Choosing the right winter tyres can significantly improve your driving safety. If you are wondering whether the tyres you own are still in good condition, check out this article to see if you need a new set to stay safe.

Checking the condition of your winter tyres before the season starts is a must. Only properly selected snow tyres can guarantee you safety during unpredictable winter weather. Their condition is best checked before winter, so they can be replaced or repaired in time, if need be. 

Stack of winter tyres

Winter tyres – checking their condition

The easiest way to check if your winter tyres are still good to use is to examine them carefully. Careful inspection will only take a few minutes and it will allow you to fully assess the condition of your tyres.

How to examine your winter tyres quickly and effectively? Here are a few tips:

  • Clean the tyre from sand, dust and pebbles stuck in-between the tyre treads; you can also wash the tyres. Use products that will not damage the tyre. Some detergents may accelerate the aging process of the rubber; therefore it is best to use dedicated cleaning agents.
  • Inspect the condition of the tyre visually and check the tread depth in several places. Winter tyres may wear unevenly, so check them in several places.
  • If you find bulges, cuts or ripped blocks, then go to a professional service centre to check out the problem. Rotten or damaged tyres can be particularly dangerous in winter.

How deep is the tread in a new winter tyre?

The tread depth in new winter tyres differs depending on the model, but most often it’s between 8 and 10 mm. So when is it best to replace your old winter tyres? Experts suggest buying a new set of tyres when the tread depth is around 4-4.5 mm, and 2 mm – for summer tyres. In most European countries, the minimum permissible tread depth is 1.6 mm.

The tyre tread is critical to ensuring driving safety in winter. Unfortunately, tyres get worn out in everyday use. That’s why the tread should be checked regularly, because only tyres kept in good condition guarantee that the tyres will be safe, have a better grip and will be able to prevent aquaplaning.

Man measuring tyre tread depthThe tread depth of a new tyre is approximately 8-10 mm

What’s the lowest permissible tread for winter tyres?

The right tread depth is particularly important for snow tyres which work in much more extreme conditions than summer tyres. As the tread wears down, winter tyres lose their properties, which impedes driving safety. Taking into account the latest tests, the lowest operational limit of tyre tread is 4.5 mm. Winter tyres with less tread lose their traction and can be dangerous in difficult conditions.

To check the tyre tread depth, you can use a caliper, ballpoint pen, pencil or matches. The easiest way to do it is to insert a match into your tyre’s tread groove and mark the tread depth on the match with a pen, then measure the distance marked on the match with a ruler.

Man checking tyre treadDIY tyre tread check

Man measuring tyre tread depthMeasuring the tread depth using a match, ballpoint pen and a caliper

How many years can winter tyres last?

The tread depth is not the only aspect that should be taken into account when checking tyres. Rotten or damaged tyres also need replacing. In particular, cheap snow tyres from unverified manufacturers tend to have less durability. Not all cheap winter tyres are of low quality, but it’s worth thinking carefully before purchasing such models. Usually it’s best to buy winter tyres from reputable brands.

Another important aspect is the age of the tyre. Models older than three years old may no longer be manufactured. If you damage such a tyre, it may be difficult to find an identical model on the market. Then you will need to replace two tyres, not one.

Old winter tyres increase the risk of an accident while driving. Rubber undergoes quite a quick aging process: it is assumed that the maximum service life for tyres is five years. After this period, the tyre no longer provides optimal grip, even if the tyre tread is deep enough. 

To ensure your safety while driving even further, it is also important to have the right pressure in your winter tyres.