How to measure tire tread wear & depth gauge replacement chart (2023)

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Thomas Jepsen

March 1, 2023

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The tires are the only thing that separates the car you drive from the hard asphalt of the road.

You can easily understand their importance in allowing the car to function optimally and providing a degree of safety to the driver.

These two essential roles can be achieved due to the tread in their structure. It has a specific set of features that allows the car’s wheels to grip the road surface as it travels.

Thanks to it, your car can travel safely and optimally on almost any type of surface it encounters. But there may be some issues with it as its wear and tear increases.

One of the main problems arising is the loss of depth in its structure.


The easiest way to measure tire tread wear is with a depth gauge from Godeson Smart, while looking at the replacement chart further down. The tire tread wear depth gauge costs less than $7 for two, and it’s the easiest thing to use.

In this article, we’ll also go over the following topics:

  • Signs of wear
  • The penny test
How to measure tire tread wear & depth gauge replacement chart (2)

Continue reading

If the tread loses depth due to wear and tear, the following problems may occur in your car while driving it:

  • It will suffer from a loss of traction.
  • The braking times will be much longer than the average value.

These problems are also drastically increased if we talk about the possibility of driving in rainy weather.

If your car’s tires have shallow grooves, you may experience many problems in the rain.

A vehicle with such superficial grooves will be tough to control in rainy weather. If you are not careful, the chances of your car going through an aquaplaning process are increased. Due to all these aspects, it becomes evident that it is necessary to make sure that the treads are not worn out.

And suppose you notice that they are worn out. In that case, it is essential to replace them as soon as possible to avoid creating unforeseen accidents.

But to change a set of tires with worn treads in time, you need to know the answers to the following questions:

  • What are the first signs of wear and tear on a tread?
  • How do you measure the tire tread wear?
  • How do I change a set of used tires?
  • When is the right time to replace used tires?

If you don’t know the answer to any of the above questions, you might think you’re in big trouble.

But fortunately, this is not the case.

Because we are here to give you the answers to every question above and thus help you avoid unforeseen accidents.

Here’s how to determine how to measure tire tread wear and other important details.

Table of Contents

  • How to measure tire tread depth
  • Tire depth chart
  • Depth of new tires
  • Signs of wear
  • Cracking or cuts
  • An uneven degree of wear
  • Excessive wear
  • Bulges or blisters
  • Excessive vibration level
  • FAQ

Minimum tire tread depth & when to replace them

If we are talking about the United States of America standards, the minimum tread depth must be at least 2/32 inches.

If your car’s treads do not meet these legal minimum standards, then you will not be allowed to drive your vehicle. These minimum standards are required by law to ensure the safety of both drivers and pedestrians.

Driving with treads that are less deep than the minimum required by law can be a public hazard.

It is essential to measure the depth to comply with the rules required by law.

There are several ways to find out their depth. Either you can measure it yourself or go to a professional to measure it.

Whichever method you choose, it is essential to get the right results. If your car’s treads don’t meet the 2/32 inches minimum standard, you should consider replacing them with new ones as soon as possible.

But the tread depth should not be the only thing you need to pay attention to.

You need to pay attention to other vital signs, such as:

  • Their sidewall should be free of damage.
  • Their surface should not show any irregular marks created due to wear.

They must also meet these standards to be still functional at optimum capacity. If the ones in the structure of your car do not meet these standards, you must consider the fact that you need to change them.

The easiest way to see these signs is to take a closer look at the surface of your car’s tires.

Starting this visual inspection with the tread is recommended, as this is the most subject to wear. This increased wear is due to the fact that it comes into constant contact with the road’s surface on which the car is traveling.

Try to notice its depth and surface, which should not show any significant irregularities.

After careful observation, continue inspection with the sidewall.

Make sure that it does not show too much damage, which could cause problems in the future.

When it comes to replacing old tires with new ones, it is recommended that you perform this process every ten years.

If your car is equipped with tires made more than ten years ago, it’s time to replace them with new ones. Of course, most will need to be replaced before the end of these ten years.

This is due to constant wear and tear or other accidents that may occur and affect their functionality, such as:

  • Punctures
  • Impact damage
  • Improper inflation
  • Overloading

Regardless of the year of manufacture, a tire that has undergone too much wear will need to be replaced with a new one.

How to measure tire tread depth

It is vital to measure the tread depth of your car’s tires to ensure their optimum functionality.

This process of measuring the depth is also beneficial for ensuring the safety of the driver and pedestrians.

A set of too shallow tires could be a public hazard and a source of possible future road accidents.

Constant checking is the primary way to avoid these problems. There are various methods by which you can measure tread depth.

Just because there are several ways to accomplish the measurement process, it does not mean that each one is the best.

Of all the existing methods, only one can be considered the best and can provide the most accurate and precise measurements.

And this method involves using a tool called Godeson Smart Color Coded Tread Depth Gauge.

This tool has features that make it ideal for measuring tread depth. As can be seen with the naked eye, it has a set of colors on its surface.

These colors are as follows:

  • Green
  • Yellow
  • Red

The central role of these colors is to help you discover the current state of the tread.

Quickly, here’s what we think of the Godeson tool.

NameSmart Color-Coded Tire Tread Depth
Country of Origin‎China
Item Weight‎0.32 ounces
Product Dimensions‎3.5 x 1.2 x 0.59 inches
Same-day deliveryYes


  • It’s great for auto inspections
  • Useful tool at a great price
  • Does what you’d expect
  • Easy to use


  • It feels a bit cheap
  • The reason why there are two is that they may break at some point.
  • You get what you pay for

For example, let’s say that after measuring, you get a tread depth that corresponds to the color red.

In this case, the tire has a high degree of wear. Replace it with a new one as soon as possible.

If you get the yellow color after the test, the tread has a medium degree of wear. Consider replacing it with a new one when driving in rainy weather or during a snowstorm.

If you get the green color, it will mean that the tire does not have a degree of wear that can be considered dangerous.

You can continue to use it without any problems. After testing with the tool, the tread will have a certain depth depending on what color you get.

And these depths are as follows:

  • 0 – 3/32 inches for the color red.
  • 3/32 – 6/32 inches for the yellow color.
  • 6/32 – 32/32 inches for the color green.

You don’t have to worry about carrying this tool, as it is compact and has a pocket clip.

Due to these characteristics, its transport is straightforward to do. You can take it anywhere you want to measure a tread.

Also, the materials from which it is made are of high quality. This tool has a high degree of resistance and increased durability, thanks to them.

You can use this tool with a lot of vehicles, such as:

  • Trucks
  • Motorcycles
  • Buses
  • Automobiles

You can use it in any vehicle intended to carry passengers.

Having described all these unique features, it is clear that this tool is the best way to measure a tread.

But now comes the following question: how exactly is an appropriate measurement made with this tool?

If you don’t know the answer to this question, you don’t have to worry. We know all the steps you must follow to make a correct measurement with this tool. And to help you, we’ll share them with you in the following.

To make a correct and proper measurement with Godeson Smart Color Coded Depth Gauge, we recommend that you follow these steps:

How to measure tire tread wear & depth

  1. Insert the measuring scale.

    Take the measuring scale and push it into the gauge as much as possible.How to measure tire tread wear & depth gauge replacement chart (3)

  2. Place the probe.

    Place the probe in the center of a circumferential groove on the tire’s surface.
    After that, try to push down on the gauge’s base.

  3. Remove the gauge from the tire surface.

    Now it’s time to remove the gauge from the surface.
    You need to pay close attention to this step to not interfere with the measurement results.

    If you do not handle the gauge carefully in this step, you may get results that do not reflect the proper depth of the tread.
    It is recommended to hold the gauge by its barrel when removing it from the surface.

    Also, try not to touch the probe in any way.
    Once you’ve carefully removed the gauge, it’s time to read the results.

    Write down these results, as you will need them in the following steps.

  4. Perform additional measurements.

    It is recommended that you perform additional measurements to ensure that you get the best and most accurate results.
    Try to perform the measurement process in other locations within the central circumferential groove.
    It is recommended that you take these additional measurements at different locations at least 15 inches apart.

  5. Test the other circumferential grooves as well.

    This way, you will get the best possible results.
    It is also recommended to measure the depth of the inner and outer circumferential grooves in a tire.
    To perform this measurement, follow the steps above.

  6. Make an average of all the measurements taken.

    To get the best results, it is advisable to average all the measurements.
    That is why the recommendation regarding the notation of measurements on a piece of paper or anywhere else is placed above.
    Because this helps a lot when you want to calculate the average of all the measurements.How to measure tire tread wear & depth gauge replacement chart (4)

  7. Calculate the wear percentage.

    All that’s left to do now is calculate the wear percentage.
    To do this, you need to find out the initial tread depth.
    This information should be easy to find, as is noted in the specifications that came with the car.
    Once you’ve figured out the initial depth, there’s one more thing to do.
    Namely, compare this depth with the current one.

Tire depth chart

What should you do with this information once you’ve figured out the tread depth? How do you know if your tires need to be replaced or are still good to be used safely?

To help you, there is a chart that can easily suggest whether it’s time to buy new ones or not.

Tread depthAct
> 5/32 ”No action required
3/32 ” – 4/32 ”Time to consider replacement
<2/32 ”Requires immediate replacement

With this graphic, it is effortless to know if your tires need to be changed or not. If you measure the tread depth and find that it is less than 2/32 inches, you should replace them with new ones.

It is recommended that you do not wait any longer in this case and replace these worn tires as soon as possible.

This will benefit your driving experience and the safety of you and those around you.

If the tread depth is between 3/32 and 4/32 inches, they have a medium degree of wear.

These can still be used. Remember you have to be very careful while driving with them. Unfortunately, driving in rainy or snowy weather with such tires can be a risk.

It is recommended to replace them with new ones if you drive in such weather conditions.

And if the depth is more than 5/32 inches, they do not show any degree of wear that could be considered dangerous. You can still use them without any problems.

Depth of new tires

How to measure tire tread wear & depth gauge replacement chart (5)

The tread depth of new tires is usually between 10/32 and 11/32 inches. If we are to translate these sizes into millimeters, they will be 8-9 millimeters.

Unfortunately, these depths will be reduced as you drive longer. This is due to the wear and tear they are constantly subjected to during driving.

A tire with a depth of fewer than 2/32 inches (1.6 mm) is considered worn out.

If a tire in your car is in such a situation, you will need to change it ASAP. This is because driving with such a tire is considered dangerous for you and pedestrians.

A car with such a set of used tires will be challenging to control, and its braking times will significantly increase.

Tire BrandFounded

Signs of wear

It is essential to note in advance whether the tires in your car are too worn to be used or not. You might wonder how you can notice this in time?

Fortunately for you, some signs can indicate the degree of wear very early.

These signs can be seen quite easily, even with the naked eye. A simple visual inspection can easily show you their existence.

We will show you all these signs and some crucial details in the following.

Cracking or cuts

These marks most often appear on the sidewalls.

An uneven degree of wear

Some may have uneven wear on their tread.

The leading causes that can lead to this sign are the following:

  • Improper inflation.
  • Misaligned wheels.
  • Damaged parts
  • Existence of technical problems in the car’s suspension system.

Excessive wear

Suppose you look closely at the surface of a modern tread.

In that case, you will quickly notice the existence of some indicator bars. The purpose of these indicator bars is to help you quickly notice when the tread is too worn to be used.

When it wears out to the level of these indicator bars, it’s time to change your tires.

Bulges or blisters

These marks most often appear on the sidewall. Maybe you notice their existence in your tires. You need to know it is time to change them.

Most often, these signs suggest weaknesses in their structure.

Due to these weaknesses, the use of the affected tire may be a possible cause of future unforeseen accidents.

Excessive vibration level

Several causes can make a tire vibrate excessively while driving, such as:

  • That tire is not optimally aligned.
  • Tire balancing was not performed correctly.
  • That tire has a degree of bending.
  • Existence of problems with the car’s suspension system.

What is the tire penny test? (& why you shouldn’t use it)

Another less accurate way to determine if your tires are too worn to be used involves using a penny.

This test can be done by anyone, which is great. It only requires the use of a penny. The primary purpose of this test is to determine if the tread depth has reached the minimum threshold of 2/32 inches or not yet.

This method requires you to insert the penny into the tread you want to test.

Lincoln’s head on the penny should point to the surface of the tread.

If the tip of Lincoln’s head disappears entirely into the tread, it means that it is still more than 2/32 inches deep.

So this tire is still good to use.

But if the tip of Lincoln’s head has not entirely disappeared in the tread, its depth is less than 2/32 inches. It would be best to replace such a tire as soon as possible with a new one of adequate depth.

This test can be done quickly and by anyone with a penny. However, it is not one of the best methods.

The test is not very accurate regarding the obtained results.

The test results are subjective and depend entirely on the performer’s opinion. The examiner may consider that the tip of Lincoln’s head has completely disappeared from the tread.

However, only half of it may have disappeared.

People may have different opinions regarding measurements not made using a measuring scale. Also, this type of test cannot show you the exact tread depth.

It can tell you if the minimum depth of 2/32 inches has been reached or not yet due to the degree of wear. If you want to know the exact depth, you need to use a specially crafted tool.

And one of the most suitable tools for this mission is the Godeson Smart Color Coded Gauge. With its help, you can find out precisely what the depth of your tires is.

This will allow you to find out the wear and tear percentage of your tires from when you first purchased them until now. The tread depth of new tires is usually 10/32 – 11/32 inches.

And now, let’s say that you managed to find out with the help of this unique tool that their current depth is 8/32 inches.

In this way, you managed to determine the degree of wear and tear your tires have been subjected to from the moment you first purchased them until now.

With the help of a simple penny, it would have been impossible to achieve this. From all these various aspects, it is easy to see that the use of the tool is far superior to the use of a penny.


When are cracks in tire tread unsafe?

If your tread has a set of wide cracks that extend over its entire surface, they may be considered a cause for concern.
Such cracks are a potential future cause of unforeseen accidents.

It would be best to replace any tire with such cracks in its structure with a new one as soon as possible. If the cracks on the tread are minor and do not extend over large areas, there is no cause for concern.
Such cracks do not pose a risk to the integrity of the tires.

How deep should your tire tread be when driving in cold weather?

It is recommended that the tread of your tires be at least 5/32 inches deep when you want to use them in cold weather.
This is because poor weather conditions require thicker treads to reduce the chances of accidents.

Driving a car in cold weather can be tricky due to losing control of the vehicle on wet roads.
But the chances of losing control of the car decrease if the tread is deep.

Is 4/32 of tread depth legal?

Yes, driving a car with tires with a tread depth of 4/32 inches is legal.
Driving a car with tires with a depth of fewer than 2/32 inches is considered illegal.

Should I replace tires at 6/32 depth?

A set of tires with a tread depth of 6/32 inches does not need to be replaced.
This depth does not suggest a high degree of wear and tear and does not pose any risk to you or your car.

What is the minimum tire tread depth acceptable by law?

2/32 inches is considered the minimum legal tread depth.
It is prohibited by law to drive a car whose depth is less than that.


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