Majority of people know that driving with bald tires is not ideal and can be dangerous. Driving with bald tires increases your chances of hydroplaning, having a tire “blowout”, flat tires, and having a difficult time handling your car in rain, snow or ice.
To determine if you have bald tires you should look at the tires’ tread. The tread is the rubber, that can be in a number of different patterns, on the circumference of the tire that makes immediate contact with the road. One way to determine if your tires’ tread is at a safe level is through the penny test. In order to complete the penny test on your tires, you insert a penny into the shallowest part of the tread in your tire and if can see the top of Lincoln’s head then your tires are “bald” meaning less than 2/32”.
Although it can be extremely dangerous to drive a car with bald tires, is it actually against the law? Under California Vehicle Code § 27465, “No person shall use on a highway a pneumatic [containing air] tire… when the tire has less than 1/32” tread depth in any two adjacent grooves at any location of the tire or 4/32” tread depth at all points in all major grooves on a tire on the steering axle of any motor vehicle…and 2/32” tread depth at all points in all major grooves on all other tires on the axles of these vehicles”. The California Vehicle code outlines specifically the amount of tread required for different situations, but the short answer is that it is against the law to drive on bald tires in California. As a result, it is possible to receive a ticket for bald tires in California.
Violation of the California Vehicle Code
Law enforcement officers certainly can cite drivers with bald or badly worn tires, without waiting for an accident, because it’s a safety hazard, said CHP Officer Juan Quintero of the Inland Division. Quintero said the CHP isn’t a big fan of fix-it tickets in cases like this, however, because some drivers will “push the envelope” and wait or delay repairs or getting new tires, and this can also cause a hazard. “Depending on the level of negligence, the officer might decide if it’s a correctible ticket,” Quintero said. California Vehicle Code section 27465 spells out the tread depth requirements for tire safety.
How Much Trend is Enough?
Tires can lose their footing long before they’re worn out. Our tests show that tread can give up a significant amount of grip when it’s still at the halfway point.
That’s particularly worrisome when you realize how many worn tires are on the roads. A recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that nearly 50 percent of the 11,500 cars, pickup trucks, vans, and sport-utility vehicles the agency checked had at least one tire with half-worn tread. Another 10 percent had at least one bald tire.
Worn tires—especially bald ones—can be deadly on wet roads, where the grooves aren’t deep enough to channel water out from beneath the tread. The result is hydroplaning, where the tread skims the water’s surface and the vehicle no longer responds to the steering wheel. Wet-weather braking and snow traction also decrease as tires wear.
Tires are considered bald when one or more of their grooves reaches 2/32 of an inch deep
Compared with about 10/32 of an inch for new tires (tread wear is usually measured in 1/32-inch increments). Manufacturers have made bald tires easier to spot by placing a series of molded horizontal bars at the base of the grooves. The bars become flush with surrounding tread when wear reduces a groove’s depth to 2/32 of an inch. That’s also the point where tires will flunk a state safety inspection—and where tread must be worn for you to collect on a tire’s tread-wear warranty.
Unfortunately, 2/32 of an inch may be too late if you drive in rain or snow. Based on our tests of new and half-tread-depth tires, you may want to consider shopping for new ones on your car or truck closer to the 4/32-inch groove depth. For more information on this.