Would you chuck away a half-full tube of toothpaste?

When do you change the tyres on your car? Although the legal minimum is 1.6mm of tread, many experts advise replacing rubber at around 3.0mm. This is because tyres are generally believed to perform at their best with lots of tread - but now Michelin has taken the unusual step of warning consumers that this is wrong and swapping tyres early is pointless.

The tyre manufacturer has hit out at the common belief that tyres become less efficient as they wear, explaining that its premium rubber performs better with 1.6mm of tread than some budget brands with full tread. It also says that tyres become more fuel efficient as they wear and rolling resistance decreases, meaning drivers could be using more fuel by changing early.

If everyone in the EU changed their tyres at 3.0mm rather than 1.6mm, they'd spend €6.9 billion a year in unnecessary tyre purchases and additional fuel consumption says Michelin. It adds that it would result in 128 million additional tyres being used a year in Europe - which would cause nine million tonnes of additional CO2 emissions every year.

"Suggesting that tyres need to be changed early (before the legal limit / tread wear indicator is reached) is akin to enforcing a form of planned obsolescence," says a Michelin spokesperson. "A consumer would not throw away his shoes just because they need cleaning, or the tube of toothpaste which was half full, so why would he do this with tyres if he can be convinced that it is safe to do so?

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"Premature removal reduces the useful life of the product and would increase the frequency at which tyres are replaced. Not only would consumers have to make unnecessary purchases, but this would also have an adverse impact on the environment."

Michelin is calling on more consumer groups to carry out more tyre tests at the legal limit, and for consumers to think carefully before changing their tyres early. Be warned, though: if you're caught driving with tyres below 1.6mm of tread, you face an on-the-spot fine of £100 and three penalty points per tyre.

Source: Michelin

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