The ultimate guide to looking after your tyres

Female hand holding tyre-gauge against tyre to measure its pressure.

Published 9 April 2021
Last updated 12 April 2021

Read about how to maintain your tyres and keep safe, save money and stay legal. We cover tyre inflation, tyre tread depth and legal limits.

The minimum tread depth

We're going to start this week’s blog with a number … see if you can guess why it’s important.

1.6 mm

What do you think? No, it’s not the size of glass you can drink from on a night out (do not drink and drive at all, people.)

It is, in fact, the minimum legally allowed tread depth of the tyres on your car.

Readers of this blog know that we’re always banging on about safety stuff. Yeah, yeah – you’ve read it all before and you want something cool like, I don’t know, a post about sports cars. Well not today … this blog is all about keeping you safe and helping you to enjoy your driving, so let’s dive into the world of tyres and have a good rummage.

Not just hot air

Well-maintained tyres are extremely important. As the only part of your vehicle that’s in contact with the road, they play a crucial role in providing good grip for handling and stability. Once the tread begins to wear out or the tyre wall becomes perished, the risks start to increase. Make sure this does not happen by keeping an eye on the tread depth and condition of your tyres.

Here’s something else to think about: more tyre related incidents occur during the great British summer, than at any other time of the year. What’s that you say? It’s summer now? Well, here’s a few things to think about.

  • Summer often means trips out, holidays and all manner of fun in the (occasional) sun. You’re probably going to have passengers, too, which makes checking your tyre pressures even more important . If you do not have enough air in the tyres, and your car is heavily laden with people and luggage, you’ll find that the handling and grip can be badly affected
  • Do not forget that underinflated tyres make the engine work harder to move the car, and this costs you more at the pump
  • Finally, your tyres will just last longer if you make sure they’re inflated to the correct pressure.

Wheely important

So, what can you do? The answer lies in making those regular, oh so important, checks. Do not just take it on trust that your tyres are OK. Before your start to drive, walk around your vehicle and check for any bulges, cuts or scarring to the wall or the surface of the tyres. Once you’ve done this, have a look at the tread depth. Make sure that there’s at least 1.6 mm right the way around the central three quarters of the tyre. The easiest way to do this is to buy a tread-depth gauge. They do not cost much but they could save you from a whole lot of bother – like getting stopped by the police and having 3 penalty points slapped on your licence for every tyre that has tread below the legal limit.

The final thing you absolutely must do is to check that your vehicle has the right pressure in its tyres. Too much, and you run the risk of overinflation (could mean your tyres wear out much faster); too little and, well, you know the score.

Check your vehicle’s handbook for the correct tyre pressures. There will be different figures for laden and unladen weight. If you plan to carry luggage, passengers and so on, you’ll want to inflate the tyres to the laden weight pressure quoted in your book.

Never tyre of learning

We’ll be back with more top tips soon but, in the meantime, if you want to learn more about this kind of stuff (surely you do?), then you’re in luck. DVSA’s Basic MOT Checks eBook is a great source of information, and if you want to go a stage further and get up to speed with the theory and practice of driving, then zoom over to the Safe Driving for Life shop and pick up a copy of The Official DVSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills.

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