERY hairy moments in the wet at relatively slow speeds (about 20mph or so) on roundabouts, losing the back end both times. I was luck, and took heed of the sign to change tyres.

MrPogle    on 2 October 2016

I'd like to see the data also. I'm afraid "safety concerns should be minimal" sounds like fat-bloke-down-the-pub talking. I am not interested in trading my safety against cost/eco factors. I have seen a couple of actual measured tests which demonstrate dramatic degradation in wet-weather braking below 3mm but these are 8-10 years old so maybe things have moved on a lot. You would hope that Michelin have done actual tests to decide this and it is not just marketing.

WilliamRead    on 3 October 2016

Michelin has an extensive tyre testing track facility, as do all the other major manufacturers. The performance evidence from testing of tyres with 1.6mm tread vis a vis 3mm must be available to Michelin; let that evidence be published.

loopyria    on 3 October 2016

Michelin talking absolute b******s. Never mind in snow but even in rainfall a depth of 1.6-2 MM. is not sufficient for average rainfall to escape from between the tyre and the road therefore liable to result in aqua planning. However all tyres have different tread designs and a nice wide groove can make up for this. But a narrow groove and a very low tread can obviously be quite dangerous.

KenScotland    on 4 October 2016

Clearly Michelin need to publish a matrix showing comparative tyre performance from 8mm down to say, 2mm, let's forget 1.6mm. Who's going to risk going illegal and potentially uninsured in the event of an accident! I drive a Q7 and confirmation that I could expect undiminished road-holding down to 2mm would be great. Even at 8000 miles a year this baby expects new tyres for Christmas every year and at £200 each I could make some useful savings, but not at the expense of safety. Ken in Scotland

Legion Rider    on 6 October 2016

Deep tread is obviously going to win in snow or very heavy rain, but normal people slow down to allow for the reduced grip. On a damp road I am sure it makes no difference as there is no rain to displace. On a dry road the less tread gives better grip, which is why GP racers use slicks. Personally I would rather slow down in bad conditions and save money and the environment than replace tyres for optimal wet grip so I can drive faster on those days.

prdisaac    on 7 October 2016

Yes, but definitely need to see data on this!? Having recently changed from 2mm tread Michelin PS3's to new Michelin PS3's on my Golf GTD I noticed the difference straight away in the (very) wet! Noticeably more grip, abs doesn't cut in as easily, traction control much less commonly activated, and much better resistance to aquaplaning. I'm sure there's little / no difference in the damp and dry - but how can a tread of 1.6mm to 2mm transfer water from the centre of a wide tyre to the edge as quickly and efficiently as 4-8mm! I'll certainly be changing my tyres before 2mm next time!

Smileyman    on 7 October 2016

Do they have the same opinion for winter tyres and their crossclimate tyre?

disbeliever    on 11 October 2016

Possibly they only referring to X Climate ?

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