When Replacing Only Two Tires, Should the New Tires Be Placed on the Front or Back?

When Buying Two Tires Instead of Four, Place the Two New Tires on the Rear

By: Matt Wetherington


In an ideal world, motorists who need new tires would always buy a complete set of four at the same time.  However, for various reasons, many consumers purchase two new tires instead of four.  If you are here for a short answer on where the two new tires should be installed, always place the new tires on the rear when buying two tires instead of four.  For the long answer, read on.

If you are replacing a pair of tires, it’s important to understand where the two new tires should be mounted.  Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of confusion about this issue.  Most tire experts recommend mounting the two replacement tires on the back in virtually all circumstances.  However, according to a study conducted at North Carolina State University, approximately 75 percent of all drivers think that if they have a front-wheel drive vehicle, their two new tires should be mounted on the front end.

In some ways this belief is logical.  After all, in a front-wheel drive vehicle, the front tires are responsible for steering, transmitting acceleration, and most of the braking forces.  Because of the stresses placed on them, the front tires of a front-wheel drive vehicle normally wear faster than the tires on the rear.  This is why car manufacturers recommend periodically rotating a vehicle’s tires – to keep the tread wear on all four tires more or less equal throughout their lifespan.

When Buying Two Tires Instead of Four, Placing the New Tires on the Front is DANGEROUS.

When a vehicle’s rear wheels lose their grip on the road, the driver’s ability to maintain vehicular control is severely compromised because of oversteer (an occurrence that’s also called “fishtailing”).

Oversteer (and the loss of control it can lead to) “occurs in many rollovers and single vehicle loss-of-control accidents.”  It is far more difficult to control than understeer, which occurs when a car’s front wheels lose grip.  The risks associated with oversteer are severe enough that the tires with the better tread (i.e., a pair of new tires) should always be mounted on the vehicle’s rear wheels.  There are “virtually no exceptions to this rule.”  Sadly, most consumers have not been made aware of this important tire safety principle.

When tire failure occurs – even of the hydroplaning or oversteer variety – the result can be severe injury or death.  To reduce the likelihood of this happening, experts recommend replacing tires as and when needed, but at a minimum, every six years is a good rule of thumb.  Often, replacement is done in pairs, but the new tires are frequently mounted on the front.  This is an unsafe, dangerous practice.

Tire manufacturers have a responsibility (ethical and legal) to educate consumers and communicate tire-related safety information and precautionary warnings.  Given the importance of mounting new tires on a vehicle’s rear wheels, the potential risks involved with putting them on the front instead, and the dearth of exceptions to this rule, tire manufacturers and retailers must clearly inform consumers that no matter what, a new pair of tires should always be mounted on the rear.




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