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How to determine if your tires are worn and need replacing

Tire tread provides you with the traction to stop and hold your vehicle to the road on curves. Tires with good tread help funnel water out from under the tire to reduce hydroplaning on wet roads.  If your tires are well-worn, there is an increased risk of hydroplaning, loss of traction and likelihood of damage by potholes and other road hazards.

The US Department of Transportation recommends that you replace tires when worn down to 2/32 inch (1.6 mm) tread depth anywhere on the tread face. Washington State and many other states require that tires be replaced when worn down to this depth. States may also require tires to be replaced for other signs of wear.

Signs of Wear

Signs of wear that require the tire to be replace include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Exposed ply or cord by the naked eye or when probing a cut or abrasion
  • Bump, bulge, or knot that affects tire structure
  • Improper repairs
  • Tread depth less than 2/32"

What is the Penny Test?

If you don't have a tread depth gauge, tire tread depth can be checked with a U.S. penny!

1. Insert penny into the tread between two ribs with Lincoln’s head facing down, facing you.

2. If the top of Lincoln’s head is covered by tread, your tires have good tread.

3. If you can see Lincoln's entire head, your tires have worn to less than 2/32 inch and it is time for new tires.

4. Make sure to check various points on the tire, around the circumference and between different ribs to look for uneven wear.

What are indicator bars?

Many tires have a built in "tread wear indicators" at six locations around the tire to help you determine when the tread is worn out.  These are narrow bars of smooth rubber that run across the tread.  When the tread is even with the bars, a tire is worn down to 2/32 inch and the tire must be replaced immediately.

What are the safety risks of worn tires?

Tires are considered bald at 2/32 inch, but they lose performance capabilities before that point. If your tires are at 3/32", you will need to replace your tires soon.

  • Decreased ability to channel water, increasing the risk of hydroplaning especially at higher speeds.  Make sure to leave extra stopping distance in wet conditions if your tires are partly worn.
  • Loss of grip on snowy or icy roads. Make sure to leave extra stopping distance in the winter.
  • Increased likelihood of punctures and loss of air pressure. Punctures can cause tire failure, which can lead to loss of control of your vehicle especially at high speeds.

What are other tire wear conditions that require tire replacement?

If you notice any of the following conditions when inspecting your vehicle, the tire should be replaced.

  • Localized spot wear
  • Exposed cord or fabric material
  • Bulges, blisters
  • Deep cuts/cracks
  • Unrepairable punctures
  • Previous improper repairs
  • Damage caused by riding on a flat tire
  • Bent, cracked, corroded or damaged rim/wheel
  • Damaged valve and/or valve core

Wondering if your tires need to be replaced? Try the penny test to check if your tires are bald. Or visit us to have a professional evaluate your tires. Call us with your questions or schedule an appointment online today! 

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Tire Information