Let’s Talk Tire Tread

A new tire is placed on the tire storage rack in the car workshop. Be prepared for vehicles that need to change tires.

Tire tread plays an important role: gripping the road as you drive. However, if your tread isn’t deep enough, your car can lose traction—and your braking time will be longer. There have been tests comparing the stopping distance of vehicles with worn tires and new tires; the vehicle with worn tires was still traveling at a high rate of speed at the point where the vehicle with new tires had already stopped. That could mean the difference between getting home safely and a serious accident.

Shallow tread also makes it more difficult to control your vehicle in wet, slippery conditions, and there’s an increased risk of hydroplaning. Needless to say, having enough tread on your tires is essential for safety, handling, and overall control of your vehicle.

How Much Tread Should My Tires Have?

On average, new tires have a tread depth of 10/32 to 11/32 inches. As you drive, the friction of the tires on the road wears away at the tread. Many safety experts recommend replacing your tires when the tread is worn down to 4/32 of an inch. Conveniently, that’s the exact distance to George Washington’s head when you insert a quarter upside down into the tread of a properly inflated tire. You may have heard about this trick before using a penny—but a penny will only give you about 2/32 of an inch of tire tread. Studies have shown a significant safety benefit to replacing your tires based on the quarter standard.

Other Methods for Checking Tread Depth

There are other ways to check your tire tread depth, too. Tire wear bars (also called tread indicator bars) are small, raised bars located within the grooves of your tires between the tread markings. When the tread is worn down to the level of the wear bars, it’s time to replace them. Not only are they no longer safe to drive on, but they’ve reached the legal tire tread depth. You can check your tread depth by running your finger horizontally over the wear bar; if you can feel it, it’s time to replace your tires.

If you’d like a more precise way to check your tread depth, you can use a tread depth gauge or a ruler with 1/16 inch or millimeter measurements. Place the ruler or gauge into the groove of the tread and measure the depth up to the top of the tread. Any tire that is 1/16 of an inch or below should be replaced.

While you’re measuring the tread, be on the lookout for cupping or scalloping on the tread or bulges in the tread or sidewall. If you see any of these signs, the tire isn’t safe and should be replaced.

EuroCar Service: Helping You Stay Safe on the Road

Handling is affected by low tire tread, but safety is the biggest concern. Knowing how to check tire tread on your own is a great way to be in tune with your vehicle—and it allows you to plan when to get your tires replaced. When it comes to tire care, including replacement and rotations, turn to the experts at EuroCar Service. We specialize in all European makes, including BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Land Rover, Volkswagen, Volvo, Fiat, Smart Car, Mini Cooper, Jaguar, and Saab. Call us today at 206-527-8828 or request an appointment online.