…Should I replace just the front tires? Or all four? Quick answer: PUT THE NEW RUBBER ON THE REAR!
This is a question I get frequently so here’s what to do, maximizing your safety. But why are we having this conversation in the first place?
Because the majority of passenger cars on the road today are front wheel drive plus there’s increased popularity of full-time all-wheel-drive cars too. Simplistically stated, in a front or all-wheel drive car the front tires get quite a work out and the rears are mostly just to tag along so your bumper doesn’t drag and with rear tires the ride’s more comfortable and you can easily turn a corner 😉
What happens is most owners don’t check tire wear frequently enough, then one day you get stuck in the snow or worse yet try to turn into a bend in the road and the front tires don’t grip enough, they skid and you slide into something. You should have been rotating those tires at least a couple times a year; many folks rotate tires at each oil change so it’s easier to remember. Rotating tires allows all four to wear approximately the same rate, maximizing your safety and investment in some expensive rubber!
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO?
If your fronts are wasted and you’re headed to the tire store or shopping online, don’t be tempted to do the ‘logical’ thing of putting the newest tires on the front so they’ll give you the best grip and wear longer so the rears and fronts then wear out about the same time, and you’ll not have to be bothered with tire rotations… DON’T DO THIS!
Your life and the lives of your passengers and other drivers is at risk, so put your new tires on the rear axle and rotate the decent rear tires up front. Why? The tires with less tread will lose grip sooner in wet or inclement weather, especially when turning or braking or doing both brake and turn simultaneously. What this means is you crash by fishtailing into oncoming traffic! Not good sparky!
Let’s say it again: PUT THE NEW RUBBER ON THE REAR! for maximum safety.
Here are images from a front-wheel-drive sedan; note that not only are the rear tires worn but also cracking due to age so even the rubber itself has reduced grip compared to a new tire.
Also notice on the old rear tires that there is seemingly plenty of tread in the center of the tire. Also not good; this tire’s spent plenty of time under-inflated, plus when cornering the outermost portion of the tire does more work than the inner side and water must evacuate out the sides too.
What would you do if this was a car you’re considering purchasing?