All you need to know about car tyres for safe driving
There’s just four small patches of rubber each about the size of your hand that are keeping your car in touch with the road so having the right tyres, in good condition and correctly inflated is vital for your safety.
Checking your tyres:
Helps keep you and your family safe.
Saves you money by making your tyres last longer.
Keeps you on the right side of the law.
Original fit car tyres
We’re often asked if it’s important to stick with the same tyres your car came fitted with when it was new.
There’s no legal requirement to stick with the same tyres, but car and tyre manufacturers do work closely together during the development of a new car model to select the size and tread pattern best suited to the car. They’ll consider things like noise and handling as well as the look of the vehicle so changing brand or pattern could affect handling or mean more noise.
New tyres to the front or back?
Check your handbook first but if it doesn’t give any specific advice then, whether your car’s front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive the best/newest tyres should be on the back.
Making sure you have your best tyres on the back will favour ‘understeer’ rather than ‘oversteer’ when grip is limited such as in very wet or cold conditions.
Understeer – the car tends to go straight on even though you’re turning the wheel.
Oversteer – the back end breaks free and the car is likely to spin.
Tyres with deeper tread grooves are less likely to puncture too and it’s more difficult to control a car with a damaged rear tyre than one with a damaged front tyre.
Basic legal requirements
Your tyres must:
Be compatible with the others on the car.
Be in a generally good physical condition.
Be correctly inflated to the recommended pressure.
Have sufficient tread and depth of tread – at least 1.6mm in the centre ¾ of the tread in a continuous band around the tyre.
You don’t have to carry a spare and it doesn’t have to meet the legal requirements while it’s stowed away but must do if you use it.
The band around the edge of a 20 pence coin is a little wider than the legal limit of 1.6 mm so you can use one for a quick and simple check. Stick the coin, edge on, into one of the tread grooves and look at it from the side:
If the outer band on the coin is completely obscured, then your tread’s above the legal limit.
If you can see the outer band then your tread may be below the legal limit.
Spare wheels and new cars
Don’t assume that any new car you’re buying will have a full-sized spare in the boot. Many cars now have a ‘skinny’ spare or just an emergency tyre sealant kit.
There may not actually be enough room to carry a full-size spare, but if there is then it may be possible to buy one as an optional extra. You may also have to buy a modified boot floor and/or a jack and wheel removal tools too.