How to Check Tire Tread With a Penny

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Check the tread on your tires to make sure you're driving safely. Photo by Obi Onyeador via Unsplash.
Tires don’t get a lot of attention, but they’re one of the most crucial elements of any vehicle — they’re the only component that makes contact with the ground! Not only do healthy tires give you traction that helps keep your car on the road, but tires in good shape are less likely to pop, causing a potentially dangerous situation.
One of the best things you can do for your tires is constantly check their tread, to make sure that they’re in a safe condition to drive on. Since tires are always in contact with the road, they can wear out rather quickly. A tire with lots of wear and tear isn’t safe to drive on, and has a much higher risk of blowing.
Thankfully, checking the tread of your tire is really easy to do. And the best news is, you can do it with only one tool – a penny!

How to Check Your Tire Tread With a Penny

The treads of your tires are measured by 32nds of an inch. In general, the tread of a brand-new tire is about 10/32nds of an inch deep. This depth changes depending on the brand and style of your tire, but 10/32nds of an inch is a good barometer.
The more you drive (as well as the harder you drive), the more your tire wears, and the smaller the tread depth will be. If you keep driving and never change your tires, the treads will eventually disappear altogether, and not long after, your tire will blow out.
To make sure you don’t get to that point, you want to replace your tire before the tread is fully worn out. 2/32nds of an inch is as worn out as a tire should be. Not only are tires with treads at this depth approaching the point where they will be liable to blow, but many states can give you a ticket for driving with tires this worn out.
Step 1: Place a penny in the tread. 2/32nds of an inch also happens to be the distance between the top of a penny, and the head of Abraham Lincoln on the face of the penny. So, to tell if your tires are fully worn out, simply insert a penny into the tire tread, with Lincoln’s head upside-down.
Step 2: Check to see if you are able to see the top of Lincoln’s head. If you are able to see the top of his head, then that means that your tire treads are too worn out. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, you need to have your tires replaced as soon as is possible.
Note: It’s worth noting that off-road or winter tires will usually have a much deeper thread. While these tires are usually safe to drive in normal conditions until they reach the 2/32nds of an inch mark, you shouldn’t let them get that worn out if you plan on using them for off-roading or snow and ice.
There aren’t many automotive tasks you can do without having to purchase any tools. Thanks to the 16th president of the United States, however, you can check the life of your tires with just a penny.