You Mean To Tell Me I Can Check My Car's Tire Wear Using a Penny?

The easiest way to measure tire wear.

Team LemonadeTeam Lemonade

Worn-out tires can spell disaster on the road. Luckily, there’s an easy way to check if your tires need replacing—and all you need is a penny.

Let’s take a look at how the so-called “tire penny test” works.  

The penny test

It’s true: This trusty coin—that maybe you previously thought held little to no value—can actually help tell you if it’s time to invest in new tires. So wise.

What you’ll need: Your car, and a penny

The prep: Park your car on a flat and even surface, and make sure that the engine is turned off and the handbrake is engaged. Your tires should be cool and clear of any mud or rocks.

The experiment: While holding the penny so that Lincoln’s head is pointing down, stick the coin into one of the tire treads—any groove will do. Do this in a few different points for each tire, because tires don’t always wear evenly.

The results: If Abe’s full head is showing, this means your tread is less than 2/32 of an inch, which is a safety risk, according to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration. It’s time to think about getting new tires.

If part of Abe’s head is covered by the tire, you can keep on cruising—but remember to repeat the penny test regularly.

Other ways to check your tire’s tread depth

  • Use a tire-tread depth gauge: This tool can pretty accurately measure your tire’s tread depth, and costs about $5 to $20.
  • Try the quarter test: Similar to the penny test, but a good alternative if you’re fresh out of pennies. If part of Washington’s head is covered, there’s about 4/32 inch of tread left.
  • Look for tread wear indicator bars: Modern tires have these built-in indicators. If you can see or feel these little raised bars between the tread markings on your tires, it’s time to replace your tires.
  • Check for visible signs: Excessive cracking, bulges, or bald spots indicate it’s time for a tire replacement.

It’s convenient—and maybe even a little fun—to be able to do a DIY check of your tires wear, but it’s always a good idea to get your tires professionally inspected from time to time. 

A tire shop or certified mechanic can offer more precise tread depth measurements and advice.

Why it’s important to regularly check the tread depth on your car’s tires

Checking your car’s tire treads is a crucial part of tire maintenance—along with other things like regularly checking tire pressure, and avoiding parking on hot pavement during the summer months. 

Why does it matter?

  • Good treads help your car grip the road better, especially if you’re driving in conditions that make the road slippery. This means fewer skids and blowouts, and better control when you’re turning or stopping (granted you’re driving safely).
  • And if you use winter tires during the snowy and icy months, having deeper treads could help prevent your car from sliding—or even hydroplaning.
  • Also, when your treads are in good shape, your car uses less gas—not to mention your tires could last longer, so you don’t need to buy new ones as often. 

Before we go… 

Being proactive about your tire care can help protect not only you and your car, but also your wallet.

Even the face of the penny himself understood the importance of taking proactive measures to keep things in check (though we admit he wasn’t referring to tire depth on this one).

You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.

Abraham Lincoln

And if you’re already on the lookout for the best ways to keep your car protected without compromising your budget, why not take Lemonade Car for a spin? We offer great coverage, plus safe and low-mileage drivers are eligible for extra savings and discounts. Not to mention—we help make the planet a little greener together through our tree planting program

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A few quick words, because we <3 our lawyers: This post is general in nature, and any statement in it doesn’t alter the terms, conditions, exclusions, or limitations of policies issued by Lemonade, which differ according to your state of residence. You’re encouraged to discuss your specific circumstances with your own professional advisors. The purpose of this post is merely to provide you with info and insights you can use to make such discussions more productive! Naturally, all comments by, or references to, third parties represent their own views, and Lemonade assumes no responsibility for them. Coverage and discounts may not be available in all states.


Please note: Lemonade articles and other editorial content are meant for educational purposes only, and should not be relied upon instead of professional legal, insurance or financial advice. The content of these educational articles does not alter the terms, conditions, exclusions, or limitations of policies issued by Lemonade, which differ according to your state of residence. While we regularly review previously published content to ensure it is accurate and up-to-date, there may be instances in which legal conditions or policy details have changed since publication. Any hypothetical examples used in Lemonade editorial content are purely expositional. Hypothetical examples do not alter or bind Lemonade to any application of your insurance policy to the particular facts and circumstances of any actual claim.