The Ultimate Guide on Checking Your Tire Tread

Paul Hadley
07/25/201925th July, 2019
Filed under Car Topics

Tire tread is a critical element to vehicle performance and driver safety. It also has a vital purpose as the tread, shape and grooves work together to enable tires to accelerate, brake and grasp the roadways. Once the tread rubber deteriorates, the tire loses its maximum effectiveness and efficiency. Routine thread maintenance checks ensure a tire’s viability.

Tire Tread Dimensions

As motorists drive, the rubber tread wears down and begins to lose its traction. The dimensions of tire treads help drivers and experts like measure groove depth. Here are the tread numbers to know as well as how to check it. It’s so easy that you’ll be asking yourself why you didn’t do it when providing your routine car checkups.

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U.S. Tire Industry Tread Depth Standards

  • 1/32 of an inch is the standard tread in the United States
  • Brand new tire depth is between 10/32 and 12/32 (off-road is 15/32)
  • Tires are “bald” when the grooves reach 2/32 (rubber has worn 8 to 10 inches)
  • Once bald, drivers are in grave danger when driving in inclement weather patterns
  • Tires are also more susceptible to flats, deflation or punctures
  • You will want to replace your tires when it is near the 4/32 inch measurement

Measuring Tire Tread Depth

Measuring your tire’s tread depth is a straightforward procedure. You also don’t need to buy expensive tools or equipment to know whether it’s time to change your tires. Keeping abreast of tread changes also allow you to drive your vehicle in confidence, knowing your tires are safe:

  • The easiest way is to use a tread gauge, which is available at any major retail or auto parts store. You put the tool in between the smallest groove depth. Align the device up to the smooth wall of the rubber and read the measurement. If the gauge is above 6/32, you have an adequate tread. Between a 4/32 and 5/32 reading, inclement weather will be a problem for most drivers. If reading below 3/32, you need to replace your tires.
  • If at the moment you decide to measure it and lack a tread gauge, you can also use a coin in your pocket to configure it. Place a penny upside down in the tire’s smallest groove. If you can see the president’s head totally, you have less than 2/32 of tread remaining. If you want to measure tread deterioration, turn the penny upside down with the Lincoln Memorial facing you. If the top is visible, you have about 6/32 or less tread remaining.
  • For performing an inclement weather tread check, use a quarter and place the head in the smallest groove in the upside-down position. If you can see the full crown of the head, you know that you have less than 4/32 of tread left. As your tires begin to lose their efficiency around the 3/32 mark, you should start thinking of replacing them.

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Performing routine thread checks as well as allowing your tire service provider to test it during yearly maintenance checks will ensure you feel confident and safe in any driving condition type.

author avatar Written by Paul Hadley

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