More than a fifth of all breakdowns on English motorways and major A-roads last year were caused by tyre issues, according to new figures. Data from National Highways, the government-run organisation in charge of England’s strategic road network, showed more than 41,500 breakdowns in 2021 were caused by tyre problems.

The total figure of 41,560 was up around 16 percent on 2020’s figure of 35,892, although traffic figures were affected by the coronavirus lockdowns. During the first six months of 2022, National Highways says tyre problems have already contributed to more than 19,300 breakdowns.

The news comes as National Highways prepares for its busiest period for breakdowns, with the organisation typically dealing with thousands of stranded vehicles in July and August. Last year, the company saw 21,307 breakdowns in July and 20,526 in August – an average of around 5,000 breakdowns a week.

Car tyre with very little tread remaining

With that in mind, National Highways has launched a new campaign reminding drivers to check their tyres regularly, and especially when preparing to make a long journey. The company says drivers should be particularly aware of tyre tread depth and inflation, warning that bald or over- or under-inflated tyres can adversely affect grip, braking distances and steering capabilities.

There are also legal ramifications for driving with tyres that fail to meet required standards, with fines and penalty points in the offing. If stopped by police while driving with illegal tyres, motorists could be fined up to £2,500 and three penalty points per tyre.

Falken Tyres

To help drivers who are unsure of how to check their tyres, National Highways advises first looking for wear or cuts across the whole tyre, including the sidewall. Tyres (including the spare) should also be properly inflated, with recommended pressures found either inside the driver’s door, in the petrol filler cap or in the car’s manual.

For checking tread depth, National Highways recommends using a depth gauge or the 20p test, which works as an indicator of whether tyres meet the 1.6 mm minimum required depth. By placing a 20p coin into the main grooves of the tread, drivers will be able to check whether they can see the raised outer rim of the coin. If the rim shows above the tread, the tyre may be below the minimum legal depth and could need replacing.

“With schools breaking up for summer soon there will be more people on the roads and taking longer journeys,” said Jeremy Phillips, the head of road safety at National Highways. “We know that breaking down can be a very upsetting experience, nobody wants to start off their holiday stranded at the side of the road, next to fast moving traffic.

“So we are reminding drivers to check their vehicles, particularly the tyres, before setting off. Unsafe tyres put you and others at risk as well as running the risk of attracting a hefty fine and penalty points. A simple check on tyre tread and pressure could prevent a breakdown and make sure you get to your destination safe and sound.”

Man checking car tyre