Knowing how to check the tyre tread on a car, and understanding how to spot a worn tyre, is an essential skill when it comes to buying, selling or owning a car. Although tyres are not the most expensive item to replace on a car, it still may be an added cost when purchasing a used vehicle if you don’t check.
More importantly, you need to know when a tyre is worn and may not be legal; not just in case the police pull you over, but for your own safety as well as your families or friends who may travel with you.
You should never take any risks when it comes to the tread on your tyres, and it’s vital you understand what to look out for. Here’s our handy guide on how to check the tyre tread on your car –
What happens if my tyre tread is low?
There are obvious dangers when driving a car with a low depth of tread on any of your tyres. A low tread increases the chances of aquaplaning, skidding and potential tyre failure. The grip and traction on a tyre also dramatically reduces during bad weather conditions, causing a loss of control.
Anyone driving a car with worn tyres is not only risking their own life, but the lives of anyone else in the car and other people on the road. Having a low tread will also attract the attention of the police and will result in a court summons and a fine. However, don’t let it get to this point and put safety first!
How to access the tyre tread
Before you check any of your tyres it’s important to park the car in a good spot to give yourself good access to the tyres. Try to park on a flat even surface, as well as ensuring you are not on a busy road. For safety reasons you should try to find a nice secluded area, and also turn off the engine and take the keys out of the ignition.
Finally, make sure the handbrake is on and the car is in first gear (for manual transmissions). For automatic cars the transmission should be in park. Now that you have safe access to the tyres, you can now begin the inspection.
Checking the tyre tread
In order to successfully check the tread on a tyre you need to purchase a tread depth gauge. These are extremely cheap and can be found either on the internet or your local garage. You should never rely on guesswork when it comes to checking your tyres, so don’t hesitate to go out and get one as soon as you can. The great part about checking tyres with this tool is it’s simple to use and only takes a few minutes.
The minimum legal tread depth for Europe is 1.6mm, which spans across the central three quarters of the tread width, and of course, around the entire circumference of the tyre. In order to make sure you fully check the tyre, use the gauge over several places across and around the tyre.
Tyres will also have tread depth indicators moulded into the base of the main grooves, so when the tyre is worn down to the same level as these indicators, this means the tyre is at the legal limit and must be replaced as soon as possible.
If after using the tyre depth gauge you still have doubts, then it’s important you take it to your local tyre garage for them to be professionally checked. They can let you know how many miles you have left for each tyre, or if any of them need replacing.