The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need to Tire Tread Depth

Are your tires doing their job? Ensure you are safe on the road with this only guide you’ll ever need to tire tread depth.

About 300 million tires get discarded each year. These tires are ones that have experienced a severe puncture, build failure, or have reached the end of their useful life. 

If you haven’t looked at your tires in a while, then you’re overdue. Tire tread depth is the critical indicator of the useful life of your tires. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about your tire tread. 

What Is Tire Tread? 

The tire tread is the rubber pattern that is on the face of the tire. Tires will have different tread patterns depending on the intended use and driving conditions. The tread is what creates contact with the road. 

The ribs are the circumferentially raised portion of the tire. The grooves are the indents in the tread. Tread blocks are the raised ribs that are broken up into pieces, while the smaller groove between these blocks are sipes. 

The Penny Test 

New tire tread depth will typically be between 10/32 and 11/32 inches. Tire tread depth is measured in 32nds of an inch. Tires meant for larger vehicles or winter driving tend to have deeper new treads than tires meant for smaller cars, such as the Scion FRS.

An easy way to test your tire tread is to use a penny. Turn the penny upside down so that Lincoln’s head points towards the ground. Then place the penny in one of the grooves next to a rib on the top of the tire. 

If Lincoln’s head disappears, then you have plenty of tread left on your tires. If you can see Lincoln’s entire head, then it’s time to replace your tires. Somewhere in between these two extremes means you have some wear to the tread. 

Tire Tread Wear Bars 

Manufacturers build tread wear bars into the tread. These are the indicators of minimum tire tread depth. Look into the grooves for the horizontal “bars” or small ridges within the grooves. 

These wear bars indicate the safe tire tread depth. When the tire treads wear down to become level with these wear bars, then you need to replace your tires. 

Tire Tread Depth Gauge

If you’d prefer to use a more exact tread measurement method, then you can use a gauge. You can buy one at a local auto parts store. There is a wide range of models, but a basic one with have a probe. 

To use the gauge, you’ll stick the probe in the groove against the tread block. Then have the shoulders lay flat against the top of the tread blocks. The resulting measurement will be in millimeters and 32nds of an inch. 

Check Your Tire Tread Depth

Now that you understand what your tread looks like and how to check it, it’s time to check your tire tread depth. Having enough tire tread ensures that your vehicle maintains secure contact with the road. This traction ensures you’re safe while driving. 

Browse our other car articles for more tips and advice to caring for your car. 

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