Tread Carefully! 40% of UK drivers don't know how to check their tyre tread

Press Release

eBay's analysis of more than 2,000 UK drivers reveals that 56% of motorists can’t jump-start a car, while four-out-of-10 don’t know how to check the tread depth of their car tyres

Over a third of UK drivers (40%) cannot confidently carry out a tyre tread check according to new research by automotive marketplace eBay. More than half (53%) of 18-34 year olds don’t know how to check that their tyre tread is within the legal limit.

Older generations also lack confidence with this straightforward but important safety check, with more than a third of 35-54 year-olds revealing the same knowledge gap.

Cars, vans and light commercial vehicles (LCVs) legally require a minimum depth of 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre and around the entire circumference, although most vehicle manufacturers suggest replacing the tyres when they reach 3mm of tread.

Drivers caught with illegal tyres risk being hit with a £2,500 fine and three penalty points per tyre. As well as the financial risk, there’s a big safety risk that comes with badly worn tyres. According to Department for Transport records, in 2021, illegal, defective or under-inflated tyres caused 491 casualties and 12 deaths in the UK**. 

More than a third (33%) of UK drivers don’t feel confident carrying out basic car checks and repairs, with 63% wanting to gain more knowledge. During the UK DVLA driving test, learners are asked two vehicle safety questions, these can include how to check tyre tread depth, oil, headlights and taillights, brake lights, brake pads, engine coolant and more.

Expert mechanic and eBay customer, Hannah Gordon, wants to jumpstart UK drivers’ understanding when it comes to basic vehicle checks and maintenance.

She said: “It’s concerning to know the number of drivers who aren’t sure how to check tyre tread depth. It’s one of the most important checks you can make; low tyre tread depth increases stopping distances and at worst, could result in a serious accident. Checking tyre tread depth is so easy, simply take a 20p coin and insert it into the grooves – if you can see the outer band on the coin, you need new tyres.”

Hannah adds: “Identifying the right tyre for your car is easy using eBay’s MyGarage function – just pop in your licence plate and vehicle model and parts suited to your vehicle will come up.”

It wasn’t just checking the tread of the tyre which seemed to cause problems for owners, according to the research. More than half of motorists (66%) were unaware of how to change a wheel, an important skill if a car gets a puncture and the spare wheel is required.

eBay research also revealed that more than half (56%) of UK drivers can’t jump-start a car, with almost 70% of women not confident of the process. More than half (66%) of drivers would also struggle to change a headlight or rear bulb.

More simple maintenance tasks seemed to be a problem for a large number of drivers with exactly half feeling they would be unable to fit a new wiper blade to their car while 34% weren’t at ease with checking the oil level which is a vital task, particularly on older vehicles which don’t feature digital alerts when it is running low.

Dr Tony Tong, Head of Automotive at eBay UK said: “Carrying out basic car checks and repairs can seem daunting but can often be simple and more cost-effective than going to a garage. Boosting your knowledge when it comes to car checks will not only save you time, but can also improve safety, especially before long journeys or during colder months. eBay’s marketplace makes it easy to find the part for your vehicle, offering convenience and peace of mind.”


*eBay UK survey of 2020 total respondents with driver’s licences carried out by Toluna in April 2023