How and Why to Measure Tire Tread Depth

Ignorance is bliss, so they say, but when it comes to tires and tread depth, the exact opposite is true. The more you know about your tires and their tread, the better your understanding of them will be. Why is it important to understand your tire tread depth? Tread depth tells a story of how your tire is performing and what maintenance is needed, allowing you to care for them properly. When you take care of your tires properly, they will last longer, and your ride will be safer.

So, how do you get to know and understand your tires? Take a look at our guide for reading tire tread depth, using a tire tread depth gauge, a simple guide in helping you gain a better idea of what your tires need.

Definition: Tread depth is the distance from the top of the rubber, to the deepest groove.  

  • First, adjust the gauge to the 0/32” measurement, by using a flat surface.
  • Second, while holding the gauge in the air, push the measuring scale in. You want the pin to come out as far as possible.
  • Third, insert the pin into a tread groove, pressing in until the gauge itself is resting on the blocks outside of the groove.
  • Fourth, pull the tire tread depth gauge away from the groove. Do this carefully so as to not jostle the measurement up.
  • Fifth, read the measurement and write it down.
  • Sixth, do this with all the main treads on your tire. Be sure to accurately recall, writing it down if necessary, the depth of each main groove.
Measuring Tire Tread Depth Shouldn't Take More Than a Few Minutes.

Measuring Tire Tread Depth Shouldn’t Take More Than a Few Minutes.

Once you have this information, what do you do with it? Well knowing how your tread is wearing will give you a better perspective on how your tire is faring. For example:

  • If you notice your tread depth is less than 4/32”, then it might be time to replace your tires. Most states require a tread depth of at least 2/32”, but for a safer car, replacing them before you get to the minimum is a good idea.
  • If you notice the outer grooves, on both sides, have a greater tread depth than the middle grooves, than this could mean your tires are overinflated. Check your tire pressure to see how much air your tire has, and look to see what the recommended level of air you should have in your tire. Depending on the climate you live in, or the specific tires you have installed, you may have to put a little more or less than what the manufacturer states.
  • If you notice the middle grooves are deeper than the outer one, than this could mean your tires are underinflated. Check to make sure you don’t have a leak in your tire, as finding a leak before you end up with a flat can save you a lot of hassle.
  • Finally, if you notice that inboard grooves are either deeper or shallower than the outboard ones, then you may have an alignment issue. Be sure to get that checked out, as poor tire alignment can lead to abnormal and premature tire wear. Such tire wear problems could also be the result of loose suspension or steering components.

Checking all your tires on a regular basis should be a part of your car maintenance routine. Though it may seem like such an insignificant thing to keep in mind, your tire tread can tell you a lot, not just about your tires, but your whole car as well. Making sure your tire tread wears evenly can help you get the most out of your tires. Also, seeing how much longer you have on your current tires can be a life saver. Apparently, whoever stated that ignorance is bliss never had to deal with a hydroplaning vehicle. Knowing your tire tread depth is just one more step in getting a better understanding of how to really take care of your car.

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