How to measure tire tread wear

Remember the first time you purchased that brand-new car with a perfect set of tires already provisioned?

Remember when you picked up an additional set of tires from your local shop?

Well, now the time has come again for you to lay down any resources available. The time has come to wonder whether your current tires can still handle the rough pavement.

As the environment gets harsher, so does the tread wear. It is common for your tires to start exhibiting signs of wear every time you travel at high-speed or low.

It’s imperative to know the procedures you must follow to determine the condition of your tread. Without some fundamental knowledge, the risk of further instability to the tire tread may cause unwanted injuries to your well-being.

I am always more than happy to share the knowledge I have accrued on tire tread measuring methods over time. In this article, I will cover the following aspects you need to be aware of:

  1. Minimum tread depth allowance
  2. How to measure it
  3. How to extend its lifespan
  4. How to stay safe
  5. What you should look out for when shopping & how to save money

How to measure tire tread depth

  1. The most commonly used and easiest method is the penny test. The diagnosis is simple. 

    Take a penny and insert it into the tread channel with Lincoln’s part facing you upside down. You can quickly tell if you require a new set when Lincoln’s head is visible and not obstructed.

    Conclusion: Your tire depth is less than 2/32”. Consider a new set.

  2. A similar method of determining the wear is the quarter test.

    Place a quarter into the tread channel with Washington’s part facing you upside down. If the tread reaches Washington’s head, you are safe.

    Conclusion: There are at least 4/32” of tread left over.

  3. Check the tread wear built-in indicator 

    An efficient way to indicate the wear level is to use what the manufacturer has already provided for you. Most types of tire models will already mark the level of wear and show you when it’s best to change. All you have to do is check!

    It would be best to replace the tire when the tread is rubbed down evenly to the indicated replaceable level.

  4. Using the best tread depth gauge you can acquire

    In my opinion, using a depth gauge is by far the most accurate way to determine the level of wear remaining on your tire’s depth.

    Tires will often wear unequally in different parts. That presents a problem of inaccuracy to the other methods that I have indicated above. I’m not saying that the other ways aren’t adequate to perform. It’s just that with the help of an accurate tool, we will always obtain the most precise results.

    I have picked a specific model out of numerous existing products available on the market.
    The GODESON Smart Color Coded Tread Depth Gauge piqued my interest with its many qualities.tire tread depth gauge

When to replace them

With so many indicators available, it’s probably best to wonder about the minimum allowed depth that tires are allowed to reach.

It would be best if you never got going on the road with less than 4/32”. Reaching the 2/32” counter will endanger your trip’s safety.

Most models have different characteristics that affect the minimum allowance factor, so here’s what I recommend.

  1. It’s best always to check the manufacturer’s recommendation.

As stated above, some models are built by the manufacturer for distinct purposes. Because of that fact, some types are underperforming in some regions of roads.

  1. Keep track of mileage.

A set of tires lasts as much as it was built for. The average set should last up to 50,000 – 60,000 miles. But that doesn’t necessarily imply that all sets should cover all that distance, some lasting longer than others.

My recommendations:

  1. Regularly check the inflation pressure and schedule appointments with a professional to determine whether the tires can be further used on the road.
  2. Whether you have a new set or just bought a replaceable pair, always ensure that the model isn’t older than 10 years old. If that’s the case for you, replace them immediately.
  3. Replace tires recently damaged by a heavy impact. Make sure to look out for wear conditions such as punctures. Replace regardless of the time of purchase if the tires suggest severe signs of wear.
  4. Never replace just one or two tires. Replacing all four is the key to the performance of having a well-handled vehicle. All four should be identical if possible. Replacing with slightly different models should not be a short-term issue, as long as it has the same characteristics.

Knowing how to determine the depth of your tread is essential for an adequate diagnosis. Because of that, I will outline four required methods that are easy to perform. The methods will be displayed from the least recommended to the best. Keep that in mind when drawing your conclusions.

How does a tool such as this one improve the overall measurement quality of your tires?

That’s a good question, so I have prepared some of the most important reasons why it comes as my number one choice.

Easy-to-read color bars prove an effortless diagnose

The tool diverges into three main sections:

  • Red – 0 – 3/32” ( It’s time to replace the worn tire )
  • Yellow – 3/32” – 6/32” ( Take precautions when driving. May need replacing in harsh conditions such as rain or snow)
  • Green – 6/32 – 32/32” ( Everything looks normal, and it’s safe to drive )

Below you have some of the features I’ve considered necessary to outline:

  1. Defends the integrity of your vehicle by warning you to take early precautions
  2. Simple steps to follow to take the appropriate measurements
  3. Supports safe driving
  4. Fast diagnosis
  5. Readable and accurate scale marks
  6. Includes a pocket clip that makes it easy to carry
  7. Quality and durable materials used for its damping design

Once you have tested the product, you realize its usefulness in savings and precautions. It demonstrates how it can be the investment of a lifetime for your safety.

New tires

Traction and braking performances are always determinable by this important depth factor. New tires naturally come with an unused surface, free of any wear.

The models usually have a tread depth of 10/32” to 11/32 ” on the option opted for. Gradual wear will start to be noticed around 8/32” to 6/32”. At that time, you shouldn’t begin to worry unless there were any severe damages caused to the tire.

Because of its unused depth, you should be provided a more significant state of maneuvering your vehicle while driving with a new set of tires. Due to its superior grip, the car should be easier to control in all weather conditions.

Signs of wear


The first signs of wear will start to be noticed when the overall control of the vehicle does not feel the same as before.

As drivers, we continuously learn the capabilities of our cars and the conditions we can face while cruising.

There are some factors you should regularly check to prevent unwanted losses:

  • Shallow Tread
  • Uneven Tread Wear
  • Road Hazards (Nails, Curbs Hits, Rocks) 
  • Damaged Valve Caps
  • Damaged areas

If left unchecked, more significant damages can be inflicted upon the vehicle and the passengers inside.

At any point in time, the vehicle may start to:

  • Lose grip
  • Have increased braking distances
  • Experience hydroplaning
  • Be hard to control

Any tire with less than 2/32” tread depth is considered unfit for driving. The optimal tread depth that offers the best performance is 6/32”.

What is the penny test?

two tires

The penny test is considered the easiest way to determine tread depth quickly. The method is as easy as safely keeping the change in your pockets. It always offers the handiest option to assess depth, but it is never considered the safest.

The penny test is best used for determining the minimum allowance of 2/32”. That’s why you could never accurately determine if you’ve hit the 6/32” – 8/32” mark, for example.

It has its great share of usage when you’ve got nothing else at hand, but that’s about all. That’s also why a responsible driver would never wait until the last moment of the tire’s lifespan.

 A responsible driver would permanently prevent any unwanted issues. The only possible way to do that is to check the level of wear regularly through the use of a quality-recommended tool, the GODESON Smart Color Coded Tread Depth Gauge.


Tire tread is an issue that needs to be taken seriously when your safety is at play.

It is best always to take early precautions when inspecting the tread depth and use the specialized tools recommended to determine it accurately.

You already have the information needed after you’ve successfully read this article.

Now you need the determination to care about your safety.

Take action, safe journeys.

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