Drivers have been warned that the current MOT exemption period doesn’t mean the law has changed on keeping their cars safe.
Although the Department for Transport has granted an automatic MOT extension for cars from the end of March, the laws on roadworthiness haven’t changed.
Anyone found to be driving a car in a dangerous condition is still liable to a fine and possible prosecution, and campaign group TyreSafe is urging drivers to take more responsibility for their safety and that of other road users.
Tyres which don’t meet the legal minimum tread depth - 1.6mm - are among the major reasons for MOT failures, despite being one of the easiest things to check at home, and tyres with insufficient tread can severely limit a car’s grip, especially on wet roads.
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The campaign is now warning drivers that failing to keep on top of their tyres’ condition could see them fined up to £10,000 if they are using their car during the current lockdown. Drivers can be hit with a £2,500 fine and given three penalty points per faulty tyre.
A spokesman for TyreSafe said: “As over a quarter of MOT failures have historically been due to unsafe tyres, too many of Britain’s vehicle owners have until now clearly been leaving tyre checks to the MoT testers. If motorists are to minimise their risk of an incident on the roads, they will need to ensure their tyres’ air pressure, condition and tread depth are fit for the road and legal.”
Stuart Jackson, TyreSafe chairman added: “The need to make vehicles exempt from the MoT is regrettable from a road safety point of view but entirely understandable in the current context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“However, drivers should be making certain when they drive, their vehicle is safe. With so many uncertainties and unexpected events happening to families and organisations all the time, drivers should not delay in carrying out these checks but instead be confident their car is roadworthy no matter what the reason for their essential journey.”
How to check your tyres
Checking your tyres’ tread depth, condition and pressure are all simple tasks that can be carried out with minimal equipment.
A tyre’s correct air pressure is determined by the vehicle manufacturer and can be found in the handbook, door shut or fuel filler cap, and on many online pressure look-up tables, including at tyresafe.org. Owners should use an accurate pressure gauge to check their tyre’s inflation level and adjust it according to the manufacturer’s recommendation, paying attention to the need to adjust between heavy and light loads.
If you don’t have a purpose-made tread depth gauge, a 20p-piece can be used as a guide to how close a tyre’s tread is to the legal limit. Insert the coin across the width of the tyre and around its circumference; if you can see the border to the 20p, your tyre is close to the legal limit and should be checked with an accurate gauge.
Drivers should also check their tyre doesn’t have any lumps, cracks or objects embedded in it. If any of these are seen, the tyre should be considered unsafe to use until checked by a professional.