Wondering if it’s time to replace your vehicle’s tires? Checking the tire tread is a great indicator of whether or not your tires are still safe to drive on. There are a variety of ways to check your tire tread, but the most common (and simplest) way to do so is with the penny test.
In the United States, tire tread depth is measured in 32nds of an inch. New tires typically come with 10/32” or 11/32” tread depths, and some truck, SUV and winter tires may have deeper tread depths than other models. The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends replacing tires when they reach 2/32”, and many states legally require tires to be replaced at this depth.
The penny test will check whether you’ve hit the 2/32” threshold. Here’s how it works:
- Place a penny between the tread ribs on your tire. A “rib” refers to the raised portion of tread that spans the circumference of your tire. Tire tread is composed of several ribs.
- Turn the penny so that Lincoln’s head points down into the tread.
- See if the top of his head disappears between the ribs. If it does, your tread is still above 2/32” , If you can see his entire head, it may be time to replace the tire because your tread is no longer deep enough.
It is important when performing the penny test not just test one area of the tire. Rotate each of the vehicle’s tires and check a variety of places to make sure your measurements are accurate. Consistent wear around the whole tire is normal, but uneven tread wear could be a sign of improper inflation, wheel misalignment, or a variety of other things. If you see uneven tread wear, you should have a technician inspect your vehicle.
Information and images in the article courtesy of Uniroyal Tires. For more information on checking tire tread, see their article here.