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How to Read Tire Tread Depth? A Step-By-Step Procedure

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If you're looking for “how to read tire tread depth?” You can try one of the following methods:

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  • The penny test
  • The quarter test
  • The bar indicator test

Your vehicle's tires are one of the most crucial components that you must maintain all the time properly. One of the very important characteristics of your vehicle's tires that you must maintain is tread depth. Maintaining the right tread depth is not a choice because it has to do with your safety, and if not have the minimum tread depth, you might get into legal situations that can cost you some fines.

This article provides you with simple procedures on how to read tire tread depth. These procedures do not require any professional experience because they can do by yourself without needing a mechanic. Once you read the tire tread depth, you must compare it to the minimum allowable depth in your state and replace the tires if the death is not meeting the regulations. Don't worry! The article will also highlight what the minimum tread depth you don't need to exceed is.

What is the tire tread depth?

While it might be obvious to you what is the tire tread depth, it might be something that many inexperienced drivers don't know exactly what it refers to. Whenever you hear the term tire tread depth, it indicates the depth between the top rubber portion of your vehicle’s players to the lowest deepest point in the tires Groves.

Over youth, this depth declines depending on your driving environment and how much you've been driving this vehicle here. That's why you continuously need to learn about how to read tire tread depth to ensure that you didn't pass the minimum tread depth level where it gets to hazardous situations that might not allow you to control the vehicle.

Why is it important to learn how to read tire tread depth?

Before we dive into the details about “how to read tire tread depth?” Let's familiarize ourselves with the importance of reading tire tread depth and having the right tread depth in your tires.

The tread depth is one of the most important safety features in your vehicle’s tires. The thread grips to the road and prevents your vehicle from slipping, especially if you're driving on ice or snow, depending on how good the treads are. When the tread depth is not at the right number specified in your vehicle's owner’s manual, you'll deal with unnecessary multiple breaking to get your vehicle to stop. In some scenarios, you might not even be able to stop the vehicle in snowy weather.

The lower the tread depth, the lowered the performance of your vehicle's braking system, and the higher the hazardous situations potentials. Therefore, as a driver, you must maintain the right tread depth to ensure your safety.

One of the first steps towards maintaining the right tread depth is to learn how to read tire tread depth. You mustn't go to a professional every time you want to check on the tires because it is something that you must regularly perform, especially when starting harsh seasons.

How to read tire tread depth?

Now you know exactly how important it is to learn how to read tire tread depth. The next step is to determine the different methods available there to help you read the tire tread depth without needing a professional or without needing fancy tools that might be expensive.

Let's take a closer look at the different methods you can try to test the tire tread depth:

1-    The penny test

As the name suggests, all that you need for performing this test is a penny. What you need to do is to locate different tread Groves and insert the penny inside them, then monitor how much of the penny you can still see. If you see the entire Lincoln head, this indicates that the tread depth is about 2/32”, which is a warning sign indicating that you must replace the tires soon.

However, if you did not see the entire head, you'll need to repeat the test across multiple threads all over the tire to confirm that there are no locations where the tire tread depth is not meeting the regulations. Once you confirm that all the tires are in good condition, you don't just replace them, but you'll need to perform the test soon. So keep an eye on the tire's condition before it gets to a point where you must replace it.

2-    The quarter test

Like the penny tests, you can also use 1/4 and insert it in the tire Groves. If you see that the tire charts are touching Washington's head, it means that you have 4/32” still remaining in the tires, indicating that you must replace the tire now.

Remember that you need to repeat the test across the entire tire to confirm that there are no locations worn out more than the others. As you might notice, implementing both the penny and the quarter tests is not very complicated. Therefore, it is recommended that you perform this test regularly, especially if you feel that you cannot control your vehicle and get it to stop in slippery conditions.

3-    The bar indicator test

Another great method that could help you indicate whether your car's tires need replacement or not is by locating the tire tread wear board indicator. This indicator is located and molded in many vehicles’ tires. It helps you monitor the tire Jeff and alerts you when the tire depth reaches the minimum threshold.

Typically, you can perform a visual inspection and check whether the adjacent rips of the tire are flushing out with the bar indicator; it means that your vehicle has about 2/32” and you must replace it immediately.

What is a good tire tread depth?

While it's great to learn about how to read tire tread depth, you'll also need to understand what is the good tire tread depth to know if you've passed the minimum number or not. Whenever you notice that the tire tread depth reading is below the minimum number, you must get your tires replaced immediately to prevent safety issues.

According to the US Department of Transportation, your tire tread depth should not be smaller than 2/32”; otherwise, you won't be able to drive your vehicle legally. Typically, newer cars come with a tire tread depth of about 10/32” or 11/32” and some heavy-duty vehicles might have much larger tire tread depth which is not surprising.

Thus, before you even get close to the 2/32” threshold, you must have your vehicle's tires replaced before dealing with legal issues that might cost you some fines if not impacting your safety, especially if you're driving in unpleasant weather conditions.

If you have just read the tire tread depth and didn't know what to do next, take a closer look at the following table that tells you what to do if your tire tread depth is at a certain threshold:

Tire tread depth Tire condition
4/32” or deeper Your tire is good, and you don't need to replace it
3/32” Your tire is OK, but you will need to replace it soon
2/32” or less Your tire is not good, and you must replace it now


How to buy new tires?


If you checked the tire tread depth and realized that you would need to install new tires, you can't go directly to the market and pick up whatever you like. However, there are some important elements to consider before choosing the tires to ensure that you bought the right tires and prevent wasting your money.

Let's take a closer look at automotive experts recommendations on how to buy new tires:

1-    Confirm that the tires are not in good condition

The first step is to confirm that your vehicle's tires are not in good condition. Next, you'll check the tires' conditions by measuring the tread depth and looking for any symptoms indicating premature wear out that could impact the way you control the vehicle.

You mustn't immediately go for purchasing new tires unless you need them. The other thing is to learn that you cannot only replace one tire, and most automotive experts recommend replacing two tires on the same axle at the same time to prevent damaging the suspension system.

Some manufacturers even recommend replacing the four tires simultaneously to maintain the other components that any misalignment issues impact. Therefore, you must review your vehicle's owner's manual and the contract with the manufacturer to confirm that you were following whatever they recommended.

2-    Select the right tire type

Tires are not all the same, and some tires are designed specifically for the winter season and others armor for hot summer seasons. However, some tires are for all seasons, so you don't must worry about changing them every season.

Therefore, spend some time learning about these different tires and what characteristics they provide you. Keep in mind that the more specific the tire is, the higher the cost change that you'll need to compare the benefits to your budget and ensure that you're not breaking the budget to get something that you don't need.

3-    Shop for the right tire

Once you're ready to purchase the tire, the next step is to look for locations that sell tires. There are plenty of warehouse clubs that provide you with very nice tires, and many people prefer to select online sellers to purchase their next tires. We advise that you thoroughly review all these tire suppliers and ensure that they have a good reputation and the best customer reviews.

4-    Learn about the extra fees

Before you make your final decision, you must understand all the extra fees around purchasing the tires. For example, some options might have fees for tire installations and others for tire disposal. Therefore, it's critical that you don't get surprised once you see the final bill without being ready for it.

5-    Install the tires

As we indicated earlier, tire installation will come with its own cost. Therefore, you must learn about the different options to install your new tires and understand how much each option will cost you. For example, if you have the right mechanical skill sets, you might even install your tires without needing a professional. This way, you'll save a ton on labor costs.

6-    Maintain the new tires

Once you install new tires and spend all this money, you must perform the right maintenance indicated near the vehicle's owner’s manual to ensure that these tires serve you the longest time possible. But, again, there are plenty of available online checklists that help you understand what exactly did check in your tires and how often.


Your vehicle's tires are the first components to interact with the road, and without the right tire condition, you might deal with safety problems that might impact your life and the life of other people driving around you. Therefore, tire tread depth is one of the first important characteristics of a good tire, and this depth must not be smaller than 2/32,” according to the US Department of Transportation.

This article provided you with a step-by-step procedure on how to read tire tread depth to be proactive about the tire condition and replace it whenever it is below or close to the minimum threshold. If your vehicle has major mechanical problems, it might not be worth your time and effort in replacing the tires. Instead, you might want to sell the vehicle and use its value to buy a better car without any tire or mechanical problems.

Selling a vehicle with bad tires might not be the most profitable deal because most private buyers are looking for a good car ready to be driven. However, it's not the end of the world because cash cars buyer is one of the few list companies that accept your vehicle despite its condition or type!

Cash Cars Buyer is willing to remove your vehicle within one to three days only! Cash Cars Buyer is one of the top-rated car removal companies in the nation that guarantees to pay you the top dollars and provide you with free towing despite your living location around the United States.

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All it takes you is to:

  • Describe your car’s type and condition
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To learn more about our process and our teen, you can reach out to us by giving us a call at 866-924-4608 or visit our home page click on the free instant online offer.


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