Would you chuck away a tube of half full toothpaste?

When do you change the tires on your car? Although the legal minimum is 1.6 mm of tread, many experts advise replacing rubber at around 3.0 mm. This is because tires are generally believed to perform at their best with lots of tread — but now Michelin has taken the unusual step of warning consumers that this is wrong and swapping tires early is pointless.

The tire manufacturer has hit out at the common belief that tires become less efficient as they wear, explaining that its premium rubber performs better with 1.6 mm of tread than some budget brands with full tread. It also says that tires become more fuel efficient as they wear and rolling resistance decreases, meaning drivers could be using more fuel by changing early.

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If everyone in the EU changed their tires at 3.0 mm rather than 1.6 mm, they'd spend €6.9 billion (almost $7.7B) a year in unnecessary tire purchases and additional fuel consumption says Michelin. It adds that it would result in 128 million additional tires being used a year in Europe — which would cause nine million tons of additional CO2 emissions every year.

"Suggesting that tires need to be changed early (before the legal limit / tread wear indicator is reached) is akin to enforcing a form of planned obsolescence," says a Michelin spokesperson. "A consumer would not throw away his shoes just because they need cleaning, or the tube of toothpaste which was half full, so why would he do this with tires if he can be convinced that it is safe to do so?

"Premature removal reduces the useful life of the product and would increase the frequency at which tires are replaced. Not only would consumers have to make unnecessary purchases, but this would also have an adverse impact on the environment."

Michelin is calling on more consumer groups to carry out more tire tests at the legal limit, and for consumers to think carefully before changing their tires early. Be warned, though: if you're caught driving with tires below 1.6 mm of tread in U.K. at least, you face an on-the-spot fine of £100 ($130) and three penalty points per tire.

Source: Michelin

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