Ways to tell that your tires need to be changed

By Product Expert | Posted in Tips and Tricks on Friday, November 16th, 2018 at 8:00 am
person pointing at tire tread indicators with their finger

We’ve written in the past about how often you need to rotate your tires, and even the difference between all-season tires, winter tires and summer tires, but in this blog we wanted to look at a basic question: when should you replace your tires? There are a few ways to tell that your tires need to be changed. If you notice a lot of slipping when you drive, that may be a red flag that your tires aren’t holding onto the road, but most other ways to check if your tires are okay go back to one thing: measuring your remaining tire tread.

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When should you replace your tires?

The tread on your tires offers traction on the road, and also serves to give water someplace to go when you are driving on wet roads. Having tires that are too worn out can result in slipping and even hydroplaning. The depth that a tire’s tread starts out varies depending on the type and brand of tire, but all tires needs to be replaced when they get to 2/32nds of an inch. You should probably start planning for new tires when your tread is down to 4/32nds of an inch. Here are three ways to tell when that is.

person testing the depth of tire tread with a penny

The Penny or Quarter Test

The penny test is one of the time-honored ways to test your tread depth. If a person puts a penny in a vehicle’s tread with Lincoln’s head down, ideally the head would be completely covered. If Lincoln’s head is starting to show, or the tire is to the bottom of the head then it is time for new tires because the tread is probably at 2/32nds of an inch.

If you use a quarter, when the tire tread edge is just touching Washington’s head then you should start looking for new tires because the tread depth is at 4/32nds of an inch.

Tire Tread Measure

If you don’t want to mess with pennies and quarters and treads, then you can get a tire tread measure at any auto parts store (and might be able to get the staff at the auto parts store to check the tires for you the next time you need to get new windshield wipers). This little device is color-coded to tell you if your tired tread is good, on the edge, or in the red.

Tread Wear Bars

Another way to tell if your tires need some help is built right into your tires. There is a wear bar worked into the tire design somewhere in the open areas of the tread pattern. It will look like a little strip of tire significantly lower than the rest of the tread. When the wear bar becomes even with the rest of the tread pattern it is definitely time to get new tires.

5 Responses to “Ways to tell that your tires need to be changed”

  1. I bought a car a few years ago and I realized the other day that I have never had my tires replaced and gotten new ones installed. I don’t know whether or not the tires need to be replaced, so I appreciate the tips you provide in this article. You make a great point that I should look at the tread and make sure that it has enough depth as well as checking the tread wear bars that are on the tires. I think it might be a good idea for me to go to a tire shop and talk to a professional to see if they recommend new tires and which type of tires they recommend.

  2. Ellie Davis says:

    Thank you for pointing out that you should look at the tire tread. My tires are worn and I need new ones. I’ll have to look into finding the best place in my area to buy new tires.

  3. Michelle Lee says:

    I have been wondering if it is time to replace my tires. I am not very mechanically minded so I worry I let things go too long. It is good to know about the penny test for tread depth, I’ll have to try this out and see if it goes to Lincoln’s head, this would make it easier to decide if I should go to the tire shop.

  4. It might be time to visit a tire shop since I’ve done the penny test and the head is showing. My sister has also measured the tire tread and it’s on the edge. My brother’s tires might need to be replaced as well since I saw that the wear bar has become even with the rest of the tread pattern.

  5. Adrian Jones says:

    It’s great you mentioned the ways on how to check if the tires you have are still serviceable because the longer you drive on a pair of tires the faster their treads are going to wear down. I didn’t know that one way to check tire treads is with a quarter test and that the way to tell is if it’s time to get new tires is to see if the tread edge is touching the head of the figure on the coin. Now that you mention it it’s been a while since I last checked my tire’s treads, maybe I should do the quarter test to see if it’s time to get new tires swapped in.