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Top tips to keep your tyres safe
You'll find the recommended pressures inside the drivers' manual. Check the pressure when the tyre is cold, as even a short journey will warm up tyres and raise the pressure.
Under-inflation can cause tyre damage, uneven wear, and an increase in fuel consumption.
Over inflated tyres give a less comfortable ride and wear out in the centre of the tread.
Check the pressure in the spare tyre to ensure it's ready in an emergency.
Check your tread
Worn tyres means less grip.
Abnormal or uneven wear can often be an indication of a mechanical defect on the vehicle. In these circumstances the mechanical parts (steering, wheel alignment, brakes) should be checked immediately.
Check for damage
Look for cuts, cracks and bulges or any other evidence of damage from violent impact or kerbing. Damaged tyres may be illegal and can be dangerous.
If you’re unsure about the condition or pressure of your tyres, just phone or call in Laws Tyres and our fully trained tyre specialists will be happy to carry out a comprehensive inspection – completely free of charge.
Suspect a puncture?
Damage caused by driving over a pothole, kerbing or small, sharp foreign objects, all contribute to a slow puncture.
If you suspect you may have a puncture, let our tyre specialists assess it for you.
Know the tyre law
The legal minimum tread depth for car tyres in the United Kingdom is 1.6mm across the central three quarters of the breadth of tread and round the entire circumference of the tyre.
The 1.6mm minimum legal limit applies to:
- Cars and passenger vehicles with up to 8 seated passengers - not including the driver
- Motor vehicles and light trailers (including caravans) up to 3500 kg gross vehicle weight
Most car tyres have tread wear indicators, usually at least six small ribs across the bottom of the main tread grooves, and when the tread surface becomes level with these ribs the tyre is at the legal limit and must be replaced.
One of the benefits of tyre tread pattern designs is to give good grip in wet conditions. Generally speaking, available grip reduces as the tyre wears or as road surface water depth increases.
Penalties for illegal tyres
The penalties for offences related to the use of illegal tyres on cars are very severe.
In the case of any vehicles, (except goods vehicles and vehicles adapted to carry more than eight passengers), drivers who fail to comply with regulations face a fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points for each illegal tyre.
Offences can relate to:
- Tread Depth - a tyre worn below the legal minimum
- Mixing - an incorrect mixture of radial and cross ply tyres
- Inflation - a tyre not inflated to make it suitable for the purpose to which the motor vehicle or trailer is being put
- Cuts - in excess of 25mm or 10% of the section width of the tyre, whichever is the greater, on the outside of the tyre and deep enough to reach the ply or cord
- Lumps, Bulges or Tears - caused by separation or partial failure of the tyre structure
- Exposed Ply or Cord
- Unsuitability - regarding the use to which the motor vehicle or trailer is being put or to the types of tyres fitted to it's other wheels
Why check your tyre pressure?
As a result of rubber's natural permeability, your tyres could be losing air pressure at a rate of up to two pounds each month (often more in warmer weather conditions).
For this reason, Laws Tyres recommend that you check your tyres as regularly as possible - ideally every couple of weeks.
The benefits of correctly inflated tyres.
Safety - having the correct tyre pressure enhances the safety of your vehicle, improving not only its ability to hold the road, but also its braking efficiency. Under-inflated tyres are prone to overheat, whilst over-inflation can seriously affect the road handling of your vehicle.
Economy - correct tyre pressure helps prolong the life of your tyres, which saves you money. Under-inflated tyres also have increased rolling resistance, raising the amount of fuel required to maintain a steady speed.
Environment - maintaining the correct tyre pressure is helpful to the environment too. By reducing fuel consumption, you'll also be doing your bit to help our planet by reducing your vehicle's CO2 emissions.
Tyre Sidewall Markings
What does the writing on the side of my tyres mean?
- TWI (Tread Wear Indicator)
- The tyre size designation
- Tyre Name
- Safety Warning - for the consumer's information
- 'E' Marking
- Directional Pattern Tyres
- Manufacturer's name or brand name
- Country of origin
- TWI (Tread Wear Indicator)TWI may be found in the shoulder or upper sidewall part of some tyres.The marking is placed on the tyre to indicate where the tread wear indicators are located across the tread pattern. When these special markers in the tread pattern become flush with the remainder of the tread, it indicated the tyre is, or is about to become, illegal, because of lack of tread depth.
- The tyre size designation
- RadialThe word 'radial' to identify radial ply tyres. R in size marking also indicates radial ply tyres
- TubelessThe word 'tubeless' to identify tubeless tyres (or 'tube tyres' (optional) where appropriate).Various additional legal markings, some of which have no relevance to UK, or Europeans operations are also shown.Legislation requiring tyres fitted as replacements to carry an 'E' type approval number became effective 1st January 1985.Legislation requiring all passenger cars and their trailers to be fitted with new tyres to 'E' or 'e' type approved became effective on 1st January 1995.
- Tyre NameA commercial name or identity in some form
- Safety Warning - for the consumer's informationSerious injury may result from:Tyre failure due to under inflation/overloading. Follow owner's manual or tyre placard on vehicle.Explosion of tyre/rim assembly due to improper mounting. Only specially trained persons should mount tyres.
- 'E' MarkingAll car tyres sold from 1st July 1997 must carry an 'E' marking. The 'E' or 'e' mark consists of an 'E' or 'e' followed by a number included in a circle of 12mm diameter or a rectangle. This symbol is followed by a further number.The 'E' certifies that the tyre complies with the dimensional, performance and marking requirements of ECE Regulation 30.The 'e' certifies that the tyre complies with the dimensional, performance and marking requirements of Directive 92/23/EEC.The number associated the with the letter 'E' in the circle or 'e' in the rectangle is the code number of the government which granted the type approval (No. 11 for the British Government and a different identifying number for each of the other European countries involved).The number outside the circle or rectangle is the number of the type of approval certificate issued for that particular tyre size/type.
- Directional Pattern TyresTyres with directional or asymmetric patterns should always be fitted such that they rotate in the correct direction as indicated by an arrow marked on the tyre sidewall. Failure to observe this is classified as a reason for refusal to issue an MOT test certificate. If a directional tyre has to be fitted so that it rotates in the wrong direction (e.g. temporary use of a spare tyre following a puncture), then without undue delay the vehicle should be taken to a tyre sealer or garage so that a correct tyre can be fitted.
- Manufacturer's name or brand name
- Country of originMost tyres are marked with the name of the country or national geographic area where they were manufactured
Other markings of importance that may appear on the sidewall where applicable are:
Reinforced - a marking that is added adjacent to the tyre size marking to indicate that the tyre has a higher load carrying capacity than the standard tyre.
The principal application of 'reinforced' type tyres is on vans and light trucks but they are also fitted to certain estate cars and caravans.
M and S - mud and snow - a marking to identify tyres with a winter tread pattern. In the case of 'V' or 'Z' tyres with no service description, the maximum load permitted at the maximum speed of the vehicle must be shown on the sidewall.
What does the EU tyre label tell me?
In order to help you make an informed choice, the EU Tyre Label rates a tyre's performance in three key areas: fuel efficiency, wet grip and noise emission.Fuel Efficiency
- Affects driving economy and emissions
- Lower rolling resistance means lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions
- A tyre loses energy through 'rolling resistance'
- The rating works downwards from 'A' for the best performing tyre, to 'G' for the least performing
- It's handy to know... that there is a difference of 7.5% in fuel efficiency between an A and G rated tyre.
- Affects the safety of your vehicle
- This measures and rates a tyre's performance in wet driving conditions
- Tyres with better wet grip performance deliver shorter braking distances on wet roads
- The rating works downwards from 'A' for the highest wet grip performance, to 'G' for the lowest performance
- It's handy to know... that the difference in braking distance between an A and G rated tyre can be as much as 18 metres (approx. 4 car lengths).
- Affects driver comfort and noise pollution
- A tyre's exterior noise is measured in decibels
- The graphic symbol displays one black sound wave for the quietest performance, and up to three black sound waves for the loudest.
- It's handy to know... that the noise level of a three sound wave rated tyre will be literally three times that of a single sound wave rated tyre.
The Dangers of Part Worn Tyres
When buying replacement tyres for a car, some motorists may be tempted to save some money by buying part-worn tyres. These are usually cheaper than a new set and for a part worn tyre to be sold in the UK it needs to pass a number of guidelines to ensure the safety of the driver.
However, in a study conducted by TyreSafe and AutoExpress in 2012, 98% of the tyres tested would not have passed these regulations. With 4 million part worn tyres sold in the UK every year, this presents the potential for serious consequences both for the drivers of the vehicles and possibly for other road users as well.
What are part worn tyres?
Part worn tyres have previously been fitted to another vehicle, removed (for whatever reason) and are now being sold second hand. These tyres can come from a number of sources, such as a car that has been written-off, but the tyres are still in usable condition- however many part worn tyres are imported from Germany, where the minimum legal tread depth is 3mm- almost twice the required depth as in the UK.
Regardless of the source, unless you have a comprehensive history of the tyre’s usage it’s impossible to know exactly what you are buying and how the tyre has been used.
The sale and use of part worn tyres is not illegal in the UK, but the tyres do need to meet a number of criteria to be legally sold to a member of the public.Buying part worn tyres
For the most part, people buy a part worn tyre because they tend to be cheaper than their newer counterparts. However, when a part worn tyre only needs to legally have a tread depth of 2mm (as opposed to a new tyre, which generally has a tread depth of around 8mm) and the minimum legal requirement for road use is 1.6mm, users of part worn tyres are likely to find themselves needing to replace their tyres at a much faster rate, to the extent that buying new tyres may be more cost effective.
To save money on safe, road legal tyres, see our selection of clearance tyres
Legislation for part worn tyres
In accordance with the Motor Vehicle Tyres (Safety) Regulations 1994 (reg.7) part of the Consumer Protection Act, any part worn tyres sold must meet the following criteria:
- All part worn tyres must be marked with “Part Worn” in clear lettering that is at least 4mm tall
- Be free from any large cuts, bulges, lumps internally and externally. No plies or cords should be exposed
- Part worn tyres which have not been retreaded must bear an “E” mark alongside the ‘”Part Worn” lettering
- Part worn tyres that have been retreated must bear the relevant British Standards mark alongside the “Part Worn” lettering
- The tyre’s original grooves must still be clearly visible in their entirely, and must be at least 2mm in depth across the entirety of the tyre’s circumference
- Each tyre must pass an inflation test
- Any damage from penetration must have been repaired in accordance with paragraphs 4-7 of BS AU 159 Under this legislation, a previously punctured tyre can be re-sold, provided that is has been repaired in accordance with British Standards, meaning that even a legally sold tyre may have sustained damage prior to sale.
Are part worn tyres safe?
Every part worn tyre will vary, with each one having had a different past, so there is no single answer that explains whether they are safe or not. However, of the 50 tyres tested by TyreSafe and AutoExpress, they found that 34% of part worn tyres contain potentially dangerous forms of damage or non-compliance- with only one of the tyres tested containing the legally-required markings on the sidewall.
How to tell if a tyre is safe for road use
All tyres are subject to a number of requirements to be considered road-legal and failure to comply with these regulations will likely result in an MOT failure when your annual test is due. For a tyre to be declared fit for road use it needs to meet the following:
- Damage to the wheel: a tyre needs to show no considerable signs of damage. Damage is defined as cracks, and bulges as they can be indicative of damage within the tyre itself.
- Tread depth: in the UK a tyre needs to have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm across the centre 3/4s of the tyre
- Although not a legal requirement in the UK, many tyre manufacturers and safety campaigners recommend that tyres that are more than 5 years old should be replaced, as the rubber compound becomes more susceptible to cracking and breaking with age