Car tyres: Do you know the law?

1.6mm tyre tread is the legal limit

Being unaware of UK tyre law can be very costly for motorists, as monetary penalties can be imposed, alongside penalty points on a driving licence. There are laws that tyre manufacturers must adhere to, such as adding the correct markings on sidewalls, however, drivers also need to be aware of what falls within their remit.

Tyre maintenance is the responsibility of drivers and it is recommended that they are checked on a weekly basis. Motorists should monitor tread depth, condition, pressures, any damage and signs of irregular tyre wear.

1.6mm tyre tread is the legal limit

The legal limit for minimum depth of the tread on your tyres is 1.6 millimetres, across the central three-quarters of the tread around the complete circumference of the tyre. For safety reasons it is important that drivers replace their tyres before they reach the edge of the legal limit.

A failure to maintain tyres to a legal standard can result in a Fixed Penalty Notice or a court summons, which could result in a £2,500 fine and three penalty points per tyre that is judged to be unroadworthy. Disqualification is also possible in certain circumstances.

As well as tyre maintenance, UK law requires that a vehicle is fitted with the correct type and size of tyre for the vehicle and for the purpose it is being used for. This means it is vital to fit the right tyres and that they are kept at the recommended pressures.

If in doubt, drivers can take their vehicle to any reputable tyre centre to consult a trained expert.

It is also a legal requirement to ensure that tyres of different construction types – radial and cross-ply – are not fitted to opposite sides of the same axle. To avoid confusion it is important to check with a trained expert.

Mixing brands and patterns of the same construction type is not illegal, depending on the vehicle type and manufacturer’s recommendation. However, in order to avoid any possible monetary or legal punishments, it is recommended that drivers stick to recognised tyre brands, such as Continental, Pirelli, Dunlop or Michelin tyres.

Tyre law also states that tyres must be fit for purpose, which means they must also not have any lumps, bumps or tears caused by a separation or partial failure of the structure of the compounds. A tyre must not have a cut or a tear in excess of 25mm of ten per cent of the sectional width of the tyre, whichever is greater.

A common misconception concerning tyre law is that drivers must carry a spare tyre. However, you do not need to carry an additional tyre and it does not have to comply with legal requirements while it is stowed away. Once the tyre is being used on the vehicle it must comply with the law, so it is important to keep the spare tyre maintained to a similar level to those fitted to the vehicle.