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  Check tyre tread depth

In this article I'll show you how to to check your tyre tread depth using the tread depth indicator moulded into the tyre and also using a tread depth gauge.

On this page: Background | What to buy | Step-by-step guide

A little bit of background...

The grooves in a tyre help channel water away and are vital for wet weather performance, affecting the car’s ability to corner and brake safely. The legal minimum tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm across three quarters of the tyre’s width.
It’s worth noting that the grip available with this little tread left is seriously reduced. A tyre with 1.6mm can take nearly 50% further to stop a car in the wet compared to a new tyre with 8mm of tread depth.

TOP TIP: Driving with tyres below the 1.6mm limit is not only an MOT failure but also illegal. It will cost you a fine and 3 points on your licence per illegal tyre.

What to buy

A depth measuring gauge is easy to use and will only cost a few pounds. It’s small enough to keep in the glovebox and will give an accurate measure of the tread depth of your tyres.

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When should I think about replacing my tyres?

As the UK gets its fair share of rain, the safest option is to change the tyres when the depth gets down to 3mm.

How to check your tyre tread depth:

A quick visual check of tread depth can be made by looking at the wear indicators which you’ll find in the grooves of the tread pattern. This will give you a guide as to how close a tyre is to the legal limit. A tyre should be changed before the tread reaches the level of the depth indicator but ideally at 3mm.

TOP TIP: Make sure you check all the tyres as wear rates vary, especially between the front and rear.

Step-by-step guide: Click on the images to enlarge

Quick tyre tread depth check
Quick Check:
A quick visual check of the tyre depth can be made by looking at the tread wear indicators. When the tread of the tyre is worn down to the level of the indicator, it needs replacing immediately.
Use a depth gauge to check tyre tread depth
Using depth gauge:
With a depth gauge you can get a more accurate measure of the tread. Line up the gauge over the tread and push the centre into the groove between the tread.
read off tyre tread depth
Read off depth:
Read the level from the gauge. In this case the tread depth is 7mm.
tread depth across tyre width
Depth across tyre:
The tread depth should be above the legal minimum of 1.6mm across three quarters of the tyre. For safety, it’s wise to replace the tyres when the tread level reaches 3mm.


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