Little-known tyre rule could see drivers fined £100 and given points

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When it comes to replacing tyres, particularly if drivers suffer a puncture, they might be tempted to just go with the cheapest option available. But mixing and matching – where motorists have different sorts of tyres on the same axle – is an offence that could see them getting into trouble with the law, according to Graham Conway, managing director at Select Car Leasing. Mr Conway added that drivers can face “£100 fines” and “three penalty points” for making the mistake.

To a lot of people, all tyres look similar, and drivers might assume they all perform in the same way so long as they choose the correct size. 

But there are big differences between the types of tyres available – beyond just the brand – and mixing and matching them can be dangerous and illegal. 

While it might be tempting to simply choose the most affordable tyre, particularly if drivers are ordering online and then have it fitted at a garage, they could be making a costly mistake.

Mr Conway said: “In the eyes of the law, tyres must be of a consistent type on the axle.

“So, tyres on the front axle must match, and tyres on the rear must match. You can, however, have different types of tyres on the front axle compared with the rear axle. 

“And there are two major things you need to know about what constitutes a ‘matching’ pair of tyres.”

The tyres must have the same construction – most commonly being either “radial-ply” or “cross-ply”.

The “ply” refers to the layers of construction that sit underneath the surface rubber, and which give the tyre its strength. 

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Mr Conway continued: “It’s also recommended that tyres should have the same tyre tread pattern and tread depth – and the tread pattern and depth can vary widely between different manufacturers. 

“Mixing and matching the type of tyre on the same axle means you’re left with inconsistent performance, potentially poor handling, and you’re also more likely to experience a catastrophic blow-out because of the stresses you’re placing on the system. 

“You’re also more likely to skid, due to poor water displacement, and having really mismatched tyres will cause damage to wheel bearings and your clutch, as well as having a negative effect on fuel economy.”

According to Government guidance, the minimum legal tyre tread depth is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre.

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Drivers can be fined up to £2,500, per wheel, for having bald tyres. 

Tyres must also be inflated correctly, must not have any lumps or bulges, and the ply or cord underneath the rubber must not be exposed. 

When driving with tyres that are dangerous because they’re worn or bald, road users could be prosecuted for using a vehicle in a dangerous condition.

Richard Bruce, Motoring Director of Halfords, advised drivers to be careful this winter with adverse weather expected.

He said: “Tyres are another part of the car that can be impacted by the cold weather, so give yours a good check to make sure they are well inflated with good tread.

“The minimum tread depth is 1.6mm and as well as being a safety risk you could incur a hefty fine if they don’t meet the minimum requirements.

“For peace of mind, drivers can get their vehicle checked for free by Halfords’ experts or can book a full 10 Point Winter Car Health Check for just £15.

“Lastly, if you’re worried that the weather conditions are too dangerous, or don’t feel that you’re fit to drive, it’s always best to find an alternative.”

When driving with a low tyre tread, motorists are more at risk of accidents during the winter.

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