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Here’s how to easily measure tire tread

November 17, 2022

Checking tire tread

Check your car’s tires regularly, as they are constantly wearing out. So don’t just leave it to the garage at a service or MOT. The tire tread, in combination with the correct tire pressure, ensures optimum grip on the road surface – thus predictable handling – and the shortest possible braking distance. So it is about road safety. Therefore, check your tires and tread regularly to make sure they still look good.

Check your car’s tires regularly, as they are constantly wearing out. The issue is road safety.

Minimum tire profile

It is required by law that your tires must have a tread of at least 1.6 millimeters. That is very little when you consider how much force your tires have to handle and how much water they have to dissipate to provide grip to keep the car drivable. Therefore, the general advice is to replace tires when the tread depth is still at least two millimeters.

Car tires with wear indicators

For the convenience of the consumer, all tires today feature so-called wear indicators in the main grooves of the tire. If the tread has worn down to these “cubes” – marked with the letters TWI for Tread Wear Indicator – then you have worn the tread down to the minimum and need new tires very soon.

tire tread wear indicators

Checking tire tread with a coin….

However, you should not let it get to that point and regularly check the depth of tread on your tires. You can do that with a euro coin, for example. Put your car on a level surface. Insert the coin with its edge into the profile of the band. If you can see the silver edge of the euro coin, the band is in need of replacement. But you can also do it with the end of your (car or house) key or something similar. Hold your nail at the point on your key where it protrudes above the profile. If the distance to the end of your wrench is less than two millimeters, you are due for new tires.

Tire-Tread-Check-With-A Coin

… or a handy caliper

Not everyone has coins in their pockets. Fortunately, there are also handy calipers that are so small you can hang them on your key. Such a caliper will immediately indicate the tread depth precisely. If you don’t keep it with your key, put it somewhere in the car where the thing is easy to find. After all, you are going to use your caliper regularly.

tire profile with caliper

Check tire tread all around

Of course, it is not enough to check just one tire on your car. In practice, not all tires wear at the same rate. Indeed, the wear on one tire can already vary from place to place. So check all of your car’s tires regularly all around in various areas, inside, center and along the outer edge of the tread. Even if the tire tread is worn too far in just one spot, you should replace that tire. Preferably then replace both the left and right tires.

Also read: All about cupped tires

Tire tread-round-check

Fine for not enough tire tread

At the time of writing, the fine for a tire with too little tread depth is 150 euros, to which is added a 9 euros administrative fee. For two tires with too little tread, the fine is 220 euros, for three tires 330 euros and for four as much as 550 euros excluding the administration fee. For those amounts, it would have been better to have new tires mounted in advance.

Not good news: fine amounts increase annually in line with inflation, which is high. For now, fines are expected to rise again by 8.6 percent starting in the new year, and then they will also be rounded up. You can check the current fine amounts for car tires with too little tread, among other things, on the Prosecutor’s Office’s Fine Database.