When did you last check your car tyres? Last week? Last month? Or just before the MOT was due?
Your car tyres should be checked for wear and tear every fortnight and always before a long journey—and rotated regularly, too.
Check each car tyre for:
- Cracks and punctures: a tear bigger than 25mm or 10% of the tyre width (whichever is greater) and deep enough to reach the ply or cord, renders a tyre illegal in the UK
- Bulges on either side: this indicates a weakened sidewall
- Tyre wear: this can be accelerated by heavy loads, high speed cornering/driving, incorrect tyre inflation or wheel alignment, and faulty suspension/braking system components.
Use a tyre tread gauge or check the Tread Wear Indicator (TWI) bars in the tread grooves. If your tyre’s flush with these bars, it needs changing immediately; the tread is below the legal limit. You can also insert a 20p coin into the grooves; if the outer band of the coin’s inserted side is visible, the tread is below 1.6mm.
Never ignore tyre tread wear
Although the legal minimum tread depth for cars is 1.6mm in the UK and Europe, research carried out by the Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA) showed tyres with a 3mm tread had a 25%-44% better performance than tyres with 1.6mm tread, representing an 8-13 metre difference in braking distance. Many driving organisations have called for 3mm to become the new legal limit.
Worn tyres are dangerous, reducing grip on the road and traction on ice or snow. They also increase the risk of aquaplaning, or a puncture, which could cause a blowout and a serious accident.
They’re dangerous to your pocket as well. In the UK, you risk a fine of up to £2500 and three penalty points on your licence for each illegal tyre, and if an accident is attributed to worn tyres, your insurance may be invalidated.
New car tyres are costly too, but tyre rotation can give you longer between purchases.
What is tyre rotation?
On most cars, front tyres wear out more quickly than those on the back. Tyre rotation helps prevent uneven wear across your tyres, improving their performance and lifespan. Obviously, you can only rotate your tyres front to back if they’re all the same size!
Tyre manufacturer Goodyear recommends that tyres should be rotated every 6000 miles for cars and around 4000 miles for 4x4 vehicles, unless the manufacturer’s advice differs. For 4x4s, they recommend swapping tyres on the diagonal: your front right car tyre becomes your rear left, the rear left becomes your front right, etc.
For front wheel drive cars, they recommend moving front tyres to the back on the same side, while rear tyres should be moved to the front on the opposite side (e.g., rear left becomes front right).
For rear wheel drives, rear tyres should stay on the same side when brought forward, while front tyres should be fitted on the opposite side when moved to the back.
Michelin offer advice for those with unidirectional tyres too: swap front tyres with back tyres, keeping them on the same side.
Tyre rotation is usually best done by a professional, but if you’re doing it yourself, remember:
Always read the tyre rotation recommendations in your vehicle owner’s manual
- If your car tyres have a directional tread pattern, follow the arrows on the tyre’s sidewall
- If your vehicle uses different-sized directional tyres, or wheels with different front and rear offsets, you’ll need to do a dismount, mount and rebalance.
Tyre rotation could save your life—and save you a fortune. So, check and rotate your tyres regularly to keep yourself, your savings and other road users safe.