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General Legal Requirements & Fitting of Used Tyres

Important rules to follow for used tyres

If you own a car then it is inevitable that at some point you will have to purchase new tyres. When you go to buy them, you might be shocked at how expensive they are. Many people in similar situations turn to used tyres, since they are the less expensive alternative. Before you decide on used tyres, make sure you have all the information you need to make an informed decision. 

General legal requirements

In most European countries, the legal minimum tyre tread depth requirement for passenger cars is 1.6 mm. As an indicator to consumers, there are tread wear indicator bars, located in the main grooves of the tyre, that become level with the tread surface when it has a remaining depth of approximately 1.6 mm.

To ensure the best driving experience and optimum safety for all road users, we recommend passenger car and light truck tyres, in highway motor vehicle application, to be removed from service at tread depths deeper than the minimum, as follows:

  • Summer/high-performance tyres and all-season tyres: 3 mm
  • Winter tyres: 4 mm 

These recommendations are based upon our testing. Our real-world experience has also shown us that drivers can better maintain the performance potential (e.g. wet grip) of their tyres by replacing them before they reach the legal minimum tread depth. This is particularly pertinent for winter tyres, for which driving properties such as snow traction, are significantly reduced at tread depths below 4 mm.

Do research about used tyres first

Just as you would when buying new tyres, do research about the used tyres you are going to purchase. Look at the specifications on the sidewall of your current tyres and find used tyres that match them. There are various letters that specify the type of vehicle the tyres can be fitted on and their speed rating. Familiarise yourself with the various codes, like P for "passenger vehicle" and LT for "light truck", used for both sport-utility and heavier vehicles. Most speed ratings on tyres specify top speeds that are well above the legal speed limits, so this should not be a problem. Tyre size codes are the same around the world, so you should have a wide array of options. You can also find this information in the vehicle handbook.

Once you find the type of tyre that you need, it is important to ask the seller several questions:

  • What is the tread depth of the tyres? Does it meet the minimum legal limit?
  • How old are the tyres?
  • Have the tyres been patched or repaired?
  • Do they have any manufacturer defects?
  • For how many miles have they been fitted to the vehicle?
  • Do they have uneven tread wear?
  • Are there any signs of dry rot or cracking?
  • What were the driving habits of the driver: braking, average speed, etc.?
  • How often was the tyre pressure checked and adjusted?
  • How often were the tyres balanced and aligned?

Fitting of used tyres

Once tyres are applied to a vehicle and put into service, they are considered “used”. There are risks associated with the purchase of used tyres. Their service history may be uncertain or unknown. Used tyres may have been exposed to improper service and may have damage that could eventually lead to a tyre disablement.

Not all tyre damage or conditions that can lead to a tyre disablement are easily detectable. For instance, improper repairs or damage to a tyre’s inner liner can only be observed through an inspection of the inside of the tyre, demounted from the wheel. A qualified service professional should inspect the internal and external condition of a used tyre prior to application.

When purchasing a used vehicle, the history of the tyres may also be unknown. The vehicle should be inspected by a tyre service professional, who should demount the part-worn tyres for internal inspection for the characteristics as recommended below.

Continental’s recommendations: 

For your safety and the safety of other drivers, do not purchase, sell or install used tyres that exhibit any of the following characteristics:

  • Any punctures, or other penetrations, whether repaired or not.
  • Indication of internal separation, such as tread or belt separation, e.g.

            -   bulges

            -   bumbs

            -   lumps

            -   localised tread wear

            -   vibrations

            -   unusual tyre noise, etc.

  • Indication of run-flat, under-inflated and/or overload damage, e.g.
  • inner liner abrasion
  • delamination
  • discolouration
  • excessive tread shoulder wear, etc.
  • Any inner liner or bead damage.
  • Any history of continuous inflation pressure loss requiring frequent re-inflation.
  • Defaced or removed DOT tyre identification number (TIN), which is located on the tyre sidewall.
  • Tyres that have a date code that is older than 10 years. The date code – the last three or four digits of the DOT TIN – indicates the week and year the tyre was manufactured. Vehicle manufacturers may recommend a different chronological age at which a tyre should be replaced based on their understanding of the specific vehicle application. Continental recommends that any such instruction be followed.
  • Involved in a recall or a replacement programme.
  • Inadequate tread depth for continued service (i.e., nearly worn out). A tread depth of 1.6 mm or less anywhere indicates worn-out tyres.
  • Chemical, fire, excessive heat damage, or other environmental damage.
  • Designated as a “scrap tyre” or otherwise not intended for continued highway service.
  • Prior use of tyre sealant or balance/filler material.
  • Labelled on the sidewall as:

            -   “Not For Highway Use”

            -   “NHS”

            -   “For Racing Purposes Only”

            -   “Agricultural Use Only”

            -   “SL” ("service limited" agricultural tyre) – or any other     indication that the tyre is barred from use on public roads.

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