Measuring tread depth with a coin and a gauge

When your tires don’t have enough tread depth, you’re at greater risk of hydroplaning, punctures and reduced traction. Fortunately, measuring tread depth regularly is a simple and surefire way to help ensure your tires will stick to the road and keep you safe.

Tires at or above the recommended tread depth level can give you better traction, reduced risk of punctures and the ability to dispel moisture so you won’t hydroplane on wet roads.

When it comes to checking tire tread, there are a number of methods that can help you know if it’s time to replace a tire. Heavily worn tread will prevent a tire from performing as designed and can lead to unsafe driving conditions.

How to measure your tire tread depth with a penny

  • Place a penny between the tread ribs on your tire. A “rib” refers to the raised portion of tread that spans the circumference of your tire. Tire tread is composed of several ribs;
  • Turn the penny so that Lincoln’s head points down into the tread;
  • See if the top of his head disappears between the ribs;
  • If it does, your tread is still above 2/32”;
  • If you can see his entire head, it may be time to replace the tire because your tread is no longer deep enough.
how to measure tire tread with a penny

How to measure tire tread with a penny

How to measure your tire tread depth with a coin quarter

  • Some automotive experts believe that using a quarter to test tire depth provides a better read than using a penny;
  • Some independent tests have concluded that cars were able to stop faster with tires that had a little more than 4/32 of an inch of tread depth, which is the measurement the quarter test indicates;
  • To perform the quarter test, put a quarter between the tread blocks of a tire (just like the penny test) with Washington’s head upside down;
  • If you cannot see the top of Washington’s head, you have 4/32 of an inch of tread or more.
How to measure your tire thread depth with a coin quarter

How to measure your tire thread depth with a coin quarter

How to measure your tire tread depth with a gauge

  • Find the shallowest groove of the tread and insert the pin of the gauge until the base is flush with the tire;
  • Read the scale;
  • Here’s what you might see, and what you should do:
  • 6/32” — Your tire’s tread depth is sufficient;
  • 5/32” — If wet roads are a concern, consider replacing your tires;
  • 4/32” — 3/32” Seriously consider replacing your tires as soon as possible;
  • 2/32” — Your tires are legally bald and need to be replaced.

How to measure your tire thread depth with a gauge

According to most states’ laws, tires are legally worn out when they have worn down to 2/32″ of remaining tread depth. If you think your tires may be close to needing replacement, have them checked out by a licensed mechanic.

More about measuring tread depth

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