Checking the Tyre Tread

Don L. Gates

Checking the tyre treadWhen was the last time you remember checking the tyre tread on your car? The minimum depth of tread required by law is 1.6 mm across the central three quarters of the tyre. Tread must be at least visible on the rest of the tyre. If you’re driving around on firm, dry roads all the time this may be sufficient to keep you on the side of safety. But is it enough to keep a grip on snow and ice when winter arrives?

Make sure you have plenty of tread on all your tyres, including the spare. You can check the tread a number of ways; though using a small tool called a tread depth gauge is the best. As a rough guide you can insert a 20p piece into the grooves of the tread; and as long as the border around the edge of the coin is not visible then you should be okay.

Tread Wear Indicators

There are also ‘tread wear indictors’ around the tyres. You’ll find small ridges at regular intervals within the grooves all around the circumference, as shown within the oval marked on the following diagram. If these become level with the overall surface of the tyre then it’s time to change them.

You also need to check that there are no cuts or bulges in the walls of the tyres, and that they’re inflated to the correct pressure. Worn or defective tyres can affect vehicle control badly enough on a good road surface, in winter your life could depend on them so don’t hesitate in replacing any or all of your tyres if need be.

Checking the tyre tread should be a routine part of car maintenance, but don’t forget to check the pressures too. You can buy a simple pressure gauge to keep in your glovebox, or go to your local garage. Your car manual will tell what the tyre pressure need to be… and don’t forget the spare!

For more information about driving in winter check out the Glovebox Guide to Driving at Night & in Bad Weather

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