How Long Should Tyres Last?

Worn or bad tyres have serious safety implications and poorly maintained ones will affect your car’s performance. As a driver, you need to understand how long tyres should last and how to maximise their lifespan.

The Legal Situation

Your tyres MUST have at least 1.6mm of visible tread, across the central three-quarters of the tyre, around the entire circumference of the wheel. Anything less and you’re breaking the law and reducing the control you have over your vehicle.

Factors That Affect Tyre Longevity

No manufacturer will give you a definitive answer to the simple question of how many kilometres should tyres last. That’s because there are three major factors that affect type lifespan, these are:

  • The quality of the tyre
  • Road conditions
  • How well they’re maintained

Quality

Premium tyres give better performance, especially at higher speeds, and, other things being equal should last longer. If you do lots of motorway driving and clock up high milages, investing in top quality tyres is probably worth it. If however, you use your car for short runs and urban driving, a budget choice might be OK. Tyre rubber deteriorates with time, so it’s recommended that after five years tyres should be checked yearly by a professional. Even if they look fine, they should be replaced after ten years. Even a budget tyre should be good for at least 20,000 miles. If you’re a low mileage driver wondering how long should tyres last, your answer may be governed by the age of the rubber rather than the depth of tread remaining.

Road conditions

Driving on well-maintained roads is easier on your whole car, and certainly on your tyres. Potholes, poor surfaces, lumps and bumps all take a toll and affect tyre wear.

Tyre Maintenance

Looking after your tyres can greatly affect how long they’ll serve you. Some of the measures you can take are obvious, others less so.

Maintaining the correct air pressure

Overinflated tyres have less traction and will wear faster. Underinflated tyres increase drag, which translates to poor fuel economy. They also perform less well when braking and cornering especially in the wet, and are more likely to blow out, necessitating a roadside wheel change or the need for a recovery vehicle. Make sure your tyres are set at the pressure recommended by your vehicle manufacturer and check the pressure regularly. Pressure changes according to air temperature and is also affected by the temperature of the tyres themselves. Tyre pressure should be checked when the vehicle is cold.

Wheel balance

Stay alert for any signs of uneven wear. This, along with a ‘wobble’ at higher speeds can be a sign that your wheels need to be balanced. It’s a job for a tyre specialist but won’t take long or cost much.

Man holding car steering wheel

Rotating wheels

Front and rear tyres wear differently, so if you’re a high mileage driver it’s worth getting tyres swapped around. It’s generally recommended that this is done at around 7,500 miles, or annually.

Assess your need for winter tyres

These are far less commonly used in the UK than they are in countries that experience more severe winters. They’re designed to offer better grip and traction in cold conditions, snow and ice.

Not every driver needs winter tyres but if you live in a remote rural area and are likely to be driving in snowy or icy conditions they’re a worthwhile investment. If you’re travelling abroad during the winter, check the law regarding winter tyres. In Sweden, winter tyres are compulsory from the beginning of December to the end of March, in Austria from the beginning of November until April 15th.

How long do winter tyres last? Around the same as normal tyres, so long as you don’t use them in summer. The softer compound used will wear much faster when the temperature rises much above 7 deg C.

Driving tips for getting the most from your tyres

The driving style that will help you get the most from your tyres is exactly the same as that which will keep you safest on the roads. It can be summed up in two words; gently and calmly. Excessive speed, heavy breaking and abrupt cornering all cause excessive tyre wear. Keep it smooth to make your tyres last longer and you’ll also be keeping yourself, your passengers, and other road users safer.