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This section is concerned with the UK law in relation to tyre use on passenger vehicles; if you need info on winter driving laws in other European countries please visit our winter tyre advice. There are 3 main regulations that need to be considered in order to drive legally:
This Regulation is concerned with the tyre's load index and speed ratings. The Regulation requires that the tyres fitted to the vehicle are not only capable of supporting the maximum permitted load on each axle but of doing so at the vehicle's maximum legal speed. To keep within the law you must always fit tyres that have a speed capability and load index at least equal to or higher than those originally specified by the vehicle manufacturer. (Further info on this topic can be seen in 'tyres explained' 'load & speed ratings')
Regulation 26 deals with the mixing of tyres of differing structures. The regulation defines three types of tyre structure, diagonal ply (Cross ply), bias-belted and radial. Cross ply tyres are now very rarely seen and have effectively been replaced by radial ply tyres. No vehicle shall be fitted with tyres of differing structure on the same axle. Mixing of a temporary spare tyre on a car is allowed, provided it is not driven at a speed exceeding 50mph.
This regulation deals with the condition and maintenance of tyres. It specifies when a tyre should not be used on the road due to for example: not being suitable for the use to which the vehicle is being put, or issues relating to its condition or maintenance, such as inappropriate tyre pressures, cuts, bulges or tyre damage. It also allows the use of run flat tyres when in a deflated state provided the tyre and wheel are so constructed to be fit for the use to which the vehicle is being put. This Regulation also specifies that the grooves of the tread pattern of every tyre fitted to cars and light vans shall be of a depth of at least 1.6mm throughout a continuous band comprising the central three quarters of the breadth of tread round the entire circumference of the tyre.
Drivers with tyres that fail to meet these standards face a fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points per illegal tyre.
Recommended tyre inflation pressures for your vehicle can be found in the vehicle handbook and/or on a placard mounted on the vehicle. In the absence of either of these consult the tyre manufacturer. Correct pressures are related to loads, speeds and vehicle handling and are vital for maximum safety, braking, grip and good tyre life.
Prolonged under-inflation causes excessive flexing, deterioration of the casing and rapid wear of the tread shoulders. The vehicle will also consume more fuel.
Over-inflation results in an uncomfortable ride, a reduced area of contact with the road, accelerated wear on the tread centre and makes the tyre more susceptible to impact damage.
Inflation pressure should be checked at least every two weeks and only when the tyre is cold, since there is an increase in pressure when the tyre has warmed up after being run. A reliable and accurate pressure gauge should be used.
Tyres are the only parts of the car which are in contact with the road. Safety in acceleration, braking, steering and cornering all depend on a relatively small area of road contact. It is therefore of paramount importance that tyres should be maintained in good condition at all times and that when the time comes to change them the correct replacements are fitted.
The original tyres for a car are determined by joint consultation between the car and tyre manufacturers and take into account all aspects of operation. It is recommended that changes in tyre size or type should not be undertaken without seeking advice from the car or tyre manufacturers, as the effect on car handling, safety and clearances must be taken into account.
In some other European countries it is illegal to use replacements which differ in certain respects (e.g. size, load, and speed rating) from the tyre fitted originally by the vehicle manufacturer.
Types of tyre
Radial ply tyres are now the most common tyres in use on British roads representing more than 90%. Some radial ply tyres now have a run flat capability which are becoming more common particularly when fitted as an original equipment. Radial ply tyres may be either steel or textile braced and are identified in the size marking by the letter “R” and often the word “Radial”.
Self-Supporting Run Flat (SST) tyres are designed to provide a limited run on period following a puncture. To be categorised as a run flat tyre, the minimum distance they must achieve in a run flat condition is 50 miles (80 km) at a maximum speed of 50 mph (80 km/h) and at a minimum of 80% of their maximum load capacity. It is essential the vehicle is equipped with a tyre pressure monitoring system to enable use of run flat tyres.
Do not mix tyre types
Except in the case of temporary use spare tyres supplied as original equipment, it is illegal in the United Kingdom and dangerous to mix tyres of different sizes on the same axle.
Temporary use spare tyres
Temporary use spare tyres are frequently a different size to the standard road tyres. Severe operating restrictions apply. Failure to observe the advice given in the vehicle handbook and/or on the tyre sidewall could have very serious consequences. Do not exceed 50 mph when using a temporary use spare tyre and observe the minimum inflation pressure.
Wheels and Rims
It is essential the wheel size is an approved fitment for the tyre and vehicle concerned. Tyres must not be used on damaged, distorted or modified wheels since this could result in tyre damage, deflation and possible loss of control of the vehicle.
Removal and fitting of tyres
These operations should only be entrusted to a trained tyre specialist who has the necessary equipment and expertise. Inexpert fitting can result in injury and damage to tyres and wheels. Wheels should be balanced after tyres are fitted or replaced.
A new valve should be fitted when replacing tubeless tyres. When checking or adjusting inflation pressure, always ensure the valve is not leaking. A new cap of the sealing type should be fitted.
Directional and asymmetric tyres
Some tyres have patterns where their direction of rotation is important to achieve their full performance. These are known as ‘Directional’ pattern tyres and the direction of rotation is marked on the tyre’s sidewall. Additionally some tyres have patterns which are different on the inner half of the tread than compared to the outer half. These tyres, known as ‘Asymmetric’, have their sidewalls marked ‘Outside’ and/or ‘Inside’ or similar wording. It is important with both these tyre types to observe the fitting markings on the tyre sidewall.
Driving over pot-holes, kerbs, speed humps etc even at low speed can result in the weakening or fracture of the tyre’s structure. It is dangerous to re-inflate a tyre which has been run flat or seriously under inflated and such tyres should be removed for complete examination by a tyre specialist. Tyre manufacturers cannot be held responsible for problems arising from modifications to their products, or the use of sealants which they have not approved.
WHAT TYRES DO YOU NEED ?
We want your tyre shopping experience to be as simple as possible, in order to use tyremen you need to be aware of the following things:
When changing tyres please ensure that they are the same as the vehicles original equipment tyre size. If you have had the vehicle from new and know that the tyres have not been changed then the easiest way to find this is to copy down the tyre size that is embossed on the side of your current tyres, it will look something like this: 205/55R16 (91V).
You can then put this info into the ‘find your tyres’ search box on our home page, we’ll then show you a number of suitable options.
Please be wary that if you haven’t had the vehicle from new a previous owner may have changed the tyre size so it might be worth checking that the size on the vehicle now is the same as what is listed in your service book. Also some vehicles, including many BMW’s & Mercedes have different sizes of tyres on the front to the back so please check both if you are looking to replace a full set.
Most tyres sold in the UK are officially classed as summer tyres by the manufacturers, but it is common place to use these year round on your vehicle. Within standard summer tyres some products are more suited to different conditions, for example Uniroyal gear their products towards really good performance in the rain. For details on the varying tyres that we supply please have a look at their associated product descriptions.
In addition to standard tyres the manufacturers also make specific winter tyres for those colder winter months, these tyres are becoming increasing popular due to the vastly improved safety and winter driving performance they provide.
Also between the 2 is all-season tyres which are somewhere in the middle, they offer better winter time performance than a regular summer tyre, but not as much as a winter tyre. They offer the benefit of not having to change your tyres from summer to winter and are a good option for drivers that often drive in challenging climates.
If you need any advice on this we are only a phone call away and are happy to advise!
Because your tyres are your only link between your vehicle and the road, they play a key role in road handling, comfort, braking distance and fuel saving. Different usage conditions require different tyre characteristics.
In the city - Because you need to be doubly alert in urban and city areas we suggest the following selection criteria:
Braking distance. Use tyres with the optimum braking distance, on both dry and wet roads.
Longevity. City driving with its numerous stops and starts puts great demands on the tyre. Choose tyres with increased longevity.
Fuel economy. Tyres with low rolling resistance save fueL
On main roads or motorways - Tyres play a key role in your vehicle’s handling.
Braking distance at high speed. For maximum safety, select tyres that provide optimum braking distance on both dry and wet roads.
Comfort. For long trips, choose tyres that offer comfort both in terms of vibration and noise level.
Road holding. Select tyres that provide excellent grip and stability.
Sports car - If you enjoy driving in a sporty manner, your tyres should have the necessary characteristics to assist you. - Tyre selection criteria:
Grip. Look for a tyre with excellent performance on both dry and wet roads.
Road holding. Choose tyres from our premium tyre ranges for products that provide excellent steering precision and good stability in bends.
MAKING YOUR TYRES LAST LONGER
In order to get the most out of your tyres there are a few simple steps that can be followed to ensure that your tyres wear well and last as long as possible.
Correct pressures are vital for maximum safety, braking, grip and good tyre life. Prolonged under-inflation causes rapid wear of the tread shoulders, over-inflation results in accelerated wear on the tread centre.
Inspection and Maintenance
Examine your tyres regularly, removing stones and other objects embedded in the tread. If you see any damage ensure that you show this to a tyre specialist as soon as possible.
Another thing you can do is to make sure your wheels are aligned correctly. One of the most common results of unaligned tyres is the feeling of pulling to right or left side while you are driving. Misalignment will cause tyres to wear rapidly on either the inside or outside edges of the tyre, dramatically decreasing the life of the tyre. Most garages will be able to check this for you at a minimal cost.
The life expectancy of your tyres is impossible to predict. You can increase the life and performance of your tyres, however, by properly handling and storing them when they are not in use. When tyres sit outdoors, unused for long periods of time (a month or more), their surfaces become dry and surface cracks can appear.
For this reason, tyres should always be stored in a cool, dry, clean, indoor environment. If storage is for one month or more, eliminate the load on the tyres by raising the vehicle or by removing the tyres from the vehicle. If not, it could result in damage, premature aging or sudden tyre failure.
Tyres may be stacked on top of each other in piles no higher than 1.2 metres (4ft), preferably on pallets. Reverse the order of the tyres every four weeks. When tyres are mounted on rims, store them inflated in a vertical position or in a single row on shelves.
WHEN SHOULD I CHANGE MY TYRES ?
The following are the main reasons that a tyre might need to be replaced, please see below for detailed descriptions:
2.When tyres are worn down
3.When tyres show signs of ageing
4.If tyre is damaged
5.If the tyre is abnormally worn
Modern tyres are very sturdy and can cope with most things. Punctures, though, can and do still happen. A tyre specialist should check your tyre after a puncture to decide whether it can be repaired.
Repairs to car tyres must only be carried out by a tyre specialist and in accordance with the current British Standards. Permanent repairs can only be carried out following removal of the tyre from the wheel to allow a thorough inspection internally as well as externally to ensure there is no hidden damage which could result in a catastrophic failure. To avoid such a hazard, neither externally applied plug repairs, nor liquid sealants may be considered as a permanent repair. Tyre manufacturers cannot be held responsible for problems resulting from their use.
Can you repair a run flat tyre?
The official response is that you need to check with the tyre manufacturer, their answer varies from a flat no, to placing the emphasis on the garage inspecting the tyre to make a call as to whether it is safe to repair or not. You will probably find that most national garages adopt the policy not to repair them, in contrast to independents that are likely to be more lenient. The difficulty is that unlike a standard tyre any damage caused by running on flat is not visible, although may still be present. There is certainly an argument that if the tyre warning light has just come on and you drive a short distance, slowly to a garage then a repair should be able to be carried out safely.
When your tyres are worn down
The legal minimum tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm throughout a continuous band comprising the central three-quarters of the breadth of tread and round the entire outer circumference of the tyre. However tyre wet grip deteriorates more rapidly in the second half of its tread life and wet stopping distances can dramatically lengthen. It is therefore advisable consideration is given to replacing tyres well before they reach the legal minimum.
All tyres have a tread wear indicator to display the 1.6mm depth that is required by law. As mentioned previously tyre performance and stopping distances reduce dramatically when a tyre in the second half of its life, this is usually around 3mm and below. The simple 20p can be used to determine whether your tyre have reached this critical stage.
When tyres are showing signs of ageing
Tyres are designed and built to provide many thousands of miles of excellent service. For maximum benefit, tyres must be maintained properly to avoid tyre damage. There are many factors that will affect the life of the tyre such as temperature, maintenance, conditions of storage and use, load, speed, pressure as well as driving style. These will have a great impact on the length of service life you can expect from your tyres. Because of this it is important to inspect your tyres regularly for signs of aging that include cracking and tread deformation. It is also advisable that a tyre specialist inspects your tyres regularly after they are 5 years old to advise on when they should be taken out of service.
There is currently no agreement as to a specific age when a tyre should be removed regardless of appearance; tyre manufacturer’s recommendations vary from 5-10 years.
When was my tyre made?
All makes of tyre bear the so-called DOT code on the sidewall. This code provides information on the date of production. As of the year 2000 the code has four digits, the first two digits indicate the production week, the next two the year.
The example shown here is for the first week of the year 2000.
If the tyre is damaged
Tyres can be seriously damaged upon impact with solid objects on the road, kerbs, potholes or sharp objects. It is dangerous to ignore tyre damage; if swelling cuts or the carcass is visible then the tyre must be removed as soon as possible and inspected by an expert. In addition to this, if you have suffered from an impact but no visible damage is apparent it is still advisable for the tyre to be removed and inspected as internal damage may have occurred. Never use damaged tyres or tyres that have run flat or at very low pressures unless they have been thoroughly examined internally and externally by a tyre professional.
If the tyre is abnormally worn
Abnormal uneven tyre wear - in patches, in the centre, at the edges - may indicate a mechanical problem like improper wheel alignment, or a problem with, suspension or transmission. It could also be that you're driving with the wrong tyre pressure. If you notice abnormal wear, contact your tyre specialist.
To prevent uneven wear, have your wheels aligned by a tyre specialist. This will also extend tread life and give you a smoother ride.
Common causes of abnormal tyre wear:
Wear on one shoulder: suspension misalignment
Wear on both shoulders: under-inflated tyre •Wear along the tyre's centre: over inflation
Drivers have become much more aware of the need for winter tyres in recent years. They appreciate the enhanced grip and improved safety and performance. Gone are the days when winter tyres were only fitted in regions with major snow falls such as Scandinavia and the Alps. Now drivers are embracing the benefits of winter tyres when driving in temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius.
As more and more drivers opt for safety, they swap their summer tyres for winter models to enjoy maximum performance. Despite all the evidence, however, more than half of all drivers still persist in driving on summer tyres throughout the winter, with all the accompanying risks.
Many accidents happen in the winter months due to cars driving on the wrong tyres that slip on ice or snow. At lower temperatures winter tyres provide much more grip and a considerably shorter breaking distance. The result is that you are far less likely to bump into someone in wintry conditions.