About Tire Tread Depth: Something You Need To Know

Jul 10,2023
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What is tire tread depth?

Tire tread depth refers to the measurement of the depth of grooves on the tire surface. The purpose of these grooves is to provide traction and grip on the road, especially in wet or slippery conditions. Tire tread depth plays a vital role in a tire's ability to maintain good traction and shed water, snow or mud.

What's a good tire tread depth?

Tire tread depth is critical. Having a good tire tread depth has a significant impact on the driving of the car. So, what is a good tire tread depth? It depends on a variety of factors, including tire type, driving conditions and personal preference.

Tire tread depth is typically measured in millimeters (mm) or in 32nds of an inch. Measurements are taken from the deepest point of the tire tread pattern to the tire surface. As tires wear over time from normal use, the tread depth and the tire's grip decrease.

For normal passenger cars, the generally recommended tire tread depth is 3-4 mm (4/32 - 5/32 inch). This depth provides a good balance between dispersing water and gripping the ground while maintaining traction in all conditions. As the tread depth decreases, below 3mm, the tire's performance in slippery conditions decreases.

In some specific cases or for special tires, for example, winter tires or tires used in off-road conditions may recommend a deeper tread depth. Use tires with deeper grooves and a more aggressive tread pattern in winter for increased traction and grip on snow and hard ice. In severe environmental conditions, the manufacturer's recommendations should be followed.

When to change tires tread depth?

Tire tread depth is an important factor to consider for optimum vehicle performance and safety. Most countries have regulations stating that the minimum legal tread depth for tires is usually around 1.6 mm (2/32 inch). Driving with insufficient tread depth increases the risk of skidding, reduced traction, longer braking distances and poor handling in all road conditions. Therefore, it is recommended to replace tires when they reach the minimum legal tread depth or when the tread wears down to the point where it no longer provides adequate grip and performance.

The following are general guidelines to consider when changing tires based on tread depth:

1. Tread wear indicators: Most tires have tread wear indicators, also called wear bars, built into the grooves. These indicators are small rubber strips that become visible when the tread wears down to about 1.6 mm (2/32 in.).  When these bars are flush with the tire surface, it is a clear sign that the tire has reached the minimum legal tread depth and should be replaced.

2.  Recommended tread depth: Many tire manufacturers and automotive organizations recommend replacing tires when the tread depth drops below approximately 3-4 mm (4/32 - 5/32 inch). At this point, the tire's ability to maintain traction, especially in wet conditions, begins to decline. For increased safety and performance, tire replacement is recommended.

3. Winter driving: If you live in an area with snow or ice, it is recommended to replace your winter tires before the temperature drops and winter arrives. Winter tires feature a more aggressive tread pattern and a softer rubber compound designed to provide better traction and grip on snow and ice. Check the manufacturer's recommendations for winter tire tread depth requirements.

4. Driving habits: If you often drive long distances or encounter challenging road conditions, you can change tires under the advice of professionals. This helps ensure optimum grip, handling and safety in demanding situations.

Tire depth is only one aspect to consider when determining which tire to replace. Other factors should also be evaluated, such as tire age, obvious signs of damage or uneven wear, and the overall health of the tire. We recommend regular tire inspections and consultation with a qualified tire professional.

How to measure tread depth?

In fact, you have to go to the maintenance service center to measure the tire tread depth. This is a relatively simple process. We can use the following methods:

1. Tread Depth Gauge: Tread Depth Gauge is a special tool for accurately measuring tire tread depth. The method used is as follows:

① Insert the gauge's probe or pin into the groove in the tire's tread.
②  Press down on the pressure gauge until the seat rests on the tire surface.
③ Read the measured value displayed on the meter. It will indicate the depth of the tread in millimeters or inches.

2. Tread wear indicators: These indicators are distributed around the tire and when the tread wears to its level, it means that the tire has reached the minimum legal tire depth. Look for these wear strips inside the tread grooves and check that they are flush with the tire surface. If yes, it is an indication that the tire needs to be replaced.

SmartSafe tires tread depth tool

The SmartSafe TTM113 tires tread depth tool is a portable laser gauge specifically designed for measuring tire tread depth with a remarkable accuracy of 0.1mm. Utilizing line laser scanning technology, it enables a comprehensive assessment of the entire tire tread in a single scan. Its operation is effortless and convenient, as it doesn't require tire disassembly or lifting, and it is not constrained by the chassis height. This device provides professional inspection reports encompassing tread depth analysis, wear patterns affecting braking distance, and maintenance recommendations, among other valuable insights.


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