Is the penny test for tires accurate?

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What if you are walking along and you spot a penny on the ground? Why not pick it up because it can help you stay safely on the road in your vehicle. A penny is used to test the depth of treads remaining on tires.

The penny tire test has been in existence for many years. Yes, its principle stands firm today as corroborated by tire manufacturers and certified mechanics.

The Department of Transportation in the U.S. suggests replacing tires when they reach 2/32-inch depth (2/32”). There are several states that legally mandate this tire depth or else they will institute a fine against you. Even though it sounds harsh, the idea is to keep all drivers safely on roadways.

Tires Serve an Important Feature

The tread on tires aren’t just simple designs to make the tires look good. The tire ribs, blocks, Sipes, patterns, and grooves have a specific purpose. These tire components allow the tire to more firmly grip the road no matter what weather conditions exist where you live.

Not only do tire treads allow for gripping, but they help to make vehicles brake, make corner turns, and to accelerate. Well-treaded tires even aids in maximizing your fuel use. But when the rubber treads begin to wear, it lessens the safety that tires provide.

If your tire depth on your pickup is not looking to good, it might be a good bet to get yourself some new tires!

Tire Tread Depth Numbers

Tire manufacturers design new tires to have a tread depth of 10/32 inches to 12/32 inches apart from the tires on off-road vehicles. Drives should make tire testing a monthly maintenance checklist. When tire measurements, wear down to 2/32”, this is the time to get new tires.

Do not wait! If you live and drive in a state where rain or snow is constant, you are pass your tire replacement maintenance period.

Options in Checking Tires

Using a penny is a simplistic but scientifically sound method to test tires. Instructions on penny testing tire treads will be given below. But just for information, there are other ways to check the treads on your tires that include the following:

1. Depth Tread Gauge

A small handheld tread gauge is made of metal or plastic featuring a measuring tube. Auto parts store or multi-product retail stores in their auto department also carries the depth gauge.

Simply place the gauge’s probe into the center of a tire groove. Do not place the probe on any of the molded tread wear surfaces. Now push down on the gauge’s base. Life carefully and read the tread’s depth.

2. Indicator Bar

An indicator bar is designed inside the tires themselves. Tires are commonly designed with six small tread wear bars. Indicator bars feature a piece of rubber that slightly extends from within tread rib grooves at the 2/32” point. If the tire treads are level with the indicator bar, it is time to purchase new tires. Don’t wait!

3. Abraham Lincoln Coin Tire Test

In case you don’t have a tire tread gauge for measuring tread depth, there is always a penny. It is important to use both the penny test and/or a depth gauge on more than just one area of a tire.

Look and check each tire for worn places. There may be different areas on one tire that is more worn than another area.


  1. Make sure that your tires are inflated properly before testing the tread.
  2. Place a penny between the tread ribs on your tire.
  3. Make sure that the Lincoln head of the penny is pointing downwards into the tread.
  4. See if the top of Lincoln’s head disappears between the ribs. Your tires are good. They are still above the safe 2/32” measurement.
  5. But, if you can still see his entire head, your tread has worn down to an unsafe tire measurement. This means that you only have 2/32 inches of original tread depth or less remaining.

This is a sign of uneven tire wear that also shortens the lifespan of your tires. Don’t ride on them much longer!


What do you think! Is the penny test for tire tread depth an accurate measurement? Abraham Lincoln could not tell a lie! Using your Lincoln penny continues to remain an accurate measurement for tire tread depth to keep you safely on the road.

Don’t forget that the penny depth test is just a quick and simple guide. This only gives drivers an idea of the condition of their tires, informing them that they should replace them.