Changing two tyres at a time – front or rear axle?

Because a full new set of four tyres can often cost a lot of money, sometimes we tend to only change only a pair at a time and wait for the other pair to really wear out.

I did a short survey with the people on my instant messaging list and almost everyone said they’d either change the pair that is more worn out, or change the ones at the front because the car is front wheel drive – unless the rears are for some reason more worn out.

It’s actually quite natural for the front tyres to wear out faster on a front wheel drive car – some of you throttle happy people may be wheel-spinning a little if you’re at the front of the queue at the traffic lights. The front tyres have to handle more work than the rear tyres in a front wheel drive car – both steering and acceleration.

But in reality, even if the front is more worn out than the rear, the correct thing to do is the put your less worn out rear tyres at the front axle and put new tyres at the rear axle – if you only want to change a pair of tyres and not all four. Of course, it’s always better to change all four.

This is because when the front has more grip than the rear, the rear will lose traction before the front of the vehicle during a corner on a wet or slippery road. You will oversteer and fishtail because of hydroplaning. As you know, once the rear starts sliding its quite hard to recover unless you’re a very experienced driver. It’s also better for the driver who has been used to more grip at the rear than the front all this while before the tyre change to get used to the new grip levels if you put the new tyres at the rear.

If the front tyres hydroplane, it is easier to correct than if the rear tyres hydroplane because what will happen is understeer, and understeer can be corrected relatively easier by easing off the throttle.

So be safe – always ensure the rear tyres have better or equal grip. For even tyre wearing, it’s recommended you rotate your tyres, but that’s a story for another time.

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Paul Tan

After dabbling for years in the IT industry, Paul Tan initially began this site as a general blog covering various topics of personal interest. With an increasing number of readers paying rapt attention to the motoring stories, one thing led to another and the rest, as they say, is history.

 

Comments

  • wanwnp (Member) on Oct 20, 2007 at 1:37 am

    tayar lama belakang masuk depan..
    tayar lama yang belah belakang diganti dengan tayar baru..

    mcm tu boleh ke?

    mungkin tak sebaik tukar kesemua 4 tayar..

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  • engtaokia (Member) on Oct 20, 2007 at 1:53 am

    macam Bridgestone advertisement pulak :p

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  • armandd (Member) on Oct 20, 2007 at 2:11 am

    i didn’t realise this before. thanks Paul!

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  • mystvearn (Member) on Oct 20, 2007 at 2:29 am

    Those goodyear people just put the new ones at the front and slightly worn at the back. Its like default in their heads

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  • BigFish (Member) on Oct 20, 2007 at 5:20 am

    The best is always change 4 tyre. Look at the tyre manufacturing date which is indicated by year and week of production, it shall be change after four years for safety reason regardless of whether it is worn out or not!

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  • BigFish (Member) on Oct 20, 2007 at 6:28 am

    Another thing is don’t used retread or used tyre, they are not safeworthy!

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  • 4G63T DSM (Member) on Oct 20, 2007 at 8:30 am

    It is also important to point out that the traction btwn different brands and tyres may be different.

    Just because if you have 2 new tyres up front, does not mean it has better grip.

    A couple of track sessions per year means I go through about 2 sets of tyres per year. Being a FWD means the front end is a pig. I tend to use different brands front and back to allow for handling differences for a looser rear end. Having “sport” allignment setup that is “off spec” also contributes to the wear.

    Most importantly, your tyres must match your suspension/allignment and driving style.

    Total contact patch area for most of our cars is about or less than an A4 sheet of paper. Food for thought, eh? Think about that the next time you would cheap out on tyres.

    It is best to change all 4 at once, but as thats pretty heavy on the wallet, as long as you rotate and have your allignment and tyre pressure in check, tyre wear can be fairly even. It is usually advantageous to run a few PSI more than the recommended tyre pressure on the front end for more grip in corners.

    That said, If you are charging into a corner too fast, no matter what sort of tyre setup you have wont save you. So drive safe.

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  • HamilTan (Member) on Oct 20, 2007 at 9:37 am

    Hai Paul, wat about a CRV with 1 set new trye, where 2 install front or back?

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  • szw (Member) on Oct 20, 2007 at 11:29 am

    i prefer to change 4 at once .
    that overall tyres will last longer (all 4)
    each time change all 4 are kindda expensive but we don change it often .
    n tyre rotation is very important to maintain equal wear n tear .

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    • Paul Tan on Sep 11, 2022 at 2:15 pm

      this advice is for people who cannot afford to change all 4 at once

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  • proton.GL.. (Member) on Oct 20, 2007 at 11:32 am

    many people prefer newer tyre to the front becaues, of it gives battter lighter steering feel more cousioned ride plus quieter, and theway it cut or rolls on the wet surface with distinct water splash with its newer thread, with wet grip capability is batter as the grip force is more front biased,

    and most people would find its rear with the least half thread, which is not too bad for grip, and not to the extend they are ‘bald’,

    anyway rotate the tyre regularly makes tyre wear evently, is a good practice,

    -always check the ‘flower’ of your tyre,

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  • 4G63T DSM (Member) on Oct 20, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    AWD cars should have all 4 tyres changed at the same time. Keep rotating them until they are even worn, then replace them as a set.

    This is especially those with permanent viscous coupling centre differential type system.

    Having even slightly different sized tyres can seriously screw up your AWD system.

    If i was going to pick a nit from this post, having less thread at the back is just as bad, as if you were to run into a puddle, lets say on a bend, the worn out rear will be hydroplane more (its lighter out back there as well) and cause oversteer.

    Besides, most people’s gut reaction to correct for understeer is to jab the brakes, either making it understeer more or going into snap oversteer. Even throttle lift off may cause oversteer as there is “no weight” at the back. My car is precisely tuned for that behaviour at the track. Throttle lift off will cause the rear to rotate out to compensate for understeering front during wet track days, on dry its tuned to neutral.

    I remember we used to put sand bags (road salt..etc) in the trunk to keep rear end stability during winter.

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  • proton.GL.. (Member) on Oct 20, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    not also check the ‘flower’ also people forgot to check bulge ‘swollen’
    (steel radial snaps), bulge might minimal, but vibrates your steering even its at the back, -worst case ‘burst’

    so for a normal driver at least get a Goodyear made in malaysia, good enough,

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  • jamsbong (Member) on Oct 20, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    Paul, did you wrote this?

    This is the worst advise I’ve ever heard!!

    OK, you believe that spinning is more dangerous than understeering. Well, I reckon both are dangerous and there is NOT better scenario!

    However, I do reckon front tires should be new. WHY? In dangerous or slippery conditions and suddenly you loose it. A normal driver instinct is to brake. We all know that front tires always takes the majority of braking power. Just have a look at your front brakes or front brakes of motorbikes.

    If you have front bald tires, rear new ones. well, if you’re lucky, you’ll just end up in a ditch. But we all know it can be worse.

    If you can do make sure all 4 tires are in good condition, but if you must, do make sure at least the front are grippy so that you can actually stop.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 9
  • mzfnd (Member) on Oct 20, 2007 at 9:01 pm

    We should have more of these Paul. Very useful. Absolutely more useful than discussing about “when will proton die?” or “how come the new vios looks like dugong”.

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  • darkwizard (Member) on Oct 20, 2007 at 11:59 pm

    4G63T DSM said,
    October 20, 2007 @ 8:30 am

    Just because if you have 2 new tyres up front, does not mean it has better grip.
    ________________________________________________________________________

    Yup, I had experience that on my 1 day old Yokohama Parada spec 2 on my wira in wet and slipery (Tar road stones very fine/halus) road.

    Any idea what might caused that to happen? Rear tyre was my old sime tyre with less than 1/2 tread left. Speed that time was 60km/hr on a slight 70 degree cornering (AKA Long corner).

    Current feedback i got was the new tyre not yet reach its working grip surface. Is it true?

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  • proton.GL.. (Member) on Oct 21, 2007 at 12:29 am

    parada you said have a large flat pattern tread quite disadvantage in wet,
    its good in dry,
    almost toward slick tyre character capability in dry,

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  • Paul Tan on Oct 21, 2007 at 12:38 am

    jamsbong: well, you can go look around the net for what others including tyre companies are advising.

    by no means am i suggesting you leave the front tyres in extremely worn out condition. it’s just that usually the front tyres wear out way ahead of the rear ones and the rear ones end up still having some decent thread left, so people in bad financial shape choose to change only 2 instead of all 4.

    this is a middle ground some choose to take and this article teaches you how to achieve that middle ground in the safest way possible. not everyone has money.

    you’re welcome not to take this advice and continue with what you are comfortable with.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  • wong (Member) on Oct 21, 2007 at 1:51 am

    because of a bad experience before,I’ll always get the tyres checked say every 8,000km,and don’t forget about tyre pressures,balancing and allignment and don’t compromise your life on worn out tyres, all 4 must be in good condition..

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  • transformer (Member) on Oct 21, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    Tyre are the only contact with earth!
    So please make sure its healthy!

    Normally i would rather buy better(with a little extra RM) tyre… 2 or 4 depends on pocket but cheap tyre should be avoided! Especially those unknown brand, we’ll never know what are used to made them and most importantly does it perform and reliable enough….

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  • avanza (Member) on Oct 21, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    If you rotate your front and back tyres properly, you would be able to change them four at the same time. I always feel safer to have all four new tyres.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  • proton.GL.. (Member) on Oct 21, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    actually as the front tread worned out (normal tyre la) ,noticed just before it goes half tread or half tread the steering actually goes sharper on dry less flex of the tread probally, (plus point for a bit worn tyre ..he he)

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  • 4G63T DSM (Member) on Oct 21, 2007 at 8:49 pm

    @darkwizard,

    The Parada S2 is great in the dry, but on slightly damp surfaces, a bit of caution is needed. In heavy water, the Paradas work great.

    New tyres have to be scrubbed-in to get good grip. Usually a few days of hard driving and a few heat cycles will bring grip to maximum.

    With significantly grippier parada’s on the front, you can get into a snap oversteer under braking if you are not carefull. I use Parada up front and worn out FTZs in the rear when I go into “drifting” mode…well, since I’m FWD, its more like a$s-dragging than drifting.

    This is NOT something you would like to have an unintended experience on public roads.

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  • proton.GL.. (Member) on Oct 21, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    tyre need to be worked before it actually give it optimum gripabality,
    in dry ,id say temperature,
    cold tyre surface in theory the compound is harder ,

    after tyre warmed up,
    the compound is softer with temperature, so itd be able fill to the finest bump and lumps could therefore giving greater friction /traction or grip,

    if it in case of wet tire, tread design is important here i guess,

    well tyre compound play an important role as well,
    cheap tyre -harder compound, last long, noisy, might less sticky, crack might persist if old,
    not sure about its steel belt, good quality or not, might related to ‘swollen’ case.
    ————————————————-
    (taya mahal cepat habis)
    (no flower brake no eat)

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  • w_lighter (Member) on Oct 22, 2007 at 4:22 am

    I personally do not agree that when changing two tyre at a time, it should be the back one which is replace rather than the front. Through experince i hav found that when driving at moderate speed a rear wornout tire will not slide/fishtail. The driver must always be aware and not takes sharpe angle turn or speed in coners during rain. BUT a wornout front tyre WILL increase hydroplanning, braking distance and tyre lockups. As such imho the positive in changing the front tyre first out weight the negatives

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  • rexis (Member) on Oct 22, 2007 at 9:40 am

    Wow, note taken, thanks!

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  • BanyakMasukWorkshop (Member) on Oct 22, 2007 at 10:31 am

    for FWD, i still think the fronts should always be the newer tyres.

    for my FWD car, i usually start out with 4 new, as the fronts wear out faster(usually the case with FWD), push them behind, and put the better condition rears up front. As the fronts(previously rear) wear out, either push them back, get 2 new fronts, or totally buy another set of 4.

    a FWD is naturally understeery(unless setup to oversteer on purpose), so its always a must to have better tyres up front.

    most importantly, always check your tyres constantly. if they’re damaged, or are worn near to the thread depth indicator.. change them.

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  • toyowira (Member) on Oct 23, 2007 at 2:53 am

    dear all ,

    to my curious ,in this condition where front tyre are new and rear with half tread. during wet road or go through puddle of water at normal speed, the front tyre with full tread will sufficiently channel out the water on the road and when the rear tyre come to contact , the road is in nearly dry condition .so the rear tyre will have enough traction on the road already.

    just my 2 cents opinion.

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  • jamsbong (Member) on Oct 24, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    IMO, if I were to save money and change 2 tires, ok, I’ve saved $150×2. $300!

    As you’ll never know, as carefully as I can possibly drive. I end up off the road and hit a tree on a rainy day! My airbag pops and saved my life. Now, I really have to wonder with all these accident bills ahead of me, Was the $300 saving worth gambling?

    Even worse, I could end up in a wheelchair or die.

    If I want to save money on car, I’ll save on other stuff. Not on tires. SERIOUSLY, is a bad advise.

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  • Paul Tan on Oct 24, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    this advice is for those who intend to make the best use of a bad financial situation where you cannot afford to change all 4 tyres.

    maybe you’re blessed to be in a situation where in any case when you have to change only 2 tyres it is by choice and not forced into the situation because you are short of cash.

    personally i have been in this situation many times before. a fresh grad earning less than 2k, with one of his old satria tyres busted because of a pothole. all tyres are about half thread, cannot just put one new tyre, so only can afford a change of two.

    what are you going to do then? will money fall from the sky?

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  • jamsbong (Member) on Oct 26, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    There are other means of traveling. Generally they are much cheaper, safer and much better for the environment. I consider driving a car a privilege method of traveling, and if I can’t afford it, I’ll travel with other means.

    Take a bus, use a scooter (as long as you can service it well, it will be safe), walk, bicycle, hitch a ride.

    To want to drive a car and not able to properly maintain it, it is not only dangerous to yourself but others around you. I think it is just plain irresponsible. Just because someone has been doing it and it is so often done that it feels normal does not make it the right thing to do.

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  • aesthari (Member) on Oct 30, 2007 at 10:17 am

    4G63T DSM:

    Running more PSI in the front helps acceleration, but the wheels are stiffer and tends to bounce more, and also, with more pressure, the contact patch will be less on the front tyres. This all contributes to less traction, not more.

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  • Long time from original posters, but fwiw agree with Paul.

    Anyone changing just two tyres, maybe see video below:

    http://www.michelinman.com/tire-care/tire-basics/reartire-change/

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  • Sammmy on Sep 11, 2022 at 1:49 pm

    Good write up. I have spent a lot of time trying to educate those old thinkers, those “senior” foremen and those having double figures years of driving experience but to no avail. Gave up and let them do whatever they are happy with. Because most of the time, rumours outweigh facts

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  • 740LE on Sep 11, 2022 at 2:57 pm

    Any advise on 4 wheels permanent drive car with different tyre size for front and back? Since the back tyre cannot be shifted to the front due to different size. And the front tyres worn out faster.

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