tire tread depth

Checking tire tread depth: How to tell if you need new tires

In Tires and Wheels by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Every few years or so – whether you’re having a state inspection done, you have a flat tire, or during an oil change – you may hear that you need new tires. This is advice that shouldn’t be ignored.

Tires play a key role in protecting drivers and those riding along with them. 

Grooves and siping can be found around a tire and work together to keep it connected with the road. This is especially important during rainy conditions, when hydroplaning is possible.

When you purchase new tires, the tread depth typically ranges from 8/32 of an inch to 14/32 of an inch, depending on the tire. Through everyday use, this decreases overtime.

In order to pass the Virginia safety inspection, the tire tread depth must be at least 2/32 of an inch. (You can read more about what inspectors look for in this article we wrote.)

How to check tire tread

So, how can you tell if the tread depth is too low?

Well, you can try the tire penny test. Here’s out it works: Hold a penny vertically on the grooves so Abraham Lincoln is upside down. 

You shouldn’t be able to see the top of his head. If the top is visible, it’s time for new tires. Part of the head remaining covered indicates that the tire tread exceeds 2/32 of an inch.

If you still aren’t sure, it doesn’t hurt to have the tire tread depth checked at a car repair shop. They will be able to tell you for sure and recommend tires that fit your vehicle and budget.

tire tread depth

Another way to check it is through a method that most mechanics use – a 32” of an inch gauge. This is where you’re making a determination of where the minimum is for Virginia safety inspection and when it’s time to think about replacing tires. The state minimum is 2/32 of an inch. Most tire manufacturers recommend getting new ones around 4/32 of an inch, mainly due to the ability to move water away from the tire.

It’s a good idea to continue monitoring tire tread. Tires that are experiencing a significant amount of wear in one area can indicate a problem. Uneven tire wear, for example, could mean that you need a wheel alignment.

Buying new tires? Here are some things to consider.

If you’re ready to buy new tires, make sure you don’t just go with the cheapest option – unless you plan to sell the vehicle soon. 

Yes, your wallet may approve of the less expensive choice for the time being. However, cheaper tires won’t have as high of a speed rating and, therefore, won’t grip the road as well as those that cost more. 

Goodyear Tire is a reliable brand that produces all kinds of great options, including the Goodyear Eagle Sport All-Season Tire and the Goodyear Assurance Fuel MaxLife Tire. You also can’t go wrong with Kelly Tire, which has the Kelly Edge A/S Tire.

Road hazard insurance is another expense that you should keep in mind. We offer a nationwide road hazard warranty that kicks in when a tire isn’t repairable. A tire may not be able to be repaired, depending on the injury’s angle and location

The road hazard warranty, which we offer on tires you buy from us, covers up to 100 percent of the cost of a new tire if the old tire can’t be repaired and is within the first 33 percent of its treadwear. It’s prorated after that.

So, even though you are putting more money up front, it could save you on future expenses.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including BMW and Mercedes. Services include oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.