Making sure your tires are properly looked after is one of the fundamental requirements of being a driver. These four bits of rubber are the only contact your car will have with the road; if you don’t keep an eye on them you may be asking for trouble. The following information will give you a good base for figuring out when you’ll need to invest in new tires.
Most state laws dictate that a car must have at least 2/32 of an inch of tread on the tires to be legal.
However, as 2/32 of an inch is really not an optimal tread depth if you live anywhere that has rain, snow, mud, etc., we’re going to suggest 4/32 of an inch.
Looking at your car’s or truck’s tire wear patterns can tell you a lot about how your vehicle is performing. We've put together a tire wear pattern guide that will show you the different types of wear and what this could mean for your vehicle.
A tire depth gauge, your tire’s wear bars, and the Quarter Test are three ways to check if the tread on your tires is within legal limits:
- Tire Depth Gauge
- Wear Bars
- Quarter Test
- Place an upside down quarter between the tread ribs on your tire.
- If the top of Washington’s head disappears between the ribs, your tread is still above 4/32 of an inch -- which is good.
- If you can see Washington’s entire head, it’s about time to replace that tire.
A tire depth gauge can be purchased online or from any automotive retailer. To work these, put the gauge on the top of the tire and press the reader down into the tread; the gauge will give you a reading on the distance the distance between the two. To ensure you have even wear throughout the tire, test the tire depth on various parts of each tire, making sure to check the inside and outside treads.
These are built into the tires themselves. These are small mounds of rubber in the tread of the tire that give you a good indication of whether or not the tread is still within the legal limits. Run your hand along the tread regularly to check the wear bars. Once the wear bars are flush with the rest of the tire, you have reached the legal tread limit and should replace the tire.
The tread on your tires should be greater than 4/32”. The old penny test only lets you know if you have 2/32” of remaining tread, which isn’t good enough if you plan on driving in rain or snow (basically if you live anywhere - on any continent). The quarter test is a better indicator:
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