Very few people would risk hiking up a steep hill wearing boots with worn-out soles. They would know it wasn’t safe, as they would probably slip. Yet the same doesn’t apply to their car’s “boots” when hitting the road, says iconic Gold Coast tyre expert and recycler, Chris Lett. Many drivers still take to the road with tyre tread less than the legal minimum, and appear to be totally unaware that what they are doing is both illegal and dangerous.
He said surveys suggest that every second Australian has no idea of the country’s tyre safety rules, and that implies they don’t realise that worn-out tyres, often allowed to degrade to that point because of drivers’ reluctance to meet the high costs of buying news ones, can cost them dearly in fines, as well as endanger them, their passengers and others on the road.
Possible Consequences of Worn Tyres
Lett says worn tyres can have serious consequences. Like the hiker’s boots with thin and smooth soles, tyres with poor tread lessen the car’s contact with the road and therefore its grip, particularly if the road is wet. Not only are smooth tyres less able to disperse the water, but their inability to keep contact with the road can result in sliding or aquaplaning.
This results in drivers losing control of the car, particularly when driving at high speed, and rolling it, swerving into oncoming cars, or finding it hard to stop fast enough to prevent a collision.
Rules of the Road: Tread Carefully
Roadworthy tread depth is controlled by the Australian Motor Vehicles Standards Act of 1989, and different penalties are issued for tyres with less tread than the regulated minimum. The penalties differ in different states and can take the form of defect notices or demerit points on drivers’ licenses, but all will also include fines based on how many tyres are no longer roadworthy.
Tread depths are about 6-8mm when the tyres are new, but deteriorate with usage. Once the tread has thinned to 1.6mm across the width of the tyre, they are no longer considered safe or roadworthy, and therefore are illegal. However, according to Lett, owners should rather replace them when they reach 3mm, a tread depth that is considerably safer.
Because lack of tread reduces the car’s contact with the road, Let says it impacts on the car’s braking system making it more difficult to stop quickly. While the brakes themselves slow the rotation of the wheels, its left to the tyres to disperse any moisture on the road and bring the car to a halt using the friction between the rubber and the road. However, smooth tyres can’t perform either function properly, and stopping becomes a longer process both in terms of time and distance.
On a wet road, the difference in braking distance between tyres with the regulated minimum 1.6mm and ones with 3mm treads can be as much as 44 %, or just over 9 meters. And Lett says that could well be 9 meters too far to prevent an accident.
How to Check Tyre Tread
The tread depth can be determined from the levels of tread bar indicators built into modern tyres. They run across the width of the tyre and are seen lodged at the bottom of the grooves when the tyre is new. As the tyre wears they are increasingly visible, and the gap between them and the tyre surface shrinks. Once they are close to, or level with, the surface, it’s time for a change.
Lett says other ways to test the tread involve using a tyre gauge or ruler, or playing with coins. Inserting an Australian 10c into the central groove, and seeing the outside rim disappear shows the tyres meet the 1.6mm legal minimum, but if the bill of the platypus on a 20c coin shows above the top of the tyres, the tread is a safer 3mm.
Australian statistics put low-tread tyres right up there with speed and alcohol as major causes of fatal accidents. Should the huge numbers of smooth tyres on the road it prove to be because of the driver’s reluctance or inability to pay the price of new tyres, Lett says it would be both tragic, and unnecessary.
Lett said Branigans Tyres in Burleigh Heads, which he’s run for 15 years, provides thoroughly checked high quality recycled tyres, many of which have done low mileage and have good tread at a fraction of the price of new tyres.
For further information, visit or call Chris and his team for Second Hand Tyres Gold Coast |Branigans Budget Tyres Service Centre at either Burleigh Heads (07) 5535 2660 or Southport (07) 5591 8633.