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A vehicle’s tires, along with its seatbelts, brakes, and headlights, are some of its most important safety equipment. But in order to keep the vehicle’s occupants safe, a tire must have enough tread on it to grip the road properly.

Worn-out tires do not offer drivers sufficient traction when driving on the roads and can increase the risk of a catastrophic tire blowout or accident. Thus, it is critical for car owners to know how to properly monitor the tire tread depth on their vehicle and identify when it is time to replace the tires.

What Is Tire Tread Depth?

Look at the tires on any regular passenger vehicle or light truck, and you will see that the tires are manufactured with a grooved pattern along the rim. This pattern helps the tires grip the road surface when the car is driving. Tire tread depth is measured as the distance between the outermost edge of the tire and the inside of the grooves.

A tire’s tread depth is an important piece of information for a vehicle owner to know. A deeper tread provides more traction, letting the car stop and turn more easily. Deep tread grooves are necessary for the tire to provide adequate traction. Once the grooves become too shallow, it is time to get a new set of tires.

When Should I Replace the Tires on My Vehicle?

Most tires are manufactured with a tread depth of 11/32 of an inch. Anything above 3/16 inch (6/32) is considered to be proper tire tread depth for optimal vehicle performance. Below this number, performance can decrease.

Generally, tires are estimated to last anywhere between 25,000 and 65,000 miles. Tire life is dependent on many factors such as driving habits, vehicle condition, and road surface quality. Tires wearing out too quickly can often be a sign of deeper suspension issues with the vehicle.

The chart below lists average stopping distances for regular passenger cars in clear weather and good road conditions. It shows how stopping performance worsens dramatically as tires get worn down, with the average car taking much longer to stop the shallower its tire tread depth is.

Tire Tread Depth Chart of Tire Wear and Stopping Distances

Tread Depth (fraction of    inch)   

Stopping Distance (average car   lengths)   

Tire Condition  

11/32

4.8

Good

10/32 (5/16)

4.9

Good

9/32

5.1

Good

8/32 (¼)

5.2

Good

7/32

5.4

Good

6/32 (3/16)

5.6

Fair

5/32

5.9

Fair

4/32 (⅛)

6.2

Fair (replace if snow tires or commercial)

3/32

6.8

Fair

2/32 (1/16)

7.6

Poor, minimum legal limit for private cars in most US states  

1/32

9.2

Poor, risk of fine in many jurisdictions if not replaced

How to Check Tire Tread Depth

The best way to know if your tires need to be replaced is to check the tire tread depth monthly. Two commonly recommended ways to check tire tread depth are with a tire tread depth gauge or with a coin.

Tire Tread Depth Gauge

Drivers can purchase a tire tread depth gauge at their local auto parts store or online. To use the depth gauge, the driver can simply place the instrument in a groove on the tire and push it down. The gauge will measure how deep the groove in the tire tread is.

Coin Trick or Penny Test

The most common variant of this trick is performed with a penny. When a standard penny is held upside down facing towards you, the distance between the edge of the coin and the top of President Lincoln’s head on the coin face is 1/16 (2/32) inch. Thus, if the entire head is visible when the penny is slotted into a groove on the tire, the tire needs to be replaced.

A common variant of the tire tread penny test trick is to use a quarter, as the distance between President Washington’s head and the nearest edge of the coin is ⅛ (4/32) inch. This allows drivers to anticipate how soon their vehicle’s tires will need replacement.

Other Tread Depth Measurements

Some tire manufacturers provide additional tools to alert vehicle owners when it is time to replace the tires. Many modern tires, especially performance tires or those used on light trucks, have wear bars molded into the tire pattern. Once the outside of the tire tread is even with the wear indicator bar, it is time to replace the tire.

How can I prolong the life of my tires?

The best way to extend the life of a tire is to ensure the tires are inflated to the proper size as recommended in the owner's manual. Regular tire rotations and alignment checks also help extend tire life.

What does uneven tire wear mean?

If your tire tread is not the same depth along the entire circumference of the tire, your tires are showing uneven wear. Uneven wear can be a sign of other issues with the vehicle. The below chart gives common types of uneven tire wear and explains the causes.

Wear Type

Cause

Inner/Outer      

Improper alignment

Edge

Underinflation or rotation needed

Center

Overinflation or poor driving habits such as accelerating too hard  

Cupped

Suspension problems

Conclusion

Regular tire maintenance is a key component of vehicle safety. Checking tread wear and measuring tread depth are all critical steps to maximize driving safety. Maintaining your tires in proper condition and measuring tire tread depth every month can help you avoid fines and keep the roads safer.

When it is time to get new tires, the folks at Schmidt Auto Care can help. Our team can help you check your tire tread and find the best new tires for your vehicle. We also offer many other valuable services to keep your car in good condition. Visit us at 285a Hiawatha Trail or call us at (937) 403-9988 to learn more.

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Don't compromise on safety. Learn about tire tread depth and its impact on your vehicle's traction with Schmidt Auto Care’s experts.

A vehicle’s tires, along with its seatbelts, brakes, and headlights, are some of its most important safety equipment. But in order to keep the vehicle’s occupants safe, a tire must have enough tread on it to grip the road properly.

Worn-out tires do not offer drivers sufficient traction when driving on the roads and can increase the risk of a catastrophic tire blowout or accident. Thus, it is critical for car owners to know how to properly monitor the tire tread depth on their vehicle and identify when it is time to replace the tires.

What Is Tire Tread Depth?

Look at the tires on any regular passenger vehicle or light truck, and you will see that the tires are manufactured with a grooved pattern along the rim. This pattern helps the tires grip the road surface when the car is driving. Tire tread depth is measured as the distance between the outermost edge of the tire and the inside of the grooves.

A tire’s tread depth is an important piece of information for a vehicle owner to know. A deeper tread provides more traction, letting the car stop and turn more easily. Deep tread grooves are necessary for the tire to provide adequate traction. Once the grooves become too shallow, it is time to get a new set of tires.

When Should I Replace the Tires on My Vehicle?

Most tires are manufactured with a tread depth of 11/32 of an inch. Anything above 3/16 inch (6/32) is considered to be proper tire tread depth for optimal vehicle performance. Below this number, performance can decrease.

Generally, tires are estimated to last anywhere between 25,000 and 65,000 miles. Tire life is dependent on many factors such as driving habits, vehicle condition, and road surface quality. Tires wearing out too quickly can often be a sign of deeper suspension issues with the vehicle.

The chart below lists average stopping distances for regular passenger cars in clear weather and good road conditions. It shows how stopping performance worsens dramatically as tires get worn down, with the average car taking much longer to stop the shallower its tire tread depth is.

Tire Tread Depth Chart of Tire Wear and Stopping Distances

Tread Depth (fraction of    inch)   

Stopping Distance (average car   lengths)   

Tire Condition  

11/32

4.8

Good

10/32 (5/16)

4.9

Good

9/32

5.1

Good

8/32 (¼)

5.2

Good

7/32

5.4

Good

6/32 (3/16)

5.6

Fair

5/32

5.9

Fair

4/32 (⅛)

6.2

Fair (replace if snow tires or commercial)

3/32

6.8

Fair

2/32 (1/16)

7.6

Poor, minimum legal limit for private cars in most US states  

1/32

9.2

Poor, risk of fine in many jurisdictions if not replaced

How to Check Tire Tread Depth

The best way to know if your tires need to be replaced is to check the tire tread depth monthly. Two commonly recommended ways to check tire tread depth are with a tire tread depth gauge or with a coin.

Tire Tread Depth Gauge

Drivers can purchase a tire tread depth gauge at their local auto parts store or online. To use the depth gauge, the driver can simply place the instrument in a groove on the tire and push it down. The gauge will measure how deep the groove in the tire tread is.

Coin Trick or Penny Test

The most common variant of this trick is performed with a penny. When a standard penny is held upside down facing towards you, the distance between the edge of the coin and the top of President Lincoln’s head on the coin face is 1/16 (2/32) inch. Thus, if the entire head is visible when the penny is slotted into a groove on the tire, the tire needs to be replaced.

A common variant of the tire tread penny test trick is to use a quarter, as the distance between President Washington’s head and the nearest edge of the coin is ⅛ (4/32) inch. This allows drivers to anticipate how soon their vehicle’s tires will need replacement.

Other Tread Depth Measurements

Some tire manufacturers provide additional tools to alert vehicle owners when it is time to replace the tires. Many modern tires, especially performance tires or those used on light trucks, have wear bars molded into the tire pattern. Once the outside of the tire tread is even with the wear indicator bar, it is time to replace the tire.

How can I prolong the life of my tires?

The best way to extend the life of a tire is to ensure the tires are inflated to the proper size as recommended in the owner's manual. Regular tire rotations and alignment checks also help extend tire life.

What does uneven tire wear mean?

If your tire tread is not the same depth along the entire circumference of the tire, your tires are showing uneven wear. Uneven wear can be a sign of other issues with the vehicle. The below chart gives common types of uneven tire wear and explains the causes.

Wear Type

Cause

Inner/Outer      

Improper alignment

Edge

Underinflation or rotation needed

Center

Overinflation or poor driving habits such as accelerating too hard  

Cupped

Suspension problems

Conclusion

Regular tire maintenance is a key component of vehicle safety. Checking tread wear and measuring tread depth are all critical steps to maximize driving safety. Maintaining your tires in proper condition and measuring tire tread depth every month can help you avoid fines and keep the roads safer.

When it is time to get new tires, the folks at Schmidt Auto Care can help. Our team can help you check your tire tread and find the best new tires for your vehicle. We also offer many other valuable services to keep your car in good condition. Visit us at 285a Hiawatha Trail or call us at (937) 403-9988 to learn more.

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Lauralee Schmidt
Schmidt Auto CareAuto Repair Shop in Springboro, OH

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285a Hiawatha Trail, Springboro, OH 45066937-514-7860contactus@schmidtautocare.com
Mon:08:00am - 07:00pm
Tue:08:00am - 07:00pm
Wed:08:00am - 06:30pm
Thu:08:00am - 07:00pm
Fri:Closed
Sat:Closed
Sun:Closed
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