Proper tire tread is important for driving safety and fuel efficiency. But what constitutes adequate tire tread? Brand new, most car tires have an average tire depth between 10/32” or 11/32”, and the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) recommends replacing tires when the tread has deteriorated to 2/32 of an inch or lower. But with such a small fraction at play, it is difficult to gauge this measurement by simply looking at your tires. Fortunately, there is a handy little trick you can use to measure your tire tread any day of the week! It’ll cost you though, but only a single penny!
Continue reading to learn how to use a penny to measure tire tread, plus some additional methods for measuring tire tread.
How to Measure Tire Tread With a Penny
Measuring tire tread with just a single penny is so simple even a child could do it! In fact, this is a fun trick to teach your kids, especially if they like to be little helpers around the garage or if they are older and preparing to learn how to drive. You already know you can find pennies all over your house, so grab a pile and keep a little bag in the garage or carport or even inside your vehicle. This way, you know you are prepared to measure your tire tread, whether at home or on the go.
The key to measuring tire tread using a penny is to keep the penny in the right direction. Here’s what to do:
❶► Turn your penny upside down, with the Lincoln’s head facing you.
❷► Insert the penny headfirst into the groove of your tire.
❸► Look for Lincoln’s head.
Can you still see Lincoln’s head? If so, your tire tread is low. In fact, it is lower than the recommended limit of 2/32 of an inch.
If you cannot see Lincoln’s head. After inserting it into your tire groove, you still have plenty of tread to work with.
Repeat this process on the remaining three tires. Keep in mind that tire tread can differ from tire to tire, even on the same vehicle. So, it is important to always check all tires.
Additional Tire Tread Measuring Tools
Although the penny tire tread trick is effective and reliable, you can get a more accurate measurement by using a store-bought device such as a tread depth gauge. Large trucks and commercial vehicles typically have tires with built-in tire tread wear indicator bars that will appear and present themselves when the tire tread reaches 2/32 of an inch. For all other vehicles, you can rely on a tread depth gauge, which is available at any automotive parts store or department store with an automotive section.
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