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How To Measure Tire Depth

How Do I Measure My Tread?

There are various ways one can measure tread depth. While not all of them will provide an exact measurement, they will still be able to give an estimate of the tread life left on the tires.

The Penny Test:

All you need is an American Penny. Use this penny to measure between the tread ribs by turning Lincoln upside down. Depending on how much of Lincoln’s head the tread covers, you may need new tires. However, keep in mind, that this method is not exactly accurate.

In other words, if the tread does not reach Lincoln’s head, the tread has less than the required 2/32” remaining. The tread just reaching Lincoln’s head means it has at least 2/32”, but depending on the state, this tire could still need to be changed. If the penny is covered more than that, the tread is higher than 2/32”.

Tread Gauge:

Using a tread gauge will give precise tread depth measurements. This small tool can be purchased both online and in stores near you. It takes estimating and math out of the tread measuring process, making things easier.

A tread gauge will offer various measurements: both 32nds of an inch and millimeters, usually. Just make sure you are looking at the first one. Place it between the tread and push down on it until it stops to check the tread depth.

With a ruler:

Using a ruler is also an easier method. Measure the tread between the ribs or tread blocks, using a 1/16” scale. One 1/16” is equal to 2/32”, so you will need to use your math skills a bit. Basically, take the first number that was measured and multiply it by 2 to get the correct measurement.

However, some rulers do not start measuring from their edges. We mean that there is a small leeway between the end of the ruler and where the measurements begin. This type of ruler will not provide you with accurate measurements.


How Much Tread Do I Need?

State laws govern tread depth requirements. Therefore, be sure to check what tread depth is needed if you are traveling. However, to simplify things, we have created this photo representation below.

Six states have no laws governing tread depth needed on the tires. The highest requirement is set by Texas at 3/32”, while California and Idaho laws demand only 1/32”. The rest of the states have set their laws at 2/32”.

How To Measure Tire Depth

What Do Your Tire Tread Wear Patterns Tell You?

The tire tread wear patterns will tell you everything you need to know about your tires. If they are over- or underinflated, it will show. Is the vehicle’s alignment faulty? The tread wear will show it.

Learn more about what tread wear patterns mean here.

Why Should I Measure the Tread Depth on My Tires?

Measuring the tread depth on tires gives us an estimate of how long the current tire set will last. Additionally, it is important to ensure your driving safety as well as the vehicle’s performance.

When the tires are worn-out, they do not provide the necessary traction and performance needed for a secure drive. For this reason, following the tread wear of the tires will make sure worn-out tires are not used on the vehicle.

If you are returning a leased vehicle, the tread depth is also crucial. Did you know that your lease contract may require a minimum tread on the tires when you return the vehicle? If that tread amount is not met, you might be charged extra. Sometimes it is cheaper to purchase a new tire set than to pay their fees.

How Much Tread Do Brand New Tires Have?

Most brand new P-metric tires will have at least 10/32” of tread on them. However, there are exceptions. Some performance models may start as low as 8/32”, while larger SUV tires can have deeper starting treads. This rule does not apply to most LT tires.

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