Are You Driving On Illegal Tyres?

Recent surveys by a well known tyre retailer highlighted an issue that is not only a serious concern for road users but also very wide spread. The survey by Micheldever showed that approximately 18 million UK drivers could be on the road with illegal tyres. This is a stunning fact and one that should send shivers down every motorist’s spine.

Do under estimate the humble tyre

For many people the tyres on their car are not something they think about very often. They are something that is “just there” but not something to be checked or looked after. This could not be more wrong.

The first thing to think about is that your tyres are quite literally the only part of your car that keeps you stuck to the road. Of course, there are many gadgets and other parts of the car that keep you in a straight line and moving in the right direction but nothing else actually makes contact with the road.

The next thing to consider is just how little of the tyres actually make contact with the road at any one time. The area, known as the contact patch, that touches the road is about the size of a postcard for each wheel. So in total the amount of rubber actually gripping the road is approximately the size of an A4 sheet of paper. That is really not very much considering the speeds, weight and other factors involved. By the time you add 4 people, a full boot, some heavy rain and throw all that down the road at 60mph your A4 sheet of paper seems rather small.


The survey showed that around 40% of people are not aware of what the legal tread limit actually is. The magic number is 1.6mm, this refers to the depth of the tread left on the tyre. In reality you should not let your tyres get that low and you should certainly not be driving around with less tread than this. In wet conditions the tread allows the water to move out from under the tyre and means the rubber can touch the road. With no tread the water can’t get out and you are driving on a film of water; not ideal if you need to turn, accelerate or stop.

Your responsibility

The condition of the tyres is completely down to the owner of the car. You should regularly check the tread, there are a number of cheap and easy to use tread measure tools out there. You should also run your hand over them, when they are cold, to check for any lumps and bumps. Be sure to check for the tops of any nails sticking out; be careful though, as there could be sharp objects embedded in the surface of the tyre. The study showed that 13% of people considered the state of their tyres to be the responsibility of their garage, this is certainly not the case.


The irony of this study is that more and more people are buying cars based on safety features. People are insisting on ABS, larger cars, safety ratings and traction control. But they are sadly not as keen on checking their own tyres, a factor which if not up to scratch renders all the other safety features useless.