Are Part Worn Tyres Safe?

Friday, 31st July 2020

Millions of motorists are risking serious accidents by driving around on part worn tyres (second hand), as defective tyres are blamed for many casualties every year.

Part worn tyres should not be considered safe because it’s impossible to know the full history of that tyre. You might be buying a tyre that has been involved in a road accident in the UK, or even an imported part worn tyre from European scrapyards.

Worse than that, part worn tyres can suffer from severe structural damage which can't be seen with the naked eye. If you put a set of those tyres on your car, you’ll be putting yourself and other road users in danger.

Ask yourself: if you’re travelling at 50mph on a wet road – do you want the car behind you to be driving on dodgy part worn tyres, let alone your own car?

Are Part Worn Tyres Legal?

Part worn tyres must meet the following requirements as set out by the Consumer Protection Act:

  1. The structural integrity must not be compromised. It should be free of large cuts, any bulges or lumps both internally and externally. No plies or cords should be exposed.
  2. Tyres must have passed an inflation test prior to sale.
  3. The original grooves must still be clearly visible in their entirety and must be to a depth of at least 2mm across the full breadth of the tread, around its entire circumference.
  4. Part worn tyres which have not been re-treaded must clearly show the relevant ‘E’ mark alongside which ‘PART-WORN’ must be permanently and legibly applied in letters at least 4mm high. These words cannot be hot branded or cut into the tyre.

Part-worn tyres that have been re-treaded must have one of the following:

  • BS AU 144b, 144c, 144d, or 144e markings on the side wall (if first supplied as a re-tread on or before 31 December 2003 an ECE approval mark (if first supplied as a re-tread on or after 1 January 2004)
  • a permanent mark to identify the original model and manufacturer, the word ‘RETREAD’ moulded onto or into its sidewall (in upper case letters at least 4mm high) and further markings in accordance with ECE rules. You may need to seek further advice as to which rules apply
  • The indication ‘PART WORN’ must also appear next to the BS or ECE approval mark, or next to the word ‘RETREAD’
  • For tyres marked BS AU 144e, a speed category symbol and load capacity marking should be present.
  • A tyre has to comply with all these requirements whether or not it is fitted to a rim.

A survey by Trading Standards and Tyre Safe as recent as 2018 states that 75% of used tyres for sale failed to meet safety standards with a staggering 99% of part-worn retailers failing to comply with legislation. TyreSafe chairman, Stuart Jackson, said: “Our investigations with Trading Standards across the country universally reveal an appallingly high level of illegal practises among retailers of part worn tyres.”

HiQ has commissioned its own research which reveals that millions of motorists are willingly putting themselves at risk by buying part worn, second-hand tyres that are 'unsafe' and a provide a 'false economy.'

The survey found that over a third of motorists have bought used tyres with over 40% saying they did so to save money.

Almost half of those questioned said they didn't consider the possible dangers involved with buying used tyres, despite many coming from insurance write off vehicles and imported from Eastern European scrapyards.

Nearly a third of those surveyed did not know that part-worn tyres can actually suffer from severe structural damage which can't be seen with the naked eye.

Nearly half of motorists were not aware that part worn tyres can also add two car lengths to a car's stopping distance in the wet when travelling at just 50mph.

Furthermore, less than a third actually considered the false economy involved in buying used tyres, which typically don't last as long and need replacing much sooner than new tyres.

HiQ Retail Marketing Manager Geraldine McGovern said: "In the vast majority of cases many part worn tyres are retailed illegally as they are not clearly marked as part worn at the point of sale. The main misconception is that they are simply 'worn' and everything else is OK. The truth is you never know where they are from”.

"But the overriding message is that they are a false economy and extremely unsafe.”

How Much are Part Worn Tyres?

Part worn tyres often retail at a low cost. However, even with financial constraints, consumers can actually save money in the long term by purchasing new tyres at affordable prices instead of part worn tyres.

In some cases, motorists are in fact paying five times more money for second hand tyres in the long run compared to a mid-range or budget new tyre.

A used tyre has typically 3 mm of tread left on it. As 1.6mm is the minimum legal tread depth, motorists are paying for just 1.4mm of useable tread compared to 6.4mm of useable tread from a new tyre that typically has 8mm of tread when new. HiQ's message to motorists is to simply do the maths. Used tyres are a false economy.

And it’s not just part worn tyres that are the problem, read our guide on the true cost of cheap tyres.

Where Do Part Worn Tyres Come From?

Well, that is the question. Just where do part worn tyres come from? It’s often impossible to know where part worn tyres come from. Have they been imported from an Eastern European scrapyard? Have they been involved in a car accident causing them to have catastrophic structural damage unseen to the naked eye?

When you buy part worn tyres, you simply don’t know the answer to these questions. One thing is for sure: they’ve been taken off a car for a reason. Are you really happy to put them on your car, without knowing what that reason is?

Are Part Worn Tyres Any Good?

If we remove the questionable legality around part worn tyres being sold as reported by the CTSI and just look at whether or not the tyres themselves are any good, it will depend on just how worn and damaged the part worn tyre actually is.

If the part worn tyre has a tread depth of just 3mm, when it comes to braking distances, that’s going to be far worse than a brand new tyre with over double that tread depth.

Watch this short video from TyreSafe highlighting the often-overlooked dangers of part worn tyres:

How Long do Part Worn Tyres Last?

If the quality of part worn tyres doesn’t concern you, perhaps how long they last will? Part worn tyres have an average tread depth of 3mm compared to a new tyre’s tread depth of 8 – 9mm.

That means that you’re paying for about 1.4mm of tread depth before the tyre’s tread is considered illegal. Compare that with having around 7mm of tread depth on a new tyre, and the lifespan of your tyres is going to be affected drastically.

While you might think you’re making a saving in the short run, the longer term the pounds per mile is considerably higher.

At HiQ, you can take advantage of payment assist for tyres, so you don’t have to fork out for new tyres in one go, instead you can spread the cost and make smaller manageable payments.