How to Check Tire Tread Depth

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Car tire tread depth can be checked with a penny. Use a penny to check tire tread depth with tips from an automotive service excellence (ASE)-certified master auto technician in this free video on automotive maintenance.

Part of the Video Series: Car Maintenance Tips
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Video Transcript

Dave Erb here from Dave's Ultimate Automotive from Austin, Texas and we're going to be talking about how to check tire tread depth. First thing you need to know abut that is that whenever you're talking about tired tread depth you're talking about it in thirty seconds of an inch. There's no breakdown into smaller fractions like quarter eighths, they're always talking in 32nds. So you might hear someone talk about something being five 32nds deep, or four 32nds, 3 32nds, on down. So, when you're checking your tire depth there's a the most common thing is a gage like this you'll see. Which is, basically, you just put it across the tread and push your finger down and where it stops will give you the tread depth. This one, here, is thirteen 32nds, that's a brand new tire. So, when you get down to a thinner tire, same thing would apply. You put it across the tread, down in the groove, you push down, this one's about 1 32nds. The a, where I point, basically, is considered 2 32nds or under. Now, not everybody carries these around, so for anybody out in the world who wants to check that, just grab a penny and from the top of the penny down to the top of Lincoln's head is exactly 2 32nds. So, if you take the penny, put it in the tire, and you can see the top of Lincoln's head, you know the tire is worn out. And it's also not just one groove, you want to look for, like in this case, you've got these are called wear bar indicators. Whenever you've got two tread lines next to each other with the wear bar indicator bridging the gap with no height on the outer edges. In other words a straight plane across, that is worn out. You may have much thicker tread depth on the outsides or one groove or another, but when you see that, you can consider that tire to be worn out. So, carry a penny and you'll always be able to check your tire tread depth.

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