Tyres, safety issues/legal requirements etc

My ancient Espace failed its MOT last month, but only due to worn out tyres, of which I was aware.

I am loath to spend €600 euros (which I don't have in any case) because new tyres coupled to my very low mileage would outlast the vehicle - and me, probably.

A chap in the village thought he had 4 second hand tyres which he is prepared to part with for a small consideration, but says that they are not exactly the same size and although he assured me they would be safe and would fit onto the rims, he wasn't sure that they would be acceptable for the MOT. I sallied forth and asked the very nice man at the MOT centre who assured me that - so far as the MOT is concerned, I could fit bicycle wheels provided they had an adequate tread.

Now I am worried that the fitting of non-standard tyres might effect any future insurance claim.

Anybody any views? I am strictly non-technical, but am aware that insurance companies throughout the world will weasle given the chance!!

Hi Shirley,

did you notice that the best technical advice came from Frances Bourne, Marketing Manager for Pirelli, and a 'girl'.

Slick tyres are made of different stuff Geoff. They are not just treadless they use different compounds, as do wets, intermediates and mud and snow. You can pick bits off a really sticky slick with your finger. As for patterns, I even remember Dunlop tyre crews actually cutting thread patterns into new blanks to suit immediate conditions on the RAC rally back in the seventies.

just to throw the cat amongst the pigeons - worn tyres does not mean less grip - otherwise all the grand prix teams have got it wrong. The tread is there only to dispell the rainwater and to give grip on mud / snow etc, it will not help on tarmac.

For me, I use the tyres with the most tread on the front and the others on the rear. The rationale for this is that most driving is generally done with rhe rear tyres following the path of the front ones - and so I want the tyres with the most tread to clear the rainwater away for the rear tyres. As a bonus, I then have the best grip in snow on my FWD cars.



Great tyres Frances. I've always had a soft spot (no pun intended) for Pirellis and for Goodyears. Even top notch Michelins had a bit of a reputation for being too hard some years ago. Is that still the case?

Using worn fronts and good rears on a FWD brings us back to my point about crashing at a lower speed. BTW stability control which is just super ABS will help prevent and control skids. Make sure to turn it off if you want to enjoy your car :-)

I wonder too whether worn fronts are "safer" because they make themselves felt in everyday driving in ways that worn rear tyres may not. ABS won't be any use once the rear of the car starts going sideways.

I tend to notice progressively less grip at the front and therefore I know when to change the tyres without needing to look at the wear indicators or the tread. Perhaps I drive like an idiot, of course... :-)

Yes that is what is advised Ian, but only if your front tyres are in good nick as well(on fwd) those tyres need to clear the water away for the rears to follow in everyday driving conditions. ABS helps with the skidding issue anyway. It also depends whether the front and rear designs are different (I think where the original query started) and whether the tyres are assymetric or directional. it is no good having worn front ones and pucker rear ones as they will be just as unsafe. Certainly the second hand tyre route is not one that is advised, as you don't know if those tyres have been kerbed, etc etc. Best to check the handbook of the vehicle and see what it advises.


Why do you say that it's the safest option to put the new tyres on the front of a front-drive car? I've been told and have read in many places the opposite - new tyres at the rear always because the rear has less weight under braking and because understeer is easier to handle than a tail slide.

You need to put the new tyres where you need the drive, so front wheeled drive car, on the front. if rear-wheeled drive, on the back. This is the safest option. Of course the 'drive' tyres will wear quicker but that is a small price to pay for safety. You can always rotate them again as they wear.


Very sound advice from someone who knows!

This item has been running for a while now - I previously mentioned in an earlier post that when I had 2 new tyres fitted recently they advised me to put the new tyres on the back - which is contrary to what I always understood.

What is your expert opinion?

Hi John. I worked for Pirelli for many years as Marketing Manager in Europe, so tyres are very close to my heart. You must as a rule of thumb, fit the tyres stated as 'OE' (Original Equipment) in your hand book. The tyres must be the same make/pattern/size across an axle, if there are 2 options on OE. - anything else is dangerous and if you were to have an accident it would invalidate the insurance. The letter is also important as this refers to the speed rating, with 'Z' being for the most powerful cars, but now even mid-range saloons are generally V or W rated to cope with the speed and handling of the vehicle. Again an accident would probably invalidate your insurance if the speed rating of the tyre were incorrect. Even garages often miss this and will go purely on the size, i.e. 185/55/15 and miss the rating letter which appears after this. If all 4 tyres are the same size, you can rotate them to save on wear (as long as they are not specifically for rears/fronts as some more powerful car tyres now are) and check whether the tyres are directional, fitting them facing the right way if they are (there will be an arrow on the side wall).

Tyre tread depth is equally as important. In the UK/France it is 1.6 mm across the central 3/4 band of the tyre and recommended at 4 mm in the winter Frankly I like to change mine or rotate them anyway at around 3 mm as below that you are not getting rid of water and are more or less driving on slicks - great in dry weather but not rain! If you look at the tyre you will see the mark TWI on the sidewall that corresponds with a raised piece of rubber in the tyre. When that is level with the tread, your tryes are on the legal limit. Also check the sidewalls for any bulges or cuts, which could lead to a puncture. Some parts of the country insist on winter tyres and/or chains in the winter also

If your tyres are wearing quicker in one part of the tyre - ask them to be balanced and get the tracking checked. Hope this helps.

Tx- I'll try 123pneus

I had Star Performer winter tyres on a 2x4 :-) so I don't know about 4x4, but I didn't like the performance in the rain at all. While good in snow, I found that in wet weather they were fairly slippery. Not good.

So this year as soon as I have time I'm going to order 4 Conti WinterContacts from 123pneus.

Interesting- I ma trying to buy 4 tyres for my Freelander with 18" wheels- it's not such an easy matter. I am tempted to get winter tyres but anything of European manufacture is about 200 euros apiece which makes it a major investment. We don't get much snow but we get some ice and alot of mud and leaves. I fitted Alpine tyres on the front wheels of my Saab last winter and very well pleased. Anybody here have experience of Chinese/Korean winter tyres on 4x4s?

I cannot recommend Allopneus. The tyres have not been fitted, and despite numerous calls to them, not from them I should add, we have just been told by the fitter that they are out of stock! They were marked on the site as in stock when I ordered and paid for them over two weeks ago. The mobile fitting service is supposed to occur within three days.

Went with allopneus.com in the end

215/55R16 97 W KU 31 Kumho

4 of them for 341 euros, home fitting is an extra 16,90 each.

Small mercies, Brian.....

Hi James
As it turns out it is still a "work in progress" ..... the quite overwhelming response to my plea for help was so great I spent hours reading through it all (and responding) that I have yet to make a final decision - BUT, as I am away till the end of the month and the CT recall is due by the day I come back, I will probably have to opt for the local man after all. You know what they say about proscrastination......
But it turned into a fascinating thread and I learned a lot, particularly about the kindness and decency of the folk on here!!

But I am so grateful for everybody's time and efforts that I am feeling really guilty at not taking the time to act on at least one of the suggestions -- well, I am in part - the link *you* sent me cited my local man as a fitter for bought in tyres, so that more or less persuaded me.

The sun is shining for the second day here - I received both mower and strimmer back from the repair shop yesterday - and the overlong grass is shouting at me me!!

So, one (old) man went to mow.....

Thanks again


As coincidence will have it, I had my CT this morning and passed. However, whilst my tyres are OK the examiner told me that my rear ones are worn and will need replacement soon. For my 2015 CT, if I have the same car, make sure to have all four tyres same condition and ideally all fitted at the same time. That was just friendly advice without comment on my sheet.

As it was, on my sheet, but not saying I need re-examination, all four brakes need to be done. Oh well, at least I am still on the road.