Tyres & Balancing

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Advice & Guidance on Tyre Tread and UK Tyre Law

UK Tyre Law : Tyre tread and the Law 

The law requires car tyres to have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm in a continuous band around the central three quarters of the tyre. To help you judge how much tread you have on your car tyres, manufacturers often mould tread bars at roughly 1.6mm. 

If you can see these bars your tyres are about to become illegal and unsafe. However, for optimum safety, most manufacturers recommend that your tyres are changed at 3mm. 

Many manufacturers now include a Tread Wear Indicator (TWI) within the grooves of the tyre tread which become more visible as the tyre wears down. Whilst these markings are an indicator, always check the tread depth using a tread depth gauge and check your tyres regularly for bulges or wear.

Tyre Markings 

The writing on your tyres can be confusing. The sidewall of typical tyre is imprinted with myriad codes and numbers that are used to identify the size and physical features of that tyre as well as details relating to its manufacture. Many of these tyre markings are of little or no importance to the driver while others are essential when it comes to choosing a replacement tyre.

If you are looking for new tyres you should familiarise yourself with the following tyre markings:

  1. Tyre Size - Your tyre size can be found on the sidewall of your current tyre and is a sequence of numbers and letters. One of the most common tyre size in the UK is 225/55R19 but there are many variations so it’s important to check your existing tyre or to check your vehicle handbook to ensure the right tyre size has been installed.
  2. Tyre width - The first three digits. This displays the width of the tyre in millimetres. A tyre marked 225 will measure 225mm across the tread from sidewall to sidewall. 
  3. Aspect ratio - The fourth and fifth digits of the tyre code that immediately follow the tyre width. The aspect ratio or profile height of the tyre sidewall is expressed as a percentage of the tyre width. So an aspect ratio of 55 for example means that the profile height of the tyre is 55% of its width. 
  4. Radial - Radial tyres are marked with the letter R. Radial tyres are constructed with the cord plies positioned at a 90 degree angle to the direction of travel to give the tyre additional strength. Almost every new tyre manufactured today is a radial tyre. 
  5. Wheel diameter - The next two digits represent the size of the wheel rim that the tyre can be fitted to. It is also the diameter of the tyre from bead to bead. So a tyre marked 19 will fit on a 19-inch wheel rim.

Speed Rating

The speed rating of a tyre is represented by a letter of the alphabet at the end of the tyre size code and indicates the maximum speed capability of the tyre. Tyres receive a speed rating based on a series of tests which measure the tyres capability to handle a set speed for a prolonged period of time.
L - 75 mph 120 km/h - Off-Road & Light Truck Tires
M - 81 mph 130 km/h - Temporary Spare Tires
N - 87 mph 140km/h
P - 93 mph 150 km/h
Q - 99 mph 160 km/h - Studless & Studdable Winter Tires
R - 106 mph 170 km/h - H.D. Light Truck Tires
S - 112 mph 180 km/h - Family Sedans & Vans
T - 118 mph 190 km/h - Family Sedans & Vans
U - 124 mph 200 km/h
H - 130 mph 210 km/h - Sport Sedans & Coupes
V - 149 mph 240 km/h - Sport Sedans, Coupes & Sports Cars

If you are unsure what speed rating you need, be sure to check your vehicle handbook. Choosing a lower speed rating than that recommended by your vehicle manufacturer could potentially invalidate your insurance.

Load Index

The load index provides information on the maximum weight capability for the tyre. The load index is a numerical code that can be located just after the tyre size marking and before the speed rating.

Although not illegal, it is not advisable to have tyres with a lower speed rating or load index than the manufacturer recommended tyre specification for your vehicle, or to have a combination of different tyre construction types. Consult your vehicle handbook to confirm your vehicle’s tyre speed rating and load index as well as any additional requirements.

Date of Manufacture

Your tyre is also printed with information about when and where the tyre was manufactured. This is represented by a series of letters and numbers which starts with the letters DOT (meaning the tyre exceeds Department of Transport safety standards).
The first 8 characters that follow DOT are essentially a serial number used by the manufacturer to identify the tyre and in which production facility it was made.
The last four digits, usually presented in a small window can help you to identify the age of the tyre.
The first two digits represent the week of the year the tyre was produced from 1 to 52. The last two digits represent the year. So a tyre marked 2618 was manufactured in the 26th week of 2018.
Tyres age over time, which can be accelerated if the vehicle is used infrequently. If the date of manufacture on your tyres is in excess of 6 years, we recommend having your tyres checked out to ensure they are still roadworthy.


Tyres with an increased load index are often marked to show that they have been reinforced to handle extra weight. This varies from one manufacturer to the next but look out for the following symbols which are used to identify if the tyre has been reinforced.

Run Flat

Run flat tyres are specially designed with strengthened side walls so that, in the event of a loss of pressure such as a puncture, the tyre can hold the weight of the vehicle and continue to be used for a short time until you can reach an appropriate place to stop and have the tyre replaced. There are many different tyre markings for run flat tyres depending on the manufacturer.

Switching to run flat tyres

If your vehicle is fitted with conventional tyres and was not fitted with run flat tyres at time of manufacture, we would advise against fitting run flat tyres to your vehicle. All vehicles fitted with run flat tyres require a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) which alerts the driver should the tyre receive a puncture or there is a sudden drop in tyre pressure. Without TPMS, fitting run flat tyres could be a major safety risk as the motorist could continue driving, unaware there is an issue with the tyre.

Similarly, you should avoid fitting conventional tyres to a vehicle set up for run flat tyres. Most vehicle manufacturers who fit run flat tyres as standard no longer provide a spare tyre or tools to change your tyre. Therefore, if you switch back to conventional tyres, you may not have the means to replace the tyre on the side of the road should a puncture occur.

Can run flat tyres be repaired?

Unfortunately, when a run flat tyre picks up a puncture it’s hard to tell if the structure of the tyre wall has been compromised because the punctured tyre could have been driven on for an excessive amount of time or at unsuitable speeds (over 30mph). For this reason, we cannot repair run flat tyres as they as may have weakened and no longer be safe to use.

If your run flat tyre receives a puncture, we would advise the tyre be replaced as soon as possibleto. Give us a call asap to see if we can either replace it for your or reccomend another tyre centre and having .

What are the best run flat tyres?

Run flat tyres are produced by a number of tyre manufacturers including budget and premium brands. However, as with regular tyres, we would recommend that the best run flat tyres are those produced by premium manufacturers and tyre names you are familiar with. Tyre brands like Pirelli, Continental, Goodyear and Michelin invest a great deal of time and resource in the research and development of new run flat tyres to ensure their run flat tyre products offer maximum safety that never compromises performance or control.

At Everest Motors we stock a range of tyres from premium manufacturers.

To book yourself in OR to find out more:


Everest Motors Ltd
511 - 513 Romford Rd,
Forest Gate,
E7 8AD


Email: admin@everestmotorsltd.com
Phone Line 1: 020 8472 1888
Phone Line 2: 020 8472 3888


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