How to Tell How Much Life is Left on Your Tires

Making sure your tires are properly looked after is one of the fundamental requirements of being a driver. These four bits of rubber are the only contact your car will have with the road, and if you don’t keep an eye on them, you may be asking for trouble. The following will give you a good base for figuring out when you’ll need to invest in new tires.

The Law

Most state laws dictate that a car must have at least 2/32 of an inch of tread on the tires to be legal. If your tires have less than this, the tires are worn out and should be replaced immediately. This could for part or all of the tire. If you have good tread depth on one part of the tire but less than the legal limit on another part, you will still need to replace the tire.


Your tires can tell you a lot about how your vehicle is performing simply how they are wearing. We've made a simple guide that will show you the different types of wear and what this could mean for your vehicle.

Tread Depth

There are a couple of ways to check if the tread on your tires is within legal limits:

  • Tire Depth Gauge

These can be purchased online or from any automotive retailer. To work these, you put the gauge on the top of the tire and press the reader down into the tread. It’ll give you a reading on what the distance between the two is. Do this on various parts of each tire, making sure to check the inside and outside to ensure you have even wear.

  • Wear Bars

These are built into the tires themselves. These are small mounds of rubber in the tread of the tire that give you a good indication of whether or not the tread is still within the legal limits. Run your hand along the tread regularly to check the wear bars. Once the wear bars are flush with the rest of the tire, you have reached the legal tread limit and should replace the tire.

  • Penny Test

If you don’t have a depth gauge for your tires, the penny test is a handy tip you can use as a rough guide to test tread depth. Place a penny into the tread with Lincoln’s head pointing toward the ground. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, it's time for new tires. If part of Lincoln's head is covered by tread, you have more than 2/32 of tread depth and don't need new tires yet. As with the depth gauge, make sure that you do this test on various parts of each tire to make sure the wear is even.


In different conditions, it’s recommended to have more than the legally required 2/32 of tread. With rain, the recommended tread is about 4/32, and with snow, about 6/32 is a good amount of tread. This would be the equivalent of the top of the Lincoln Memorial being covered by the tire when performing the Penny Test.