How to check car tires: Expert advice on tread, pressure and damage ahead of Easter getaway

Simple steps to make sure your vehicle’s tires are up to scratch before any long journeys

With the Easter holidays fast approaching many families will be planning day trips or longer getaways.

For some, it could be the first long journey they have made in months and experts are urging drivers to make sure their car is properly prepared before setting off.

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Among the key elements to check are tires. They not only have a major impact on your safety but they can also affect your fuel economy and the comfort of you and your passengers, so we sought the advice of experts from tire maker Bridgestone on how to check your tires properly.

Bridgestone’s technical manager Gary Powell said: “Your tires are the only contact point between your vehicle and the road. They perform a crucial safety roll in acceleration, braking, steering and stopping, so they must be in good condition, maintained at the correct pressure and have sufficient tread to enable you to stop safety – especially in poor weather and road conditions.”

Failing to look after your tires can have catastrophic consequences

How to check tread depth

Gary continues: “The law states the absolute minimum tread depth is 1.6mm of tread across a continuous band of three-quarters of the tire width, around the entire circumference. Failure to comply could result in a fine of up to £2,500 & three penalty points per tyre.

“Ideally, your tire tread depth should be checked at least once a month at the same time that you check your tire pressure.”

There are two simple ways to check tire tread depth – one using a special tool and the other a simple 20p piece.

How to carry out the 20p tire tread check (Image: TyreSafe)

Insert a 20p coin into the main tire grooves at several places around the circumference of the tire and across its width.

If the outer band of the 20p coin is visible whenever you check the tread, your tread depth may be illegal and you should have them checked by a specialist.

A tread depth gauge is also good.

Place the gauge into the main tread grooves at several places around the circumference of the tire and across its width.

If the gauge records a reading of less than 1.6mm in any location then as stated, the tire may be illegal and you should get it replaced.

It is worth mentioning here that safety is reduced as tread depth decreases, so Gary advises considering replacing your tires well before they reach the legal minimum.

Checking tire pressure

Like tread depths, tire pressures should be checked at least once a month, or before long journeys, too.

Your tire pressures should be checked against the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended level, which can be found in the vehicle handbook and often on a plate located inside the fuel filler cap or on the driver’s door sill.

Always make sure your tires are cold (have traveled less than two miles) and the vehicle is parked on level ground before checking the pressures. Check every tire – including the spare – and make sure you’re using the correct pressure scale for the gauge being used (Bar, PSI or KPa).

Remember, if you are carrying a full load of passengers or luggage, or towing a trailer or caravan, pressures should be increased. The manufacturer’s guidelines will include different settings for partially or fully-laden vehicles.

visual inspection

Look for any signs of damage or uneven wear on your tires

When checking your tread depth and pressure you should also give the rest of the tires a visual inspection.

Remove any stones or other objects caught in the tread and check the whole tire for any cuts, splits or bulges. Such damage can lead to a sudden loss of pressure in the tyre, which is potentially dangerous for you and other road users.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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