Whether it’s a scorcher or washout, check your tyres before Bank Holiday travel


With some forecasters predicting a heat wave but the Met Office being more cautious with its forecast, being prepared for anything is the wisest option again this Spring Bank Holiday. With up to 18 million vehicles on the road if the weather is fine, planning to avoid delays and tyre-related incidents is essential.

Of course, reducing risks is paramount, however, as many as one-in-four of those millions of vehicles** could have a tyre with tread depth below the legal limit, or air pressures substantially under the recommended settings. Driving with tyres below the legal limit of 1.6mm is not only dangerous but also leaves the driver at risk of a £2500 fine and three penalty points on their licence for each tyre found to be unroadworthy.

Driving on underinflated tyres increases wear and the amount of fuel the vehicle consumes, and also compromises braking, steering and handling. These problems are only made worse when the vehicle is fully loaded with passengers and their belongings, substantially increasing the risk of a tyre-related incident.

“When we head out for a break or holiday, that’s exactly what we want – we do not want to encounter problems, delays or worse,” said Stuart Jackson, chairman, TyreSafe. “That’s especially true when we could have prevented those misfortunes ourselves by taking a few minutes to carry out some essential checks. Before heading out on a Spring Bank Holiday getaway, TyreSafe urges you to check the air pressure, condition and tread depth of all your tyres to reduce the risks to your family and other road users.”

Manufacturers typically recommend at least two tyre pressure settings for a vehicle, the first to be used when carrying a light load and the other when fully laden. The difference can be significant and the adjustment needs to be made when the tyres are cold, ideally before setting off but at least within two miles of setting off. To ensure the pressures are correct, use an accurate gauge, and while doing so look out for signs of damage, lumps or uneven wear on all the tyres.

The depth of a tyre’s tread plays a fundamental role in how quickly a vehicle can stop and respond to steering, especially in the wet. With adequate tread depth, a tyre will be able to cut through standing water and remain in contact with the road. With low tread depth, a barrier of water can build between the tyre and tarmac, making braking and steering ineffective. This is typically referred to as ‘aquaplaning’.

As a guide to whether a tyre is close to the legal limit, insert a 20p into the main tread around the circumference of the tyre and at various points across its width. If the outer rim is visible at any point, or if you’re not sure how close it is, you should have your tyres inspected as they may be illegal and dangerous.

Tyre facts:

  • A tyre with adequate tread depth can clear the equivalent of a bucket of water every seven seconds
  • The typical contact area of a car’s tyre on the road is equivalent to the size of size eight shoe
  • In wet conditions, a car with tread depth below the legal limit will take more than a bus length extra to stop from 50mph than a car equipped with adequate tread depth
*Source: The Automobile Association
**Source: TyreSafe and Highways England tread depth survey at the point of replacement https://www.tyresafe.org/media-centre/latest-news/751-britains-motorists-taking-risks-on-nearly-10-million-dangerous-and-illegal-tyres-this-year-see-more-at-http-www-tyresafe-org-media-centre-latest-news-739-britain-e2-80-99s-motorists-taking-ri/
and government estimates on the number of vehicles on the road with pressures substantially below the manufacturer’s recommendations


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