Track Your Order
track icon
Get a $25 Gift Card!
For each friend that makes their first purchase
Start Sharing

How to Check Tire Tread: 3 Tire Tread Tests You Can DIY

By Tire Agent Staff

February 21, 2022


When you buy new tires for your vehicle, you care about how long they will last. Tire manufacturers offer tread-life warranties, and depending on which model you choose, the warranty could last anywhere from 30,000 to 90,000 miles. However, tread warranties are only one way to determine when to replace tires. Check out our in-depth report on how often you should replace your tires for more tips.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, you should start thinking about replacing tires after six years, even if they're within the warranty. That's because several factors could decrease the mileage you can get from tires. To dive deeper into aging tires, read our post on dry rot in tires.

Your driving style, the type of vehicle you drive, and the quality of roads you drive on can all impact a tire's lifespan. But you don't need to wait for a warranty to tell you when it's time for a change.

For now, let's focus on measuring tire tread. There are simple ways to check your tire's tread to guide you on when to replace them. You should start checking tire tread depth every 3,000 miles (or if it's easier to remember, do it with every oil change). Here are three ways to quickly get the job done.

1. Does your tire tread depth pass the coin test?

Safety isn't the only reason to keep an eye on your tire's tread. Tread depth plays a significant role in the comfort of your vehicle's ride. The more prominent the tread depth, the more cushion between you and the road. That means a more comfortable ride.

The best way to ensure a safe and smooth ride is to have the same level of tread depth on each tire. Checking tread depth and having your tires rotated regularly will result in longer-lasting tires.

So, what's the easiest way to check tread depth? Most people would agree it's the penny test. It's very simple.

How to use a coin to check tire tread

Insert a penny into your tire's tread groove with Lincoln's head upside down. Make sure Lincoln is facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln's head, your tire tread depth is less than 2/32 inch, and it's time to replace your tires.


Source: Bridgestone

You can also do the test with a quarter. Insert a quarter into your tire's tread groove with Washington's head facing down and toward you. If the tread surpasses the top of Washington's head, it's above 4/32 of an inch and is in good shape.

Don't check just one point on a tire -- check several points to ensure even wear of your tire.

If the tread is flush with the top of Washington's head, it's at 4/32 of an inch. Now you're on the borderline of safety, and it's time to start thinking about replacing the tire. The low tread isn't safe because it leads to reduced traction, increasing the distance needed to stop and putting you at a greater risk of getting a flat.


2. Check built-in tread wear indicators on your tire.

Most modern tires have built-in visual indicators to help you know when to replace them. These are called tire wear bars, and they are built into the tire itself.

They're spaced evenly throughout the tire's tread so that as the tire wears closer to that 2/32 inch mark, the wear bar becomes more visible. When the tread is even with the wear bar, it's time to replace the tire.

Want more details on tread wear indicators? Check out our article on what tread markers on tires mean. It has tons of helpful information, including photos.

3. Use a tire tread depth gauge.

While the coin test and tread bar indicators are very reliable ways to check your tires' depth, the most reliable way to check is with a gadget called a tire tread depth gauge. A tire gauge isn't necessary, unless you're into gadgets and math, and, hey, no judgment here. 

You can find tire tread depth gauges for purchase online or at your local auto parts store. They are super easy to use.

Simply measure your tire's tread depth by sticking the probe into the shallowest groove on the tire. Then, press the probe's shoulders flat against the tread and read the results. Easy peasy.

Tire tread depth chart

Here's how to interpret the results:

  • 6/32 of an inch or higher: Your tire’s tread depth is adequate.
  • 5/32 of an inch: Consider replacing your tires if you are worried about driving on snow-covered roads.
  • 4/32 of an inch: If you drive on roads that are often wet, think about replacing your tires.
  • 3/32 of an inch: Your tires are almost worn out, and it's seriously time to start thinking about replacing them.
  • 2/32 of an inch or lower: You're now in the danger zone with legally bald tires. Replace them ASAP.

That's it, that's the list. You now know three simple ways to check tire tread, and we recommend doing it regularly. It's an easy way to stay safe and comfortable on the road.