How to Measure Tire Tread Depth in 15 Seconds

11_32 = new tire treadWe want to show you how to measure your tires’ tread depth. It’s painless, quick and easy – heck, we were even able to fit it all in this 15-second video.

Winter tires are important, but only if you have enough tread. Legally, you cannot have less than 3.5 mm (approximately 5/32 of an inch) on most highways in British Columbia between October 1 and March 31. If you barely have the legal minimum depth of tread, you should replace your tires for improved safety on the road.

What’s the big deal with tread, anyway? Well, the tread groove disperses water and snow as the tires roll, allowing the tires to make contact with the road. A shallow groove reduces the tires’ ability to push water and snow to the outside, which can cause hydroplaning and loss of traction.

If you’re looking for more information on winter tire requirements and recommendations, give this blog post a read.

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9 Responses to How to Measure Tire Tread Depth in 15 Seconds

  1. Gord on December 18, 2018 at 7:17 pm

    Unfortunately not everyone has a tire tread depth gauge. However, everyone has access to coins which can be used to measure tread depth approximately. The question is which Canadian coin to use and how much should be showing to indicate the B.C. legal minimum of 3.5mm tread depth for winter tires? There are many videos featured online but they fail to provide a clear picture of what to look for. Some even feature U.S. coins or describe standards for provinces other than B.C. There is a video available featuring our Transportation Minister however it is difficult to see exactly what he is describing. What’s needed is a simple line drawing showing the coin being inserted into the tread for B.C. standards.

    • tranbceditor on December 19, 2018 at 4:52 pm

      Hi Gord. 3.5 mm is fairly precise, so we recommend using a tread gauge. However, a Canadian quarter can be used to give a general idea of legal tread depth. The caribou’s nose is approximately 5 mm from the coin’s edge. So, when placing the coin inside the tread, caribou nose down toward the tire, the tread should nearly meet, or cover, the nose. While 3.5 mm is the legal minimum, the deeper the tread the better.

  2. Hmm on October 19, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    What’s a winter tire? It’s a radial tire, not summer tire. It has the meaningless M+S symbol. Unless you drive a Ferrari you’re going to have radial three season tires.

    What’s a snow tire? One that has the snowflake emblem on the side of the tire. That’s what should be mandatory with an increased minimum tread depth. Again, ICBC has such low tolerance it gives them reason to raise our rates and not penalize drivers for their lack of common sense.

  3. Hmm on November 17, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    the ridiculously low thresholds for tire tread is another great example of how icbc can keep raising our insurance premiums.

    • tranbceditor on November 20, 2017 at 11:01 am

      Thanks for your comment and feedback Hmm. We have sent your comment to our engineering department for review.

  4. Angus on September 1, 2017 at 3:11 am

    Please correct your article and video to reflect the act.

    The lower mainland’s highways in BC do not require winter tires at all, and so in winter only a 1.5 mm tread-depth is required by law.

    Furthermore, on all BC highways a passenger car is legal in the winter months with winter tires on the drive axles with a minimum depth of 3.5 mm and also a pair of summer tires on the non-drive axle with a minimum depth of 1.5mm.

    Of course, the ministry of transport recommends all winter tires…..but this is not a legal requirement.

    • tranbceditor on September 1, 2017 at 10:41 am

      Hi Angus,

      Thank you for the suggestions. The video is a quick educational piece meant to raise awareness about the importance of monitoring tire tread depth for safety. The article is correct when it states the law requires a minimum tread depth of 3.5 mm “on most highways in British Columbia…” You are correct that the law applies to the tires on the main drive axle. However, the law is not meant as a guide for drivers choosing the best (most safe) option for their specific location and travel habits. It is simply the legal minimum required. We appreciate your feedback, and understand that some readers will be looking for more information on legal requirements versus recommendations, so we included a link to another blog post with more information at the bottom of this article.

      • Jesse on October 19, 2018 at 1:22 pm

        That’s the problem now isn’t it? The law isn’t meant to deter bad driving behaviour or prevent people from being taken advantage of.. It essentially serves no purpose. Those who drive on bald or near bald tires are fully aware they’re tires are unsafe. Laws should be made to protect people not to protect the government from liability. The fact is in many cases laws do just that, just not in BC.

    • Bcinterior on October 15, 2017 at 8:48 am

      As a seasoned interior BC resident, I strongly agree that the minimum tire tread depth on only your main drive axles is not enough. Depending on vehicle type (FWD, RWD, AWD, or 4WD), being able to accelerate from a stop is not the only criteria to driving. Having functional tread depth on steering and drive axles enables you to stop, and steer around obstacles and potential hazards. Running the legal or minimum tire tread depth in this part of the province puts not only yourself at risk, but other drivers on the road around you. Be safe not sorry!

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