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The Penny Test: A Quick Way To Check Tire Wear

Person Performing Penny Test

How well do you take care of your tires? Do you keep them properly inflated? Do you know about tire maintenance and its impact on safety and fuel efficiency? Do you check if they're worn? If you care about your safety and spending less on tire upkeep, you need to know some basic car tips.

The replacement of old tires is a common maintenance item, one that also happens to be vital to your safety on the road. Knowing when they're ready to be switched out isn't difficult.

Since tires are your only direct connection to the road, it's important that they have a healthy amount of rubber on them to help the car handle corners, slick surfaces, and any other imperfect road conditions. It would be easy to tell you to change your tires at a certain mileage to maintain proper tire tread, but the fact is that the rate at which the tread wears depends on a number of factors.

These factors include:

  • Driving style
  • Vehicle weight
  • Type of tire

So how do you tell whether your tires are ready for a swap? Most people have no understanding about tire upkeep, but there's a simple way to check tire tread.

The Penny Test 

The penny test is the easiest way to check your tires for worn or uneven tread. Simply stick an upside-down penny, with Lincoln's face toward you, into the tread on both the inside and outside of the tire. Place them into several grooves across the tire. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head anywhere, the rubber has worn down far enough to warrant a new set of tires. If part of Lincoln's head is always covered by the tread, you probably don't need new tires.

When your tires are worn, your car may respond negatively in bad weather conditions like rain and snow. With a healthy amount of tread, your car can grip the roads, making it safer to travel in your car. Worn treads can also make other parts of your car wear way earlier than they're supposed to. By looking at the placement of the wear, you can actually figure out the cause.

Wear in certain areas have different causes:

To be safe, we'd recommend performing the penny test monthly – even with new tires – because the penny can also tell you if your tires are wearing unevenly. If there is a noticeable difference in the tread wear between the front and back tires or on an individual tire, it's best to take the vehicle to the mechanic and have it checked out.

And there you go! A quick hack to check to see if your tires are functioning properly. It's a cheap simple way to make sure you're not spending more than you have to on auto repairs. If you perform the penny test and come to find that your tire's tread is uneven or worn down, check on our website to see if there's an auto repair shop close to you. We can help you find a discount and save you money on your next auto repair visit!


This article was written with the help and resources from the non-profit Car Care Council. The "Be Car Care Aware" campaign is a consumer education program about the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair, designed to provide knowledge from all segments of the automotive aftermarket industry.

The non-profit Car Care Council is the source of information for the "Be Car Care Aware" consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. To view the Car Care Council's consumer education website, visit www.carcare.org

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