I’m often asked if tires on a vehicle must all be replaced at the same time – or – if a vehicle needs only two new tires, where should they be mounted?
While replacing all four tires at once is best practice, there may be situations where only one or two tires are necessary.
When a vehicle needs one tire, install it on the rear axle and match as closely as possible, tread-wise, to the existing tire on the opposite side. When a vehicle only needs two tires, always install the two new tires on the rear axle.
Prior to front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive, this was an easy answer. But as front-wheel and all-wheel-drive vehicles rolled out, a debate began. Old school thinking was to install the new tires on the front axle of a front-wheel-drive vehicle because they would provide superior traction, just as you would install new tires on the rear axle for rear-wheel-drive vehicles. However, vehicle and tire manufacturers wanted to know for sure. This spurred extensive testing of this theory.
Both on-road and track testing confirm that installing tires on only the front axle increases the chance of hydroplaning in wet conditions or losing rear traction when turning, causing a spin-out. Because of this, tire manufacturers always suggest mounting two replacement tires on the rear of the vehicle, whether it’s a front-wheel, rear-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle.
Overall, best practice when replacing tires is to always follow the vehicle manufacturer recommendations for tire size, location, traction, temperature and speed rating. By following these guidelines, drivers can be confident that they’re equipped with the best tires for their vehicle.
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