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Why is tyre tread important?

Tyres are a critical component to completing safe car journeys and having them professionally fitted by our technicians is a smart decision.

Having tyres correctly inflated and with a legal tread limit are very important for fuel efficiency and passenger safety.

How does tyre tread affect performance?

Tyre tread helps tyres gain a better grip on the road as they rotate.

When there is water on a road surface, this water needs to be pushed out by the tyre tread. To put this in perspective, when driving at 60mph, with 3mm water on the road, a tyre has to work to push away 2 gallons of water every second. In heavy rain, 3mm of water is not uncommon. When travelling across a large puddle, the depth can reach 8-10mm quite quickly.


Aquaplaning is when a layer of water builds between the tyre and road, preventing the tyre from maintaining a grip on the road.

Adequate tread depth is crucial when it comes to driving in wet weather as your tyre tread works to clear water away from the tyre, enabling you to retain contact with the road surface.

Low or worn tread can put you in a dangerous situation in wet conditions, as you can lose control of the vehicle, leaving you unable to steer, brake or accelerate, as you glide across the water.

Is there a legal tyre tread in the UK?

UK law requires that tyres have a tread depth of no less than 1.6mm in a non-interrupted band covering at least 75 percent of each tyre. This is the lowest level and for safety purposes, a tyre should be replaced before it reaches this stage.

If you are caught driving with tyres below the legal tread limit, you could receive three penalty points and a £2,500 fine.

How to check if a tyre is below the legal tread limit

Many manufacturers include tread bars in the tyre at the 1.6mm mark. If you can see any of these bars in the tyre, then you need to replace the tyre immediately because it is no longer either legal or safe to drive on it.

If you cannot see these tread bars in your tyre, you can do this simple 20 pence test to see whether your tyres are safe to drive on.

Wet braking distances were said to be much longer when tread goes under 3mm according to the test centre, MIRA.

There is also EU tyre labelling that is shown as three labels providing information about fuel efficiency, wet grip, and noise levels for regular tyres sold in the UK.

What causes tyre wear earlier than expected?

Tyres can need replacing much sooner due to faster than anticipated tread wear or tread wear that is unevenly disbursed.

This could be as a result of excessively braking and/or accelerating too quickly.

Common reasons for faster tread wear include:

  • Over-inflated tyre – The centre of the tread wears faster
  • Under-inflated tyre – The edges of the tread wear faster
  • Incorrect tracking or wheel alignment – The inside or outside edges of only the front tyres wear faster
  • Incorrect balancing of the wheels – Bald spots are created in the tread

If you are worried about your tyre tread, we provide a free tyre check all of our Tyre Shopper fitting centres.

Our trained technicians will carry out a full inspection of your tyres to check their general condition and ensure the tyre tread meets legal requirements.

If you’d like to know more about correct tyre pressures, you can contact our experts for advice.

Back to Tyre Information

You may also be interested in the following article:

How To Check Your Tyre Tread Depth helps show how you can use a 20 pence coin to check whether your tyres are legal for the road.



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