Place a penny head first into several tread grooves across the tire. If you always see the top of Lincoln’s head, your treads are shallow and worn. If this is the case, your tires need to be replaced.
But the easiest way to determine the depth of your tire's tread is by giving them the "penny test." What is the Penny Test? The penny test is an easy and accurate way to measure tire tread depth. Take a penny and place it between the tire tread blocks with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you.
In most states, legal tire tread depth is 2/32 of an inch, which is the exact distance from the tip of Abe’s head to the edge of the penny. Keep in mind that even if your tires pass the Lincoln penny test, you may want to consider buying new tires before the 2/32” rule kicks in. Tires with low treads make hydroplaning on rain-soaked roads more likely and significantly reduce traction in snow.
The Penny Test. In the United States, tire tread depth is measured in 32nds of an inch. New tires typically come with 10/32” or 11/32” tread depths, and some truck, SUV and winter tires may have deeper tread depths than other models.
The "penny test" tread depth check doesn't hold water. Yes, U.S. coins can be substituted as a tire tread depth gauge to measure the critical, final few 32nds of an inch of remaining tread depth. Yes, U.S. coins can be substituted as a tire tread depth gauge to measure the critical, final few 32nds of an inch of remaining tread depth.
Use the penny test to see if your tires are worn down and need to be replaced. Take a penny, and place it upside down into several tread grooves on a tire.
Place a penny into several tread grooves across the tire. If part of Lincoln's head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 2/32" of tread depth remaining.
There are several popular ways to check your tire tread depth. One easy way is the penny test. Simply insert a penny into your tire's tread groove with Lincoln's head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln's head, your tread depth is less than 2/32 inch and it's time to replace your tires.
"The Penny Test was an indirect result of tire warranties," explained John Rastetter, director of tire information at The Tire Rack. "It is to that depth (2/32") that most warranties remain valid ...
“The penny test is a simple, yet effective, way to check tire tread. If you see Lincoln’s head above the tread, you are ready for new tires,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.