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How to check my car tyres are roadworthy - Are my tyres legal?

Updated on January 24, 2014

Are you planning a family roadtrip? If you are taking your family on a driving holiday this year then here are some of the checks you should perform before you set off.

Be safe not sorry!

Summer's finally here, and schools will all be breaking up in the next week or so. Many families are starting to get ready for their summer holiday or various day trips.

If you're taking your family on holiday this year and driving, then one of the main checks you really should be making is your car tyres, this is an area of the car that is often overlooked until it is too late.

We the British public are one of the worst in Europe when it comes to ensuring our tyres are fit for the road according to statistics, we often think that our annual MOT will suffice for all safety checks. But in reality, things can and do go wrong in-between.

You can be given 3 penalty points on your license for each defective tyre on your vehicle, so 4 defective tyres could get you a whopping 12 points. As well as the points you can also be issued with a fine of up to £2500.

But more importantly if they are dangerously low you can have a blow-out, tyre blow-outs can be terrifying, especially if driving at high speeds on a motorway.

What causes a tyre to blowout?

Tyre blow outs are serious and highly dangerous, they can be caused by various problems, the under inflation of the tyre is one of the most common causes. Under inflation arises most commonly as a result of slow punctures caused by sharp objects, repeated bumps or kerbing coupled with poor tyre maintenance.

When a tyre is under inflated it can start to bulge due to the lack of pressure which will then make the weight of the car push down on the tyre. If you are driving at a high speed this bulge will then begin to ripple against the road. This constant friction will lead to a massive increase in heat on the tyre and eventually it will become too much for the tyre to handle and it will burst, causing a high speed blow-out. Sometime this can even cause the tyre to catch fire which is very serious.

How to check you have the correct tyre pressure

As temperatures soar, don't let your tyre pressures drop...

Check your tyres pressure and set them correctly. The manufacturer of your vehicle will specify the correct tyre pressure, this can be located in your manual or sometimes a sticker with the pressures can be found inside the door jamb, or inside the fuel filler lid so be sure to check here. If you can't find any of these I suggest calling in an expert to check or even doing some research online.

It is your responsibility to make sure that the pressure is checked and correct. You should be checking this on a regular basis, at least every couple of weeks. Correct tyre pressure has lots of benefits including:

  • Extending the life of your tyre,
  • Improving vehicle safety.
  • Maintaining fuel efficiency.

Over or under inflated tyres mean that less of the tyre is in contact with the roads surface, resulting in reduced grip, and increased braking distances.

Lastly, always remember to check your cars tyre pressures with a tyre pressure gauge, make sure your tyres are cold and remember if you are using your vehicle to carry additional load or weight such as your holiday luggage, always consult your vehicles handbook/manual for the correct tyre pressure for a loaded vehicle.

A pressure gauge is a handy little device that you can get for about £10 delivered off Amazon and you can use it on any vehicles you have in your house. Just check each cars manual for the correct pressure.

How to check you have the correct tyre tread

To begin checking your tyres tread depth you need to get good access to your tyres.

  • Park on a wide, flat and even surface in a safe place off the public highway (preferably a driveway)
  • Engage the handbrake and place car in to first gear (for manual gearboxes) or park (for automatics).
  • Then when you have clear and safe access to the tyres the inspection can begin.

You begin by checking the depth of the tread and the overall condition of tyres (see pic above for tyre conditions). You should never rely on guesswork: purchase a 'tread depth gauge' so that you can correctly measure your tyres pressure. Measuring tread depth is quick and easy with this simple device and they are very affordable.

The legal minimum tread depth in for your tyres is 1.6 mm consisting of the central three quarters of the breadth of tread and round the entire outer circumference of the tyre. . You should then check the depth of the main tread grooves in several places across and around the tyre and use the gauge where possible in conjunction with the manufacturers instructions..

Tyres will also have tread wear indicators moulded into the base of the main grooves. As soon as the tread surface is worn level to the indicators, the tyre is then at the legal limit and should be replaced at your earliest convenience.

Do a simple visual check

Before long journeys it is imperative that drivers carry out a visual inspection of their tyres, have a good look over front and back tyres and check for any:

  • Tears
  • Rips
  • Bulges
  • Air loss
  • Nails
  • Lumps
  • Stones
  • Oil, fuel or paint: These can have an adverse effect on the rubber compound used in tyres. Oil can make the tread rubber swell, reducing the pattern grooves and affecting adhesion. You should remove with soapy water immediately if your tyres come in to contact with any harmful substances.
  • Tyre Mixing: All steerable axles must be fitted with tyres of the same construction and all driven axels that aren't steerable. Your vehicles must not have radial tyres on the front wheels mixed with cross ply tyres on the rear wheels. Also it is illegal to have a cross ply tyre on one side with a radial on the other. 'An axle consists of two stub axles that form a pair.'

Leaving it to the experts

Official guidelines recommend checking your tyres on a weekly basis for any signs of wear and tear, tread deterioration etc

Many companies offer summer and winter tyre safety checks and if you shop about some even do it for free or at a discounted rate with a tyre change.

There is a big rise lately in mobile tyre fitters that will come to your home or even workplace if you don't have the time or know how, just ensure you are using a reputable company, always check the companies reviews and ensure your technician has the appropriate training and qualifications. Just because they have a business doesn't necessarily mean they are correctly qualified.

If you have any doubts, get them checked professionally by a tyre specialist.

Have you ever had a tyre blow out?

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    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 4 years ago

      HI Claire, that was interesting. I will remember that if I am ever in your area, but I doubt it at my age. I have already been there many years ago. There was one memory which came up. I do not know about over in Britain, but in America if we look closely at our tires we can see the air pressure printed on the tire. Well , actually, it is raised numbers in the rubber.