How Do You Check Your Tire Depth Easily And Correctly?

How Do You Check Your Tire Depth Easily And Correctly?

It is not enough to mount high-quality tires on your vehicle. They must also meet certain performance and safety criteria to have a safe drive anywhere and anytime. Tires are not only a component that helps the vehicle to move forward. These are the "connecting bridges" between the car and the pavement. The external structure of the tire is what establishes the grip on the road. More than that, it helps the tire to cope with different surfaces such as water, heavy snow, rocks, or severe road deformities.

The new tires have a rather deep structure of grooves in them. This depth differs from one model to another. Either way, the goal is the same for all tires: to provide efficient traction and sufficient grip in various road conditions. But over time, the external structure of the tire wears out naturally. Consequently, the depth of the tread becomes increasingly shallow. Drivers start to feel less traction, extended braking distances, and poor hydroplaning control.

In this sense, drivers must monitor the tire tread depth closely. The more the tire runs on the ground, the shallower its tread becomes. Once this reaches the tread depth of 2/32 inches, the tire becomes not only unsafe but also illegal for some U.S. territories.

Let's see more clearly what the consequences of driving on worn tires are and how to quickly and precisely check the tread remaining.

The risks associated with bald tires

Unfortunately, not all drivers understand how dangerous it is to drive with worn tires. Many times, they ignore the fact that the tread has become much too shallow. But this entails a series of risks that we do not recommend you to assume.
You already know that the depth legal limit is 2/32 inches. However, experts in the field strongly advise you to avoid reaching it. A tire is as safe as possible when it reaches the 4/32-inch limit. Once you reach this limit, it's time to think about a new set of tires.

We frequently consult Consumer Reports data. This team performed various tests to observe how tires with different tread depths behave in wet conditions. One of the most serious side effects is lengthening the braking distance, especially on wet roads. See below how braking takes place once the tire wears to the limit. 

Hydroplaning is usually caused by worn tires

Worn Tires Influence The Stopping Distance On Wet Roads

Don't take me wrong- worn tires are not the only factor that leads to loss of control in the rain. To know more about this phenomenon, check our full review about tire aquaplaning. However, the bald structure of the tire is one of the most important factors.

You see? The tires have special grooves and channels to throw water away in order to establish as tight contact with the road as possible. If the channels are worn, the tire will simply float on the water without being able to effectively disperse it. 

Poor winter traction

Once the tire loses its tread, its winter performance drops dramatically. Winter tires have an aggressive and deep tread specifically to improve traction in heavy snow conditions. As it wears, the tread loses its depth, which acts as biting edges, as well as its sipes, which ensures grip with the road. As you can see in the picture below, the winter tire with worn tread cannot deliver either performance or safety. 

The Penny Test

There are several options to check your tread depth. One of them is included in the tires even by the manufacturers. It is about Tread Bar indicators. These are components integrated into the tire at a certain depth. Once the tire reaches a dangerous level of wear, it starts to be visible above the tread.
While this method is quite intuitive, it already announces when the tread level is low. However, you can use the Penny method, which gives you a general impression of the tire's depth, long before it reaches its limit. So what do you need for this?

How to use the penny for a tire depth check?

Normally, new tires have a tread between 10/32'' and 11/32''. Larger vehicles may be a bit deeper. On the other hand, the legal limit of a tire is 2/32''. All you need is a US penny to check if you haven't exceeded this limit. Also, it helps you estimate how much tread you have left until you start thinking of a set of new tires.

The process takes place as follows:

The tire has ribs on its tread. You have to insert the penny between these ribs. Take the penny with Lincoln's head down and insert it between the ribs. If the head remains fully visible, you've got a problem, my friend. This speaks of the fact that the tire is too worn and has already reached the limit of 2.32''. Alternatively, if the head sinks between the ribs, then you can continue your safe driving. The more the head of the president sinks, the healthier the tread is for safe riding. 

One important note here! It is highly recommended to do the test on each tire. The front tires can wear differently than the rear ones. Also, the ones on the right side can wear out earlier than the ones on the left side. That's because frequent left turns place more force on the right tires.

In addition, I strongly recommend doing the test on different areas of the same tire. The tire tends to wear unevenly due to various factors. Tire under or overpressure generates different wear, for example. So, you could detect that one part of the tire is already at the limit while the other - still viable enough. Either way, you will have to replace it. 

Tips to reduce tire wear

Every driver wants tires that last as long as possible. However, their wear and tear is inevitable, no matter how hard we try. However, you could take into account some tips that will extend their service life and minimize their wear in the long run.

The side effects mentioned above are only a part of the entire ensemble of adverse effects of a worn tire. Besides them, you can expect more fuel consumption, uncomfortable rides, and suspension issues. As such, I recommend that you take into account at least 4 steps that will help you keep them healthy.

Air pressure

The correct pressure is extremely important for the health of the tire. If it loses air, it also loses its shape. Its deflated edges rub against the asphalt, generating uneven and early wear. The same happens with overinflation. With too much air, the tire raises its edges and its longitudinal center wears more aggressively on the asphalt. Both scenarios lead to early wear and tear and early tire replacement.

Timely tire rotation

tire rotation

Tire rotation is as important as wheel alignment. This helps to evenly distribute the pressure on the tires. In the absence of rotation, the tire is worn on a certain higher portion. Once it changes its place on another axis, the wear is evened out because the weight and the driving forces are balanced. Your technical expert will help you rotate the tires according to the most suitable scheme, depending on your type of vehicle and type of tire. 

Review your driving style

adapt your driving style

Many drivers do not accept the fact that they are the ones who speed up the wear process of their tires. Nervous acceleration, aggressive braking, and steep cornering - all lead to tire wear. No matter how high-quality the tire is, it will wear out soon if the driver's behavior does not change.
Uneven roads require reduced speed and attention in driving. Slowing down is the best thing you can do to reduce tire wear. As a result of the behavior adaptation, the tire will keep its depth for longer and the risks of uneven wear will be minimized.

Regular wheel alignment

wheel alignment

Wheel misalignment is one of the most common causes of tire wear. The incorrect position of the wheels on the road makes them waste different areas unevenly. You would do your car a favor if you aligned the wheels together with the tire rotation process. These 2 processes are extremely beneficial both for tire's longer service life and for their performance. Technicians adjust the incorrect angle of the wheels. As a result, the tire takes the correct position on the road. This also leads to the efficiency of fuel consumption and driving experience improvement. 

Bottom line

Keep a penny somewhere attainable in your car. Keep it always at hand so that you can monitor the tire depth as often as possible. Tread depth is a critical element for tire performance and our safety as drivers. Many of us just take a look at the tires, estimating how healthy it is. But sometimes, the visual impression is not sufficient and can be erroneous. So have a little fun and measure it with the help of this little accessory.
If the test indicates a too risky depth, check our best tire deals if it's time to think about new tires. Neotires is a friendly team ready to help you with any question. Drive safe!

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