How to Check Tire Tread Depth

Row of tires


Taking proper care of the tires on your car, truck, or SUV will ensure that you enjoy a safe and smooth ride wherever you drive. Along with regularly keeping tabs on your tire pressure and paying attention to your TPMS, it is also important that you know how to check tire tread depth. Wondering, “How do I check tire tread wear?” Find out in this guide from the service team at Sam Leman Automotive Group.

What is the Recommended Tire Tread Depth? 

New tires have a tread depth of about 10/32 or 11/32 of an inch (about a third of an inch). Winter tires and tires designed for off-roading, as well as some truck and SUV tires typically have even deeper tread grooves.

According to the U.S. Department of should replace your tires when the tread wears down to 2/32 of an inch. Having the proper tire tread depth will provide you with the maximum traction and control you need in all kinds of Central Illinois weather and road conditions. Keeping up to date on your tire rotation schedule is the best way to promote even tread wear and get the most out of your tires.

The Penny Test

While a ruler or tread gauge will give you the most accurate reading of your tire tread depth, a penny will do the trick just as well. Follow these steps to learn how to check the tread depth with a penny.

  1. Insert a penny with Lincoln head-first into a tire tread groove.
  2. If Lincoln’s head is covered and no longer visible between the grooves, you have plenty of tire tread depth.
  3. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, that means your tire treads are 2/32 inches deep or less and it’s time to replace them.
  4. Repeat this process on all four tires and in multiple locations on each tire.

How Do I Check Tire Tread Wear Using Other Methods?

Here are a couple of other ways you can check your tread depth:

  • Tread Depth Gauge: Available at auto parts stores throughout Illinois, a tire tread depth gauge can be an affordable and worthwhile investment. To check tire tread depth with a gauge, simply insert the probe into the shallowest tread groove, then press the top bar of the gauge flat against the tire to see the tread tread depth.
  • Tread Wear Bars: Most tires come with tread wear indicator bars which are at the bottom of the tread grooves in multiple locations across the tire. If the bars are flush with the tire ribs that surround them, it indicates that the tread depth has reached 2/32 of an inch.

Get Professional Tire Care Service at Sam Leman Automotive Group!

Whether it’s checking tire tread depth, rotating your tires, or letting you know how long you can drive on a spare, the service experts at Sam Leman Automotive Group are here to help. If you are in need of tire care service, or any other auto maintenance you can rely on our certified technicians to get the job done right. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

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