There’s a test that many have used to determine whether or not their tires need to be replaced known as the Lincoln penny tread depth test. The idea is that you stick a penny into the tread of the tired. If any part of Lincoln’s head is obscured by the tread, the tire doesn’t need to be replaced. If all of Lincoln’s head is visible, the tread has worn too thin and the tire needs to be replaced. For Lincoln’s head to be visible, the tread will have had to have worn down to a mere 2/32 of an inch. This also happens to be the legal minimum tread depth required for a vehicle’s tires.
Seems simple enough right? Unfortunately, while it might be easy, it isn’t entirely accurate. According to a test done by Tire Rack, the minimum tread depth you should safely drive on is 4/32 of an inch. In a test they performed, a vehicle with tires that had 2/32 tread depth took 100 more feet to stop than the vehicle with 4/32 tires. The former vehicle was also still traveling at 45 miles per hour while the later had already stopped.
Tread depth is especially important when driving in rainy or snowy conditions, because the tire needs to work harder to remove water or snow. Deeper treads allow it to remove more water or snow in a shorter period of time, which gives the vehicle a better grip on the road and more traction. Shallow treads mean the vehicle can’t grip as well and gives you less control on the road.
In conclusion, even a small amount of tread can make a big difference. While 2/32 may have been the accepted standard for minimum tread depths, tests show that with only slightly more depth at 4/32 of an inch, tires perform significantly better.
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