But Michelin & Goodyear Dunlop Disagree.
Am I a cynic, or is it possible a tyre maker could want the minimum tread depth increased simply to sell more tyres. Surely not, but you can’t help looking at Continentals latest call for an increase in the minimum tread depth without some scepticism, particularly when two of the biggest tyre manufacturers in the world disagree.
There is no doubt however that were the minimum tyre dept increased from 1.6mm to 3.0mm, it would mean thousands of car owners would suddenly find themselves driving illegal cars, resulting in them all needing to replace tyres much earlier than they had expected and its not rocket science to see what kind of a boost this would be for tyre makers and tyre suppliers, hence the scepticism.
Continental, who supplies original equipment tyres on around 30% of all cars sold in the UK, claim that the increase in the minimum tread depth would in their words “result in a significant cut in traffic accidents”. However Michelin say that they don’t believe the move will have any impact on safety and that there is no data that exists that shows more accidents happen to vehicles when their tyres are at the current minimum depth of 1.6mm. Continental however says data does exist and that braking distances are shorter if your tyres have 3.0mm on than they would be with 1.6mm, but then, I suppose they would be even better with 4mm, or 5mm, so it’s surely got to be a case of what’s reasonable?
Whilst clearly there is a disagreement on what is an acceptable depth of tread, one thing that can not be argued is the impact on the environment as it would mean that more new tyres have to be made and of course, more old worn out tyres have to be disposed of and that’s not good for the environment.
Surely what’s important here is that we all obey the law as far as the 1.6mm minimum depth is concerned, and data shows many of us don’t, yet if we run our tyres down to 1mm, it does increase braking distances, particularly when it’s wet. It seems however that many drivers are happy to ignore the current rules, and this is supported by a survey carried out by Goodyear Dunlop revealed that 4 out of every 10 tyres its tyre centres replaced were illegal. For my mind, the reason for this is tyre costs, plain and simple.
Tyres are (for most of us) a distress purchase and some of today’s tyres are ridiculously expensive and frankly, here in the UK, where we have a maximum speed limit of 70mph, most cars we come across are “over tyred” and simply have too big & fat wheels on than is really necessary, mostly in the name of appearance, or vanity. By way of example, we recently supplied a car with optional 20” wheels, which in its standard form normally gets 17” wheels and the cost of the alternative wheels added to the cost of putting these ‘uber expensive’ tyres on them for the next 60,000 miles or so was phenomenal, but the customer was happy to pay that, despite the fact that the ride on his new car would effectively be destroyed by fitting these stupidly low profile fat tyres on the car, but as he said “it looks good”.
Tyre technology is pretty remarkable now, with tyres being able to retain their same wet weather performance throughout their life, with some tyres initially having harder compounds for the first part of their life, developing into a softer compound as the tyre covers around 15,000 miles or so, thereby, providing the same levels of adhesion and grip as they did when they were new. Many tyres are now especially designed for low rolling resistance, which it’s claimed reduces your fuel consumption, whilst some tyres are available in “run-flat” versions, allowing you to not have to scrabble about in the dark, or the rain, changing your tyre beside the road and of course, because they can run flat, clearly getting a puncture at speed is going to be a lot safer.
There are many old wives tales about tyres, but fact is, today’s tyres are pretty hi-tech things and gone are the remoulds, recaps and just plain poor quality items that were around 20 years or so ago. As a leasing company, we have found that budget tyres, deliver the same performance as some of the most expensive tyres you can buy and frankly, because the universal high quality of all the tyres we are offered in the UK market, it becomes a brand thing only, rather than a quality thing and so from our experience, we cant see why anyone should pay more than they have to, just to get a tyre with a household name written on the side. To re-enforce that, for my own car and my wife’s car, I wouldn’t consider buying anything other than what’s known as “budget” tyres.
So in closing, let’s look at this logically. I understand that most new tyre have between 7mm to 8mm of tread when they are new. So giving the benefit of the doubt here and taking them all as 8mm, the current 1.6mm leaves you 6.4mm that you can use, so 6.4mm represents 100% of the life you are going to get, so each 1mm represents 15.6% of your tyre life and Continentals suggestion, of reducing the amount you can use by 1.4mm, actually will increase your tyre costs by around 22% and that’s an awful lot of money.
I mentioned earlier that tyre technology is pretty remarkable now, so you must ask, why can’t they make tyres with a deeper tread? 20 years ago, new tyres had 8mm on them and surely, if they have improved as they have, they must know a way to increase the tyre tread depth and in this case, if they increased it by 1.4mm, it wouldn’t cost any of us anything, so nobody would object to the changes that Continental propose, but back into sceptic mode, if they can do that, why are they not already doing it? The obvious answer is that our tyres would last longer and we would spend less money with them.
Maybe somebody should do some research into the tyre industry!