At least 10 million vehicles could have illegal tyres, says TyreSafe

A survey of over 340,000 tyres by TyreSafe found that more than one in four tyres is already illegal at the point of replacement and an average of 70.4% of tyres are illegal and below 2mm in tread depth.

The Department for Transport found in 2014 that problems with tyres cause more accidents resulting in casualties than any other vehicle defect, including brakes. The survey’s findings have highlighted the poor attitude towards tyre safety among UK users. 

A vehicle’s tyres are the only component in contact with the road, and if they are unsatisfactory the effectiveness of the vehicle’s braking and steering is severely compromised. This in turn increases the risk of a vehicle being involved in an incident. Tread depth is especially important on wet roads, and the braking distance is significantly reduced if tyres are newer.

Stuart Jackson, chairman of TyreSafe, said: “The concern comes not just from the number of illegal tyres at the point of replacement, but also the proportion which were below 2mm – those with just 0.4mm left (half the thickness of a bank card) before reaching the 1.6mm legal minimum. While a tyre is legal at this point, the amount of distance it can cover and remain within the law is difficult to predict and can only be verified by regular checks.

“TyreSafe’s own research has revealed one-in-five drivers have never checked their tyres and the majority of the remaining vehicle owners do not do so on a regular basis. The obvious conclusion is that while one-in-four tyres are illegal at the point of replacement, a further 43% are changed before reaching 1.6mm more by good luck than good judgement.”

The results of the survey show that the average proportion of illegal tyres was highest in Northern Ireland (36.5%) followed by Wales (29.1%), while Scotland’s results were level with the UK average of 27.4%. England had the lowest result at 26.8%.

TyreSafe, a not-for-profit organisation, urges road users to carry out tyre checks every month and before long journeys in order to reduce risk to themselves and other road users.

Air pressure in each tyre should follow the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended settings and can be found in the owner’s manual, filler cap, door shut or on a plaque in the glove compartment.

Tread depth should be over the minimum legal limit of 1.6mm, roughly the same as the rim of a 20p piece which can be used as a guide by inserting into the tyre’s tread. If the rim is visible, the tyre may be illegal and the assistance of a tyre professional should be sought. While checking tread depth, also look out for any lumps, bumps, signs of ageing or scuffing on the tyre which may indicate internal damage. 



Visit the TyreSafe website for more information on tyre safety at