One of the most important checkups that you should learn is how to make a tire tread check.
It will tell you, in an instant, what’s the condition of your tires and whether you should replace them.
This article will show some simple ways to make a tire tread check that you can surely do on your own.
At the end of the article, you have a video tutorial that you can also watch on our YouTube channel.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
The tires, namely the tire treads are the only thing holding your car to the ground.
Those couple of square inches or centimeters of rubber hold the entire weight of the car, of you and your passengers, and command the whole behavior of the car on the road.
Having this in mind, paying attention to the condition of your tires is very important, mainly for safety on the road.
The first, most obvious, and easiest check is the tire tread, and if it’s worn out, this is a red alert that you should change the tires.
Also, a crucial factor for the tire condition is proper tire pressure. If you want to see how to check the tire pressure, click here to see the article.
WHAT IS THE PROPER TREAD DEPTH?
New tires have a tread depth of approximately 8 to 9 millimeters (0,31 to 0,35 inches).
When the tire tread is below 1,6 millimeters (about 0,07 inches), it’s considered a tire that lacks grip and has serious limitations regarding braking distance and control on the road.
According to Wikipedia, when the tire tread is worn down to 3,2 mm (about 0,11 inches), it should be replaced.
I can confirm this from personal experience and say that you should never let the tire get to the mentioned 1,6 mm as driving with these is not safe, to say the least.
HOW TO MAKE A TIRE TREAD CHECK?
1. CHECK THE TIRE WEAR INDICATORS
The first and easiest thing to do is to make a visual check of the tire tread.
If you’ve ever seen a new tire against a very used tire, you’ll know what I mean. The difference can be seen from a mile away.
On new or near new tires, the tread will be thick, high and all of the small ridges and patterns on the tread will be visible.
With very used ones, the tread will be sleek, thin and the mentioned ridges and patterns will be all but gone.
To help with this visual check and clear any doubts, all tires have tire wear indicators on them, also known as wear bars.
You’ll notice these small horizontal bars if you look carefully within the tire tread. They look like a small bridge between the tread patterns.
The way this works is if the tire is worn out, you can clearly see the indicators. When the tire is new, it will be deep inside the tread, almost invisible.
So, if you can clearly see the indicators or they’re leveled with the tread, consider your tires as severely worn out and replace them as soon as possible.
2. USE A TIRE TREAD GAUGE
This is a simple and available tool for checking tread depth.
All you have to do is press the tire gauge against the tread and read the scale on it.
So, just press it and you’ll automatically know if the tire tread is worn out.
This gauge is cheap and it’s recommendable to have one in your tool kit.
3. USE A CALIPER TOOL
A very good alternative to a tire gauge is a caliper tool.
If you happen to have one, it can be used to check the tread very precisely.
The best way to use the caliper, in this case, is not to use the jaws but the depth rod.
So, turn the caliper vertically to the tire, with the jaws up, and slide the scale until the depth rod reaches the bottom of the tread.
Then read the scale and you’ll get an accurate reading of the tread depth.
4. PENNY TEST
This method is very popular and widely known among drivers. You essentially use a penny and the image on it to assess the tread depth.
In this case, we don’t have a penny but a different coin but I hope you get the idea.
In this case, the number 10 on the coin is not visible when the tread is newer and deeper and this is OK.
But if the 10 is very visible, especially if it’s completely visible, then the tire tread is worn out.
In the case of the penny test, if Abraham Lincoln is visible, then you should change the tire.
5. USE A SMALL RULER
The final method is not that precise. But it’s also easy and can give a good idea if the tread is OK.
Use a small ruler, insert it into the tread and make a measurement.
Again, this isn’t that precise and may be off one or two millimeters but you’ll get a pretty good picture of the situation.
Any of these methods will be sufficient, more or less, to let you know you should you change the tires.
To be honest, if you have at least some experience as a driver, just one good look should be enough to see if a replacement is necessary.
If the tire wear indicators are visible, if there are cracks on the tire, if you know you haven’t changed the tires in a long time, then you ought to know what to do.
Tire gauges, calipers, and other measuring tools are usually used to check if you can continue to use the tires you already have.
Once more, in the end, good tires are essential for your safety. Never let them get worn out to the point they’re bald and the cords show, so to say.
Check them on a regular basis and if needed, replace them on time.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for Despairrepair.com
HOW TO MAKE A TIRE TREAD CHECK? YOUTUBE VIDEO