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I have driven my car since ~84,000 miles. As stated below, I have replaced the front passenger tire for slow leaks twice. The other tires haven't been replaced since I started driving it.

I am looking forward to replace all four tires. However, a friend made a suggestion that I replace only my two front tires since I have a front-wheel drive car. I am able to replace all four tires, but I am interested in the benefit of doing so vs. replacing only my front two tires.

What benefits will I gain through replacing all four tires vs. replacing my front two tires? Is it worthwhile (cost vs. benefit) to replace my two back tires if I only replace my front two tires on my front-wheel drive car?


Specifications

Car: 2004 Dodge Stratus SXT sedan 4-dr, front-wheel drive, 2.4L DOHC 4-cylinder

Tire Size: 205-R60-16

Tires: Goodyear Eagle LS (front passenger tire is a twice replaced Douglas Xtra Trac for slow leaks)

Current Mileage: ~126,500

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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Let's see if I understand your situation correctly:

  1. All of your tires have well over 40000 miles on them. I've never sold a car with brand new tires on it so I'd suspect that those tires are quite old indeed.

  2. One of your tires is a Douglas Xtra Trac. It's telling that tire-rack.com doesn't even list this brand for me to refer to its rated mileage.

So, given the information in the original question, this seems to be what you're proposing:

  1. New tires in the front of an FWD car.

  2. Old and worn (possible very old and worn) tires in the back.

I wouldn't do this.

It might make sense, thinking that the front wheels pull the car and steer. However, under braking, you're going to have a vehicle that's significantly (if not extremely) biased towards the front: you just won't have the grip in the back that you do in the front.

Why is this bad? Imagine an curving on-ramp where you're merrily zooming up to speed. For some reason, the vehicle in front of you suddenly brakes hard: the deer are really out around here so it could happen. You're naturally also going to brake hard (or eat his rear bumper) while your steering wheel is turned into the curve.

Result: the weight will transfer off the back wheels (where it was during acceleration), onto the front. Those wheels have great grip = more weight + new tires. The rear tires have low grip = less weight + bald tires.

Consequence: drop-trottle oversteer possibly leading to a tank-slapper. There's a good chance that you're going to go backwards off the road.

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Not my proposal, but yes. This is enough for me to replace all four. +1. –  edmastermind29 Nov 11 '13 at 2:16
2  
In addition to Bob's comment - If you've had to replace the same tyre twice due to a slow leak, I'd get the wheel checked. You can often get corrosion around the rim of the wheels that prevents the tyre seating properly, or the wheel itself can go slightly porous. I've never had to replace a tyre due to a slow leak, but I've had several re-seated (literally - take tyre off wheel, clean wheel, re-fit same tyre with new valve/balancing) to cure such leaks. –  Nick C Nov 11 '13 at 11:32
    
@NickC I'll have my wheel checked when I have my tires replaced. I also heard it may have been caused due to difference of tire tread between the front driver side and front passenger side wheel. Does that sound feasible? –  edmastermind29 Nov 11 '13 at 14:00
2  
@NickC is probably right: there's likely corrosion or something similar that's preventing a good seal of the tire bead (unless the brand of tire has awful quality control). –  Bob Cross Nov 11 '13 at 22:53
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Compromising on tyres is never a good idea. Look at the DOT code. (Word DOT on tyre wall, followed by 4 numbers ie DOT 2604) The first two of the numbers give you the week and the second two give you the year of manufacture. Twenty-sixth week, 2004 in the example. A tyre that has done seven years and even though its may still have tread and be undamaged is a tyre to change for new. Keep a balance on an axle with tread depth and tyre age always. The lacquer finish on wheel rims allow air to escape out of the tyre when corroded. If the wheel is in good condition otherwise, wire brush the lacquer to remove it where corroded and apply bead sealant all around the beading seat to prevent air loss. Any good tyre shop will do this. BUT, if the tyre has been run under inflated scrap the tyre.

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