How to Check Tire Tread Depth

Row of tires

Wondering how you can better care for your tires? Start by checking tire tread depth. So how do you check tire tread depth? Our service team at Barnes Crossing Volkswagen can help you learn how to check tire tread depth with a ruler or penny and more service tips. Check out our online guide today, then contact our team with any questions.

What is the Recommended Tire Tread Depth?

In most cases, new tires have a tire tread depth of about 10/32 or 11/32 of an inch (about a third of an inch). The tires may have deeper grooves if you have off-roading tires or tires built to withstand Starkville winters. Also, if you have a truck or SUV, you may find your vehicle’s tires have deeper tread grooves.

How do you know when you need to replace your tires? Once your tires reach about 2/32 of an inch, you’re due for new tires according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Having the proper tire tread depth is essential to maintain the traction and stability you need on Oxford roads and beyond.

The Penny Test

Luckily, there’s a way you can check tire tread wear in a hurry. Use the penny test. While using a ruler is more accurate, a penny will work in a pinch. The way the U.S penny has been designed makes it the ideal tool for checking tire tread depth. Here’s how you can use a penny to check tire tread depth:

  1. Insert your penny into the tread groove with Lincoln’s head facing down.
  2. Note if Lincoln’s head is covered by the grooves and is no longer visible. 
  3. If you can see the entirety of Lincoln’s head, that indicates that the tread is 2/32 inches deep or less. If that’s the case, you’ll need to replace your tires. 
  4. Repeat this process on each tire and check multiple locations on all four tires to be certain.

How Do I Check Tire Tread Wear Using Other Methods?

If you don’t have a penny on hand, there are other ways to check the tread depth of your tires. Here are a few alternatives to checking tire tread depth with a penny:

  • Tread Depth Gauge: A foolproof way to measure tread depth is with a tread depth gauge. While you will need to make the extra investment in this tool, you’ll find that it’s affordable and worth the price. With this tool, 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 wear rating. 
  • Tread Wear Bars: Many new tires have tread wear indicator bars built into them. You’ll notice them at the bottom of the tread grooves in multiple locations around the tire. If the bars are equal to the tire ribs around them, it signals that the tread depth has reached 2/32 of an inch. 

Turn to Barnes Crossing Volkswagen for All Things Automotive

If your tire tread is getting low or you’re unsure about needing new tires, schedule service at Barnes Crossing Volkswagen. Our technicians can take a look for you and have your vehicle back on West Point roads safely. Have more questions in the meantime? Contact our team.

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