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How can I check my car's tire tread for wear and tear?

By Edited Jul 8, 2016 0 0

To keep your passengers safe, you should frequently check the tire tread on all of your vehicles. This is easier to do than you think. It only requires a little pocket change!

First things first. How much tread is considered safe? According to laws in most states, it is illegal to drive on tires that only have 2/32" (1.6mm) of tread depth remaining. However, it's best to change your tires much earlier than this because as the tread gets smoother and smoother, the tire's ability to perform in wet conditions will decline. As a general rule of thumb, you should change your tires once they reach 4/32" (3.2mm) of remaining tread.

Here is a very simple way of measuring your tire's tread with two coins.

Things You Will Need

  • 1. A quarter
  • 2. A penny

Step 1

Tails Side of Penny (16241)
Check all four tires by placing a penny into several different tread grooves. It's important to check every tire because they are likely to have variant amounts of tread remaining. A tire can wear much differently depending on it's axle (front or rear). If the tread always covers the top of the Lincoln Memorial, you have more than 6/32" (4.8mm) of tread left. No need to change your tires yet.

Step 2

Head Side of Quarter
If the tread does not cover the top of the Lincoln Memorial in step 1, you'll need to do a second check. As before, check all four tires by placing a quarter into several different tread grooves. If the tread always covers a small part of George Washington's head, you have more than 4/32" (3.2mm) of tread depth remaining. No need to change tires.

Step 3

Head Side of Penny
If the tread does not cover the top of George Washington's head in step 3, you'll need to do a third check. As before, check all four tires by placing a penny into several different tread grooves. If the tread always covers a small part of Honest Abe's head, you have more than 2/32" (1.6mm) of tread depth remaining. At this point, it's probably a good idea to change tires.
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Tips & Warnings

  • To avoid disproportionately wearing down your front or rear tires, make sure to rotate your tires at every oil change.
  • If you feel uncomfortable checking your tire's tread, don't be afraid to ask your mechanic. However, don't let him sell you a new set of tires if you don't need it.
  • If you live in an area with lots of snow, you may need to change tires when they have 6/32" (4.8mm) of tread remaining. To save money, you could put these tires back on your vehicle in the spring.
  • Try to check your tires' tread at least once every 3,000 miles. A good habit (so you don't forget) is to check your tire tread with each oil change.
  • If it turns out you do need to change your tires, make sure to find an appropriate tire size for your make and model.
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