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Tyre Safety & Tread Depth


You need good tyres to drive safely. They affect the steering, braking and acceleration of your vehicle.

Faulty tyres work less efficiently and don't last as long; they could also mean a heavy fine and penalty points on your licence.

The law

It's against the law to have:

  • Car tyres with tread worn to below 1.6mm;
  • A mix of radial and cross ply tyres more of a problem with classic cars as modern car are usually fitted with radial but a lot of classic cars were originally fitted with cross ply;
  • Over or under-inflated tyres;
  • Tyres with cuts, lumps, bulges or tears;
  • The wrong sort of tyre fitted to a vehicle or trailer;
  • The age of the tyre is important especially in classic cars as the tread depth could be fine but the tyre may have been fitted for years and tyres degrade naturally and the rate is determined to exposure to heat, sunlight and rain. Look for signs of UV cracking in the sidewalls and if in doubt replace them.
  • If classics are stored over the winter then the tyres can get flat spots from standing on the same contact patch, this can be overcome by either over inflating the tyres before storage, jacking the car up and placing on axle stands or using a product like "car shoes" that spread the contact patch over more of the tyre.


Safety standards

All new tyres must meet European standards for load/speed performance, shown by an 'E' or 'e' mark on the sidewall.

All retread tyres supplied in the UK must comply with the British Standard AU144e, and be marked with this number. This proves they have been thoroughly tested and meet the same performance standards as new tyres.

Only buy second-hand tyres if they are marked 'part-worn' next to the E or BS mark, to show they have been properly checked for faults.

Checking tread depth

Most tyres have tread wear indicators, usually six or more small ribs across the bottom of the main tread grooves. When the tread surface is level with these ribs, the tyre needs to be replaced.

Checking tyre pressures

Look in your handbook or consult your garage or tyre dealer for the recommended pressures for your vehicle.

You should check the pressure at least every two weeks, and only when the tyres are cold. Even a short trip to the local garage will warm up the tyre and raise the pressure.