As you’ve probably noticed, tires aren’t completely smooth. They have tread, which is what we call the raised parts of the rubber that actually come in contact with the ground. Tire tread is really important for maintaining traction on the road, preventing blowouts, and avoiding hydroplaning. The US Department of Transportation says you should replace your tires if the tread wears down to less than two 32nds of an inch (2/32”). If you’re having a hard time picturing how long an awkward measurement like 2/32” is, we’re right there with you. The good news is that you don’t need an expert (or even a ruler) to determine if your tread is deep enough. All you need is a penny!

More vehicle Maintenance Tips

Testing Tire Tread With a Penny

The penny test is an easy way to see if you need new tires soon. To do it, take your penny and stick it into a random groove in one of your tires. Position it so that Abraham Lincoln’s head is pointing down into the tread. Sorry, Abe.

measure your tread depth with a penny
It’s weird, but the penny test works.

Reading the Results

If the top of Abe’s head disappears into the groove, your tread is in great shape. Congrats! If you can still see his whole head sticking out from the tire (or it’s just skimming the top of his beautiful hair), that means your tires are worn down and should be replaced soon.

If Lincoln's head is showing you need new tires
Look for Abe’s head!

Check Each Tire

Test a few different areas on each of your tires. While you’re down there, take note if any tires or spots seem much more worn out than others. This could be a clue that your wheels aren’t correctly aligned or the tire isn’t properly inflated. Bring this to the mechanic’s attention when you go to get your tires replaced.

worn down tire tread is dangerous
That feeling when you don’t have to buy new tires.

There you have it. Lincoln will tell you if you need new tires, and he cannot tell a lie! Oh wait, that was Washington…