Heading on holiday? Don’t get hit with a £10,000 tyre fine

Heading on holiday? Don’t get hit with a £10,000 tyre fine
An extortionate fine potentially awaits those without legal tyres.

In the excitement of the big summer getaway, it is crucial you don’t forget to check your tyres before you leave.

Driving on unroadworthy tyres could mean putting yourself, your passengers and other road users at risk and even lead to a five-figure fine if they do not meet legal requirements.

What is the penalty for illegal tyres?

If you drive on damaged or worn tyres, you’re putting everyone’s safety at risk. AS well as a hefty fine you could receive penalty points on your licence too.

The penalty for driving with tyres below the legal tread depth limit is a fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points per tyre.

So, in total, you could face a £10,000 bill.

Fortunately the points do not add up in the same way as the fine does and you would only receive three penalty points for the offence, irrespetive of how many tyres you were penalsied for.

If you’re involved in an accident while driving with defective tyres, an insurance claim could also be invalidated, which means your insurer won't pay out to repair your vehicle.

Want to protect yourself against any losses after an accident? Get legal expenses insurance for just £15 a year with RAC Legal Care Plus.

READ MORE: Tyre safety – all you need to know

What is the law on tyres?

Under UK law, your car is required to be fitted with the correct type and size of tyres that are free from defects.

Your tyres must have at least 1.6mm of tread depth across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tyre around the complete circumference.

For safety reasons, it’s advisable to replace your tyres before they reach the legal limit. We recommend replacing them at 3mm as a tyre’s braking performance significantly drops below this point.

If there is a cut in your tyre you should get it replaced as soon as possible. However, the tyre is still legal if the cut is less than 25mm or covers under 10% of the section width of the wheel.

Why is tyre tread depth so important?

Your tyres are the only point of contact between your car and the road. They affect braking, steering and grip, so can severely hamper the performance of your vehicle if they’re in poor condition.

Sufficient tread depth is vital for good grip on wet roads as the tread pattern helps to remove water from between the tyre and the road surface. The more tread depth your tyres have, the more efficiently water is cleared.

If the tread depth is inadequate, stopping distances will be longer and you’re more likely to lose control of your car.

Ultimately, damaged or defective tyres will put the safety of you and your passengers – including your kids – at risk, as well as other road users.

READ MORE: How to get more from your tyres

How do I check the tread depth of my tyres?

The 20p test is a quick and easy way to check the tread of your car’s wheels. Simply insert a 20p coin into the tread grooves on the tyre.

If you can’t see the outer band of the coin face, your tyres are above the legal limit. But if you can see the band, your tyres could be unsafe and you should get them replaced. When doing the test, check at least three points around each tyre.

Alternatively, you can use a tread depth gauge to get a more accurate measurement of your tyre tread. This will give you an instant reading to tell you if your tyres are legal.

If you don’t feel confident checking the tread yourself, take your car to a garage to get a mechanic to give your wheels the once-over.

You should also look out for cuts, lumps and bumps, which can be caused by potholes, kerbs or objects in the road.

MORE ADVICE: Essential car maintenance checks

How often should I check my tyres?

It’s recommended that you inspect your tyres at least once a month and before any long journey. Checks should include the overall condition, tread depth and pressure.

Your vehicle handbook will tell you what each tyre pressure should be – it might need adjusting if you’ve loaded up your car with suitcases. If you're not sure how to check your car's tyre pressure, watch our informative video.

And if you’re towing a caravan, don’t forget to check the condition of its tyres too.

Tyres are routinely checked during an MOT and will fail if they’re found to be defective. Many drivers don’t even realise they have illegal tyres until they fail their MOT, so try to get into the habit of checking them regularly.

Other summer journey checks

As well as your tyres, there are other checks you should make before setting off on holiday or a long journey to ensure you stay safe and avoid a summer breakdown. These include:

  • Oil level: Your engine will be damaged if it doesn’t get enough lubrication, so do the dipstick test to ensure the oil level is between the minimum and maximum markers.
  • Coolant level: On a hot day, coolant removes excessive heat from your engine – essential if you’re stuck in holiday traffic.
  • Screenwash: Top this up ahead of your journey. Screenwash will get rid of dirt – and kamikaze insects – from your windscreen.
  • Lights: Check that your indicators, headlamps, brake lights and reverse lights are all working. If you’re taking your car to mainland Europe for a driving holiday, be aware that in most countries it’s compulsory to fit headlamp beam deflectors so you don’t dazzle oncoming traffic.

READ NEXT: Undertaking – have you been breaking the law?