How to measure tire tread wear & depth gauge replacement chart

Remember the first time you purchased that brand-new car with a perfect set of tires already provisioned?

Remember when you picked up an additional set of tires from your local shop?

Well, now the time has come again for you to lay down any resources available. The time has come to wonder whether your current tires can still handle the rough pavement.

As the environment gets harsher, so does the tread wear. It is common for your tires to start exhibiting signs of wear every time you travel at high-speed or low.

It’s imperative to know the procedures you must follow to determine the condition of your tread. Without some fundamental knowledge, the risk of further instability to the tire tread may cause unwanted injuries to your well-being.

I am always more than happy to share the knowledge I have accrued on tire tread measuring methods over time. In this article, I will cover the following aspects you need to be aware of:

  1. Minimum tread depth allowance
  2. How to measure it
  3. How to extend its lifespan
  4. How to stay safe
  5. What you should look out for when shopping & how to save money

Minimum tire tread depth & when to replace them

With so many indicators available, it’s probably best to wonder about the minimum allowed depth that tires are allowed to reach.

It would be best if you never got going on the road with less than 4/32”. Reaching the 2/32” counter will endanger your trip’s safety.

Most models have different characteristics that affect the minimum allowance factor, so here’s what I recommend.

  1. It’s best always to check the manufacturer’s recommendation.

As stated above, some models are built by the manufacturer for distinct purposes. Because of that fact, some types are underperforming in some regions of roads.

  1. Keep track of mileage.

A set of tires lasts as much as it was built for. The average set should last up to 50,000 – 60,000 miles. But that doesn’t necessarily imply that all sets should cover all that distance, some lasting longer than others.

My recommendations:

  1. Regularly check the inflation pressure and schedule appointments with a professional to determine whether the tires can be further used on the road.
  2. Whether you have a new set or just bought a replaceable pair, always ensure that the model isn’t older than 10 years old. If that’s the case for you, replace them immediately.
  3. Replace tires recently damaged by a heavy impact. Make sure to look out for wear conditions such as punctures. Replace regardless of the time of purchase if the tires suggest severe signs of wear.
  4. Never replace just one or two tires. Replacing all four is the key to the performance of having a well-handled vehicle. All four should be identical if possible. Replacing with slightly different models should not be a short-term issue, as long as it has the same characteristics.

Knowing how to determine the depth of your tread is essential for an adequate diagnosis. Because of that, I will outline four required methods that are easy to perform. The methods will be displayed from the least recommended to the best. Keep that in mind when drawing your conclusions.

How to measure tire tread depth

  1. The most commonly used and easiest method is the penny test. The diagnosis is simple. 

    Take a penny and insert it into the tread channel with Lincoln’s part facing you upside down. You can quickly tell if you require a new set when Lincoln’s head is visible and not obstructed.

    Conclusion: Your tire depth is less than 2/32”. Consider a new set.

  2. A similar method of determining the wear is the quarter test.

    Place a quarter into the tread channel with Washington’s part facing you upside down. If the tread reaches Washington’s head, you are safe.

    Conclusion: There are at least 4/32” of tread left over.

  3. Check the tread wear built-in indicator 

    An efficient way to indicate the wear level is to use what the manufacturer has already provided for you. Most types of tire models will already mark the level of wear and show you when it’s best to change. All you have to do is check!

    It would be best to replace the tire when the tread is rubbed down evenly to the indicated replaceable level.

  4. Using the best tread depth gauge you can acquire

    In my opinion, using a depth gauge is by far the most accurate way to determine the level of wear remaining on your tire’s depth.

    Tires will often wear unequally in different parts. That presents a problem of inaccuracy to the other methods that I have indicated above. I’m not saying that the other ways aren’t adequate to perform. It’s just that with the help of an accurate tool, we will always obtain the most precise results.

    I have picked a specific model out of numerous existing products available on the market.
    The GODESON Smart Color Coded Tread Depth Gauge piqued my interest with its many qualities.tire tread depth gauge

How does a tool such as this one improve the overall measurement quality of your tires?

That’s a good question, so I have prepared some of the most important reasons why it comes as my number one choice.

Easy-to-read color bars prove an effortless diagnose

The tool diverges into three main sections:

  • Red – 0 – 3/32” ( It’s time to replace the worn tire )
  • Yellow – 3/32” – 6/32” ( Take precautions when driving. May need replacing in harsh conditions such as rain or snow)
  • Green – 6/32 – 32/32” ( Everything looks normal, and it’s safe to drive )

Below you have some of the features I’ve considered necessary to outline:

  1. Defends the integrity of your vehicle by warning you to take early precautions
  2. Simple steps to follow to take the appropriate measurements
  3. Supports safe driving
  4. Fast diagnosis
  5. Readable and accurate scale marks
  6. Includes a pocket clip that makes it easy to carry
  7. Quality and durable materials used for its damping design

Once you have tested the product, you realize its usefulness in savings and precautions. It demonstrates how it can be the investment of a lifetime for your safety.

Tire depth chart

How can you tell when the time has come to replace the worn tires? Specialist or not, it’s always best to know the basic shape of your vehicle. Doing so will ensure a safe driving manner that needs to be followed by every responsible driver.

It stays within the reachable limits of our possibilities to ensure the overall shape of the only things that make contact with the road when driving. Only four rubber wheels hold you safely to the ground, and you always want to ensure they’re in the best possible shape.

Unfortunately, our discrimination towards a tire’s wear level goes unnoticed until it’s most challenging to make a decision.

We should always look out for gradual degradation that starts to take place so that we may better prevent any unwanted casualties.

Depth of new tires

Traction and braking performances are always determinable by this important depth factor. New tires naturally come with an unused surface, free of any wear.

The models usually have a tread depth of 10/32” to 11/32 ” on the option opted for. Gradual wear will start to be noticed around 8/32” to 6/32”. At that time, you shouldn’t begin to worry unless there were any severe damages caused to the tire.

Because of its unused depth, you should be provided a more significant state of maneuvering your vehicle while driving with a new set of tires. Due to its superior grip, the car should be easier to control in all weather conditions.

Signs of wear


The first signs of wear will start to be noticed when the overall control of the vehicle does not feel the same as before.

As drivers, we continuously learn the capabilities of our cars and the conditions we can face while cruising.

There are some factors you should regularly check to prevent unwanted losses:

  • Shallow Tread
  • Uneven Tread Wear
  • Road Hazards (Nails, Curbs Hits, Rocks) 
  • Damaged Valve Caps
  • Damaged areas

If left unchecked, more significant damages can be inflicted upon the vehicle and the passengers inside.

At any point in time, the vehicle may start to:

  • Lose grip
  • Have increased braking distances
  • Experience hydroplaning
  • Be hard to control

Any tire with less than 2/32” tread depth is considered unfit for driving. The optimal tread depth that offers the best performance is 6/32”.

What is the tire penny test? (& why you shouldn’t use it)

two tires

The penny test is considered the easiest way to determine tread depth quickly. The method is as easy as safely keeping the change in your pockets. It always offers the handiest option to assess depth, but it is never considered the safest.

The penny test is best used for determining the minimum allowance of 2/32”. That’s why you could never accurately determine if you’ve hit the 6/32” – 8/32” mark, for example.

It has its great share of usage when you’ve got nothing else at hand, but that’s about all. That’s also why a responsible driver would never wait until the last moment of the tire’s lifespan.

 A responsible driver would permanently prevent any unwanted issues. The only possible way to do that is to check the level of wear regularly through the use of a quality-recommended tool, the GODESON Smart Color Coded Tread Depth Gauge.


When are cracks in tire tread unsafe?

It depends on the type of cracks that have started to make an appearance. You are safe if small cracks that are almost unnoticeable have just started appearing on the surface of your tread. However, it is best to observe the cracks over the next period.

Small cracks tend to enlarge due to degradation, slowly covering a greater surface of the tread. It is best not to arrive at a point of unprecedented rupture in the tread. Try taking early precautions as soon as you’ve spotted the small crack. Ask for help from professionals that may be able to help you with an inspection and provide helpful advice or services.

Take the following example to better answer your question:
– You are enjoying a nice ride, cruising at 70mph on a rural freeway. The kids laugh while your wife enjoys a lovely song on the radio. Outside is gushing rain when suddenly a deer charges in front of you. You notice the deer in due time and hit the brakes. What happens next depends only on the level of wear that your tires present. It isn’t exactly the best time to realize that you needed to replace them when you had the opportunity.

How deep should your tire tread be when driving in cold weather?

The problems arising from the coming cold weather are much more complicated than the rest of the seasons.

Many tests have proven that tires are inefficient during winter and heavy rain, even at half-tread depth. The consequences are most visible when accelerating. The traction slowly recedes as a result of the wear.

It is best to avoid using all-season tires when the tread is below 8/32” – 6/32”.
Seasonal tires are the most recommended for specific environments when driving long distances. These are specifically manufactured to withstand harsh conditions and provide an efficient grip during cold weather.

It would be best to monitor your tread depth when the cold weather comes knocking. Preparing for the worst situations will often save you the trouble of getting into one.

That would be another strong reason you should have when considering purchasing the GODESON Smart Color-Coded Tread Depth Gauge.

Is 4/32 of tread depth legal?

The 4/32” tread depth is considered legal to use in all states. Although it is recommended to start the replacement process as soon as possible after hitting this mark, the tires can still be used in case finance isn’t on your side.

The 4/32” tread depth may present poor performance when it comes to traction. People ignore the ethical part when talking about what is legal to do and what is moral.

Regarding cold weather, 4/32” is the minimum standard required to face snow and icy roads. I do not recommend using winter tires with low tread depth during cold seasons. Remember that even the most experienced drivers often find themselves in difficult situations because of the low depth’s poor traction and braking performance.

It would be best if every year you would distribute a part of your finances towards unexpected costs you may have to face in the coming years. Forming a good habit will save you the trouble of dealing with it later and make you feel safer while driving your vehicle.

Should I replace tires at 6/32″?

You’ve carefully measured your tread depth with the help of a specialized tool, and now you’re wondering if 6/32” is enough.

To answer frankly, having this depth for about three seasons will be adequate. 6/32” are coming close to the minimum required to have when the cold season makes its appearance. That’s why I’m stating that three seasons should be sufficient.

6/32” is often considered the peak performance for speeding enthusiasts during summer. Because of the extended usage the tire has faced over the many miles, it finally reached its pinnacle where the driver can enjoy the full grip of brute performance the car has to offer.

Take as an example the formula one tires. A good driver will never begin a race without first warming the tires, without adding some wear. They are put to good use every second of the race. The formula one tires’ best performance only starts halfway through the race.

The same case occurs in regular ones. The pinnacle of power only starts halfway through its lifespan.

What is the minimum tire tread depth acceptable by law?

When coming close to a near-disastrous situation, the right thing to do is to wonder if dollars are worth more to save than your safety.

It isn’t legal to drive a vehicle with a set of tires below the 2/32” mark. That’s the minimum standard set by most states, including European countries.

As long as you don’t fall below the 2/32” tread depth, you fall within the maximum limit the law allows.

How long does tire tread last & how to make it last longer?

It differs from one car manufacturer to another. Depending on your model, your car tire has a termination date. The usual termination of most tires should be replaced after about six years from the manufacture date.

Regardless of the remaining tread left, they should be replaced unquestionably after ten years.


Tire tread is an issue that needs to be taken seriously when your safety is at play.

It is best always to take early precautions when inspecting the tread depth and use the specialized tools recommended to determine it accurately.

You already have the information needed after you’ve successfully read this article.

Now you need the determination to care about your safety.

Take action, safe journeys.