Knowing how to measure your tread depth is an essential skill for good tyre maintenance along with proper inflation. There are advantages to keep an eye on tread depths beside just knowing when the tyres need to be replaced, especially for things like:
- Snow tyres lose a great deal of performance at 6/32” or less.
- To catch irregular wear issues before they can damage the tyre, track if one part of the tread wears faster than the others.
You can measure the tyre tread depth in the following 3 ways:
- The right way (gauges)
- The quick-and-dirty way (coin test)
- The quicker-and-dirtier way. (wear bars)
Using a gauge is the right way because firstly, tread depth gauges are cheap and secondly, they are easy to stow in a glove compartment. There are fancy digital models available as well but the most common ones are a simple graduated mechanical probe. Stick the probe into the valley of the tread to measure the tread depth and press the shoulders of the probe flat against the tread bloke and read off the result.
It is recommended using the gauge to check tread depth every month, and check multiple spots along the tread. By following this method you can catch irregular wear caused by alignment issues, long before it becomes an irreversible problem.
The quick-and-dirty way is probably almost as old as tyres itself. If your tyres are legally bald, use the Coin Test by putting a 50 cent coin into the gap between tread blocks. If the top of The Queen’s head is visible, it might be time for new tyres as your tread depth is below 2/32” and the tyre is legally bald.
If the head is fully covered, it means the tyre is above 2/32”.
The last is the quicker-and-dirtier way. Put your finger in between the tread blocks. You should feel some little platforms in between the blocks sunk down well below the tread surface. This means the platforms are at 2/32”. But if the tread surface becomes even with the wear bars, the tyre needs to be changed.
All three methods, work to tell you if your tyres need to be replaced with new ones. Getting a little bit picky about tread depth can definitely pay off in the long run in longer tyre life and a better ride when the tyres wear evenly.
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