Second-hand or part-worn tyres are a booming business in Britain. But these tyres, often sold under the premise of saving drivers money, could be at best a waste of money, at worst lethal.
Tyre trade experts estimate that every year between four and a half and six million part-worn tyres are sold in the UK. However, when campaigning charity TyreSafe conducted research it found that 98 per cent were sold illegally and 34 per cent had potentially dangerous defects.
What is a part-worn tyre?
A part-worn tyre is one that has already been used on another vehicle. It may have come from a country such as Germany where the law about minimum tyre tread depth is tougher than here; it might have come from a written-off car; it may be on sale as second-hand because its original owner has replaced it with a new one; or it might be a re-tread, a tyre with a new treaded area grafted onto it. It is entirely legal to sell part-worn tyres in the UK, although sellers must stick to a strict set of guidelines.
Why can part-worn tyres be dangerous?
Buying a part-worn tyre is like buying anything second-hand: you never know how it’s been treated by its previous owner. In the case of a tyre, it might have structural damage from hitting a pothole or being driven persistently without enough air in it. Some part-worn tyres have been sold with objects such as nails lodged in them or after having illegal repairs carried out.
Why part-worn tyres might be a false economy
TyreSafe believes that drivers might be costing themselves money by opting for a part-worn rather than a new tyre. A typical part-worn tyre has 4mm of tread left on it; a brand new tyre has 8mm of tread. If tyres are used until they reach the legal minimum tread depth of 1.6mm, TyreSafe claims a part-worn tyre would cost £6.33 per millimetre of tread. A new tyre from a budget manufacturer would cost £5.32 per millimetre of tread. TyreSafe chairman Stuart Jackson said: “TyreSafe urges motorists to reconsider ever buying a part-worn as new tyres are available at similar prices. These won’t put them at serious risk and will last longer – making them not only safer but also better value in the long run.”
Calls for banning part-worn tyres
In the summer of 2016, trading standards officers bought 12 part-worn tyres from a dozen different traders. When they were inspected, only two of the tyres were legally acceptable. At least six had defects that could pose a safety risk if they were fitted to a vehicle. Stefan Hay from trade body the National Tyre Distributors Association said: “In an ideal world the NTDA and its members would still like to see a total ban on the sale of part-worn tyres because of the appalling ongoing levels of non-compliance with the law and the dangerous condition of many of the tyres we are uncovering in these investigations.”
Laws part-worn tyre sellers must follow
There are very strict guidelines around second-hand or part-worn tyres. It’s flouting these that makes such a large number illegal. The law says it is an offence to sell used tyres unless they have at least 2mm of tread across the entire treaded area and are free of cuts, lumps, bulges or cracks, either internally or externally.
They should have the word PARTWORN inscribed permanently and legibly in 4mm high capital letters on the tyre’s sidewall. And if they’ve been repaired this must have been done in accordance with British Standard AU 159. This must be stamped alongside the PARTWORN.
If a tyre has been re-treaded, it must have BS AU 144b, 144c, 144d, or 144e marked on the sidewall. It should have the word RETREAD moulded permanently on its sidewall in letters 4mm high. In its investigations, TyreSafe found that 98 per cent of part-worn tyres were incorrectly marked.