Checking your tyre treads

How To check Your Tyre Treads Accurately

Regularly checking the tread on all four of your tyres can help diagnose potential problems, as well as avoiding unexpected tyre indicator lights on the dashboard or not passing an MOT. Check them at least once a month, as well as before and after long journeys.

Tyre tread is vitally important for grip, traction and resistance to aquaplaning. A brand new tyre will have around 8mm of tread and over time, with regular driving it will begin to wear down. Uneven wear might be a sign of incorrect tyre pressure or a wheel alignment issue.

In the UK, the legal limit of tyre tread is 1.6mm, but it’s important to check tyres regularly and keep them well maintained. For winter tyres, you should consider changing your tyres at 4mm of tread.

Legal tread depth limit in the UK diagram

How To Check Tyre Tread – Step by Step

1. Park your vehicle on a flat and level surface. Make sure the handbrake is engaged and the vehicle is in park or in gear.

2. Remove the hubcap or wheel cover from the tyre.

3. Using a tread depth gauge measure the depth of the treads in several locations around the tyre, or use the 20p coin trick.

4. Look for any signs of wear or damage to the tyres, such as cuts, bulges, or cracking.

5. Look for any uneven wear on the tyre, you can check the TWI (Tyre Wear Indicator) sidewall markings which will line up with the tyres tread wear indicators.

6. Check the tyre pressure using a tyre pressure gauge to make sure it is at the correct level.

7. If necessary, adjust the pressure according to the manufacturer's recommendation.

8. Reinstall the hubcap or wheel cover and replace any valve stem caps that were removed.

How To Check Tyre Tread Depth With A 20p Coin

An easy way to check the tread depth of your tyres is with a 20p coin. Place the edge of the coin into the main tread groove of your tyre. If the outer band of the 20p coin is visible, then the tread depth is below the UK legal limit of 1.6mm. If the inner band of the 20p coin is visible, then the tread depth is above the legal limit. It is important to regularly check tyre tread depth to ensure that your tyres are safe and legal.

How To Use a Depth Gauge

Tyre Treads Check with Gauge

To use a depth gauge, insert the end of the gauge into the tread of the tyre and press down until the gauge is level with the tread surface. Read the measurement on the gauge, which is typically in millimetres, and compare it to the legal limit. If the tread depth is below the legal limit, it’s time for a replacement. 

How To Measure Tyre Tread Depth With Wear Indicators

Measuring tyre tread depth with wear indicators is a simple process. To begin, locate the tread wear indicator on your tyres which can be bars or shapes. The tread wear indicator bars are in the grooves of the tyre tread, and they sit at the same level as the treadwear indicators. By looking at the top of each tread wear indicator bar to the bottom of the main tread block you can check to see how close they to the legal limit.

Legal tread depth limit in the UK diagram

What is The Legal Tyre Tread Depth in The UK?

In the UK, the legal minimum tyre tread depth is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre, around its entire circumference. It is important to check your tyre tread depth regularly, as reduced tread depth could impact tyre performance in wet conditions, potentially leading to a greater risk of aquaplaning. If you have an accident with illegal tyres, you may be subject to a fine, points on your license, or even vehicle impoundment. Illegal tyres are unsafe, and your vehicle's performance and safety will be affected. To ensure your safety and peace of mind, it is important to always use tyres that meet the legal requirements for your vehicle.

What is The Tread Depth of a New Tyre?

New tyres in the UK tend to start life with around 8-9mm of tread depth which tends to gradually wear away over time. If you're looking for a tyre designed to provide more mileage, the Goodyear EfficientGrip Performance 2 is a great choice - providing up to 20% more mileage than the next best competitor*. 

Car Tyre Tread Warning Signs

  • Visible tread wear bars: You can only see these bars of hard rubber when your tyre’s tread has become worn. If you can see them, your tyres need replacing. If you’re not sure where they are, you’ll see a mark on the sidewall that indicates where to look. 
  • Your tread is less than 1.6mm: Under European law, your treads must be at least 1.6mm deep around the tyre’s circumference. For winter tyres, Goodyear recommends a minimum tread depth of 4mm. Check them with a tread depth gauge (they aren’t expensive if you haven’t got one) and make sure you measure both the inside and outside of your treads.
  • Something’s lodged in the tread: Things get stuck in your tread all the time. Most of the time they’re easy to remove, but if you spot something that looks as if it’s gone through the rubber, like a nail, leave it in until you can get to a garage. Otherwise you’re likely to end up with a flat tyre. 
  • Tyres are worn on the outside: If they’re worn on both of their edges, you might need to inflate them or check for leaks. Tyres lose air naturally, but driving on underinflated tyres uses more fuel and puts you at greater risk of accidents. If you notice that only the front tyres have worn edges, you might be taking corners too quickly. Make sure you regularly check your tyre pressure.
  • Tyres are worn in the centre: If the centre of the tread is wearing more than the outer edges, you might have overinflated your tyres. This can increase the risk of a tyre blowout. Get a pressure gauge and then deflate to the recommended pressure level. 
  • Uneven wear across a single tyre: The wear patterns on your treads might indicate problems elsewhere. If you notice uneven patches of wear, or bald spots, you might need your wheels balanced or aligned. Sometimes bald spots indicate that your shock absorbers are worn.
  • Uneven wear across all the tyres: Your tyres won’t wear out at the same rate. The front of your vehicle carries the engine and does most of the steering work, so tyres on your front axle will wear out more quickly. If they seem to be wearing more than normal, you should have your suspension checked. If wear is greater on one side of the vehicle than the other, it might be time for an alignment. 
  • Sawtoothed pattern on tyre edges: If you notice that your tyres have a sawtoothed or feathered appearance around the edges, the likely cause is erratic rubbing against the road. That’s a sign that you may need an alignment.

Looking for more information on tyre care? Read our Guide to Tyres for tips and advice on maintaining, and even extending the lifespan of your tyres. 

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*20%/11,000km higher mileage than next best tested competitor. Mileage (i.e., until legal treadwear limit is reached) compared to four latest designs from competitors in summer HP segment (Michelin Primacy 4, Continental PremiumContact 6, Bridgestone Turanza T005, Pirelli Cinturato P7 Blue). Tested by TÜV SÜD Product Service GmbH in November 2019 by order of Goodyear. Tire size tested: 205/55R16 91V; Test car: VW Golf Mk7; Test location: open roads in central Germany. Report number: 713171748. Full report available at: