Tyres aren’t the most fascinating of subjects, and they're not something you'll learn an awful lot about in your driving lessons. But every driver should know how to look after theirs, what the legal requirements are and how to find your spare. You might not have given much thought to your tyres whilst learning to drive, but keeping them in tip top condition is a crucial part of becoming a safe driver. Driving on under-inflated or bald tyres can be incredibly dangerous, and, in some cases, illegal.
What are the legal requirements?
In order for your tyres to meet the legal requirements, they must be compatible with your vehicle and the tyre types on the other wheels. You must also make sure they:
have no bulges, lumps or tears have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm across the central three quarters of the tread, around the whole circumference of the tyre and be inflated to the correct pressure as stated in your manufacturers manual. If the police stop you and find that your tyres don’t meet these requirements, you could be fined £2,500 for each tyre and have three penalty points put on your licence. If your tyres aren’t up to scratch, they might also invalidate your insurance policy.
You should check your tyres at least once a week in order to make sure they’re at the correct pressure and that there are no lumps, bulges or tears.
How do I check my tyres?
Checking your tyre tread and pressure is easier than you might think. You can buy your own tyre gauge from a garage or automotive shop, like Halfords. Simply unscrew the valve cap and measure the pressure on the gauge. If it’s too low, pump it up until it’s reached the right pressure.
To check the tyre tread depth, you can use a tread depth gauge. These are simple to use and, again, available to buy from garages and automotive stores. Although the minimum legal requirement for tread depth is 1.6mm, it is advisable to change a tyre once its tread reaches 3mm. At 3mm, your stopping ability is already substantially reduced, so you could be putting yourself and others at unnecessary risk.
Buying new tyres
Buying new tyres can be confusing, not to mention expensive. You’d be mistaken for thinking all tyres are the same, but new EU labeling, which came into place in November 2012, aims to raise awareness over the different tyre types and performance abilities. All tyres should now be labelled with a letter relating to fuel economy, braking performance in wet weather, and black bars relating to the external noise of the tyres.
If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, visit a tyre fitter who can help you choose the correct tyres for your vehicle. Buying tyres depends on the size of your budget but new tyres are much more reliable than part-worn tyres.
It is not a legal requirement to have a spare tyre in your vehicle, but you should always carry one incase you get a puncture. Your spare tyre usually sits in a compartment under your boot, and you can access it by pulling on a tag to pull the base of the boot up.
Recent research conducted by Which? suggests that only a third of new cars come with a spare wheel. Many, instead, now come with a puncture repair kit. In fact, the research found that, out of 8,755 new car models, just 29.6% come with a spare wheel as standard, whilst 49.9% come with a tyre repair kit instead.
So, if you’re looking to buy a new car, it’s worth checking for a spare tyre before handing any money over.
You can find step-by-step instructions on how to change a flat tyre in our how to guides.