It is crucial for all drivers to understand what is the minimum tread depth required for car tyres, as well as what is the best type of tyre tread for their personal needs. But what is tread depth? Tread depth on tyres helps you stay safe when you’re on the road by providing grip. Insufficient tread depth leads to a decrease in traction, which subsequently increases the likelihood of an accident. Needless to say, if you’re going to do your due diligence on the road, you’ll want to find out more about tyre tread depth.

Woman measures tyre tread

Types of tyre tread

Not all tyres bear the same tread. When examining your car tyres for the depth of your tread, it’s important to know what pattern you’re looking at. Some of the most common tread patterns include:

  • Symmetrical tyre tread – Symmetrical tread promotes smooth driving while on the road while also providing you with the directional stability you need to safely take on tough turns. Symmetrical tyre tread is ideal for a dry road, but you won’t have as much control over your tyres if you need to drive in the rain.
  • Directional tyre tread – If you’re looking for a set of tyres that will protect you against aquaplaning, then tyres with directional tread are the way to go. These tyres will help your car remain stable while driving through rain, sleet, and mud. They’ll also improve the tyre grip on the road if you want to drive at faster speeds.
  • Asymmetric tyre tread – This tyre tread marries the benefits of directional tyre tread and symmetrical tyre tread. Asymmetric tyres help your car handle the road while also gripping the asphalt on rainy or snowy days.

It’s worth noting that each of these tread types wears at a different rate from the others. Wear rates, too, will vary based on the amount of driving you’re doing, the weather you’re driving in, and the speed at which you’re driving. Even so, knowing what kind of tread your tyres have will help you determine when your tyres are roadway safe and when you need to look into replacing your set.

Tyre tread close-up

How to measure tyre tread depth

Although typically around 8 mm deep, even new tyre tread depth may vary depending on the model and/or purpose. Now that you know what kind of tread you’re working with, you can more readily test its depth and determine whether it satisfies the legal tread depth requirements. There are several ways to check the depth of your tread, including:

  • The penny test

At a minimum, your tyre tread needs to be 1.6 mm deep. One of the easiest ways to test the depth is to compare your tread against a pound coin.

To perform the pound test, place your coin between your tyres’ tread rib. You’ll be able to spot this rob by looking for the portion of your tread that is elevated above the rest. Your tread should, if it’s roadway safe, cover the top of the queen’s head. If your tread is any shallower than that, you’ll need to purchase a new set of tyres so you can drive safely on the road.

Be sure to test all four of your tyres when performing the pound test. You may only have to replace a single tyre, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Tyres at a tyre store

  • Tread depth gauges

If you don’t have a pound coin on hand or just want to have a designated tool for determining the depth of your tread, you may want to invest in a tyre tread depth gauge. These gauges are available online and at your local garages.

A gauge will measure the depth of your tread in much the same way a pound coin does. These gauges come equipped with miniature rulers. When you use your gauge to measure your tread depth, you’ll be able to determine its depth and immediately know if you’re within legal tread limits.

  • Tread wear indicator bars

Alternatively, more modern cars come equipped with tread wear indicator bars. If your tread dips down below the recommended amount, a light will appear on your dashboard to let you know that one of your tyres needs to be swapped out.

Regular tyre checks are important

You’ll need to use one of the aforementioned tools to determine which tyre needs replacing, but you’ll be able to respond to your car’s needs more readily. There’s less guesswork involved in an automated tread wear indicator, even if other tools are still needed to determine when your tyres need to be replaced.

Don’t let your questions about tyre wear keep you from staying safe on the road. The UK’s tyre laws dictate that all car tyres must have a tread that is at least 1.6 mm deep. Whether you’re sporting summer tyres, winter tyres, or all season tyres, test your tread.

As you get more accustomed with time spent on the road, it’ll be easier for you to know when to change your tyres and when you’re safe to drive.