Trading in Your Old Car? Good Tires Can Make a Great First Impression

It’s time to trade in the old ride, so you’re doing everything you can to make your car look good for that trade-in value. You have excavated 4 years’ worth of drive thru bags out of the back seat, you’ve steam cleaned the seat where your dog has laid for every trip, you’ve washed it, and you’ve even polished and waxed the outside. You might have even bought a bottle of snake oil from the auto parts store in hopes of making that knocking sound go away, if only long enough to get the car traded. So, you pull up to the lot, start talking to the salesman and he wants to see your trade. He steps out and looks at it, you know he knows that you’ve spent time making it look trade-worthy, and the first thing out of his mouth is, “Yeah, those tires are looking pretty rough. Mmhmm. Lots of tire tread wear there.” Arrrgh!

Don’t let this happen to you! Checking your tires for excessive wear is easy, and odds are you already have the tool in your pocket. If you don’t check that seat one more time!

Checking tread wear

Well, we said that it is easy to check tire tread wear. Here is a complete list of the required tools that you will need to check your tire treads for excessive wear.

Required Tools

  • A penny (Approximate cost, one cent)

Calibrating the Tools

Of course, you will need to ensure the penny meets all the standards of a good penny, so look to see that the penny does indeed feature Lincoln’s head on one side. We prefer to use pennies from 1982, but that’s a rather arbitrary date as it happens to be the one in our hands at the time we are writing this. Pennies from 1909 to the current model will all work equally as well.

Treading On

Visually inspect the tread on your tires. Look for the part of your tire with the lowest tread. Insert the penny heads down into the tread groove. If you can see the top of Abe’s head sticking out above your tire tread, you need to replace the tire. If your car is properly aligned, all four tires should receive equal wear. Consider how often you have had your car serviced and the alignment checked. Alignments are often checked when new tires are installed, but your vehicle may be out of alignment if you have taken turns too quickly or hit a pothole in the road. Since this diagnostic test only takes a moment, it’s best to check all four tires in the same manner.

Penny Test

How it works

Tire treads are measured in 32nds of an inch. Most new tires start off with about 10/32nds (around a third of an inch) of tire tread depth. Tires continue to have good hold and traction for a rated number of miles. When there is less than 2/32nds of an inch of tread left, your tire does not have the required traction to properly accelerate and decelerate safely. The United States Treasury Department was kind enough to make the distance from the rim of a penny to the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head exactly 2/32nds of an inch. While we don’t believe that there was collaboration on this project, it is quite convenient!

Parting Thoughts

You may be thinking that you don’t want to change the tires because it seems to be too costly. The truth is, a new set of lower end tires will give your car a more well maintained look, and combined with a clean exterior and a fresh looking interior, you can boost the value of your car by far more than you put into it. Remember, there’s only one chance to make a first impression, and everyone “kicks the tires.”