How to Check Tire Tread Depth: Three DIY Methods

Is it time to replace your tires or can you get more mileage out of them on roads? Every driver wants to use their tires for as long as safely possible to make the most of their investment. Fortunately, the state of your tire tread depth can clue you in as to whether it’s time for replacement! If you don’t know how to check tire tread depth, there are three simple methods you can use at home. The service pros at Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet provide instructions for each, below.

How Low is Too Low for Tire Tread Depth?

Before we dive into how to check tire tread depth we should take a look at where your tread depth should be to continue driving safely in . When tires are new, their tread depth ranges from 10/32 of an inch to 11/32 of an inch (or about one third of an inch). If you have winter tires or all-terrain tires, they likely start out with a deeper tread depth.

Tires should be replaced when the tread depth reaches 2/32 of an inch. This is the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Transportation. If your tread depth gets lower than that, there’s a higher risk of losing control of your vehicle during poor weather conditions and the tires are more susceptible to flats and blowouts.

How Do I Check Tire Tread Wear with a Penny?

Most car owners would probably reach for a ruler first to measure their tread depth, but what if you’re out on a road trip and you experience tire issues? In a pinch, you can use a penny to check your tire tread wear! Here’s how it works:

  1. Insert the penny into a tread groove with Lincoln situated face-first.
  2. How much of Lincoln’s head can you see? It should be at least partially covered if the tread depth is still good.
  3. If Lincoln’s head is completely exposed, it indicates that the tread depth is at 2/32 of an inch or less.
  4. Ensure accuracy by doing the penny test in several locations across all four tires.

If you can see Lincoln’s head when you do the penny test, schedule tire replacement as soon as possible. Tires can be a big expense—if you’re worried about affording them, we invite you to check our service specials and explore service financing options.

Other Methods to Check Tread Depth

How do you check tread wear using the two other methods we spoke of? If you can’t find a ruler or a penny, try out one of the following:

  • Built-In Tread Wear Indicators: Did you know tires come with tread wear markers built right into them? They look like small raised bars and should be found at the very bottom of the tread grooves in numerous locations around the tire. If the tread wear bars are equal with the tire grooves around them, it means the tread is at 2/32 of an inch.
  • Tread Depth Gauge: You can purchase a tread depth gauge at an auto store. They’re usually inexpensive and will prove to be very useful in the future. Locate the shallowest groove on your tire and insert the probe into it. Press down the bar at the top of the gauge until it’s flat against the tire. Pull the gauge out to check the tread wear rating.

Get Affordable Tire Service in Tallahassee

If you’re in the area searching for affordable service nearby, look to Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet. We provide affordable, timely service for our customers. You can search for new tires online or schedule a visit with us to get started!

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Main 850-692-6302 Sales 850-692-6302
3127 W Tennessee St
Tallahassee, FL 32304
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet 30.4578, -84.3502.