I've bought a car with two worn rear tyres (still legal, but between 3 - 4mm of tread left, so will need replacing soonish) and two brand new (but cheap off brand) tyres on the front.

I'm wondering what I should do when I replace the rear tyres, should I put the new tyres on the front and move the almost new (but off brand) tyres to the rear? I presume that branded tyres would give better economy and road noise being on the front of the car.

  • The type of car and the type of use would be helpful here. The answer for a track focused four wheel drive rally car will be different to a budget run about to take you shopping. If possible, please specify make, model and year of manufacture. – Steve Matthews Jan 11 '16 at 15:39
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    it's a '10 volvo C30, front wheel drive, 17" tyres. useage is mostly motorway driving. – Neil P Jan 11 '16 at 15:45
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    In the US, most tire shops will always put the new tires to the rear of the vehicle (whether front or rear wheel drive). I have no clue why, but they do. I've asked them to put knew ones up front and they won't do it. It's not quite the same situation as tire wear is different for me, but still ... – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jan 11 '16 at 22:21
  • Having better tires on the rear reduces the chance of oversteer – rpmerf Jan 14 '16 at 12:19

One of my tires will need replacing soon as well as it is almost at the legal limit. I have a good amount of tread left on my front two tires. I am going to replace all four tires as soon as the worst one is due for a replacement.

I want to clarify that you should never replace only one tire on an axle, you must always replace them in pairs at least otherwise you could be decreasing the safety of anyone in the car, even if you are driving cautiously.

With that said, I think that you should try to replace all four tires with four mid-high end tires at the same time if you can possibly afford it. This may sound strange to hear given that two of your tires are still fairly new, but I have found that in general cars tend to handle much better on identical rubber.

Not only this, using four identical tires can have a surprisingly positive effect on your fuel consumption. This will be especially noticeable for you as your tires are probably not exactly the same.

The final point I would add is that good quality rubber is going to give you more grip, a much better (and safer) driving experience even if it is going to cost you a little bit more money. It is well worth the extra in my opinion.

Bottom Line

If you can afford it, replace all four tires. Otherwise, get two good quality tires now and buy two more (that match) as soon as you can. Drive carefully in the mean time. Don't rush out and buy four cheap tires, it is just not worth it in my opinion.

  • This is all great and correct advice. I just want to point out that the OP doesn't seem to have the money to go the best route, but wants to improve his traction with a limited budget and working with what he has. – Zach Mierzejewski Jan 11 '16 at 18:30
  • That's a good point, good new tires can be expensive. Personally I would not buy any tires until I can afford the ones I want, so I am not going to recommend anything that I wouldn't do myself. However, if anyone has any good cost cutting ideas I'd love to hear them! – Max Goodridge Jan 11 '16 at 18:42
  • Is there any source that doesn't come from somebody that sells tires that replacing 1 tire is a safety hazard? I'm just curious - I thought the differential would take care of a the minor difference in torque. – coburne Jan 11 '16 at 20:00
  • @coburne See this post. – Max Goodridge Jan 11 '16 at 20:21
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    It's more tribal knowledge. It's front wheel drive, most of the weight is in front. Rears are not drive tires. It's not an all wheel drive Subaru might not like different diameter tires. Manufacturer websites will not recommend buying two less tires so all you have left for citations is opinion. – DucatiKiller Jan 11 '16 at 22:33

Putting your best tires up front is the exact opposite of what every tire shop I've ever been to in the US will do.

You should not put your best tires in the front unless you never drive in adverse conditions like rain or snow.

This popular mechanics article sums it up pretty well:

The truth: Rear tires provide stability, and without stability, steering or braking on a wet or even damp surface might cause a spin. If you have new tires up front, they will easily disperse water while the half-worn rears will go surfing: The water will literally lift the worn rear tires off the road. If you're in a slight corner or on a crowned road, the car will spin out so fast you won't be able to say, "Oh, fudge!"

There is no "even if" to this one. Whether you own a front-, rear- or all-wheel-drive car, truck, or SUV, the tires with the most tread go on the rear.

You will probably get better braking by putting your best tires up front. But I drive in the wet way more times than I have to slam on my brakes to stop short.


Found a reference that summed up what different tire manufacturers say.

Goodyear: www.goodyeartires.com “When you select a pair of replacement tires in the same size and construction as those on the car, we recommend you put them on the rear axle.“

Bridgestone/Firestone: www.tiresafety.com from the Replacement Manual: “Winter tires are best applied to all vehicle positions. If winter tires are applied to the front axle of any vehicle, they must also be installed on the rear. Do not apply winter tires to only the front axle --- this applies to all passenger cars and light trucks, including front wheel drive, 4x4 and all-wheel drive vehicles.“

Dunlap: www.dunloptires.com “When you select a pair of replacement tires in the same size and construction as those on the car, we recommend you put them on the rear axle.”

Michelin: www.michelinman.com “A pair of new tires should go in back. See video.”

BF Goodrich: www.bfgoodrichtires.com “REPLACEMENT OF TWO (2) TIRES It is recommended that all four (4) tires are replaced at the same time. However, whenever only two tires are replaced, the new ones should be put on the rear. The new tires, with deeper tread, may provide better grip and water evacuation in wet driving conditions.”

If you want more just google: 'worn tires front or back'. The links in the reference are out of date but cross referencing suggests their positions havent changed.

It is also interesting that there appears to be a liability issue to put them on the front. So one could believe that everyone's picked the wrong side of the tradeoffs and they're just covering their asses. I wouldn't but the idea's there.

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    Actually that's exactly what we do in adverse conditions like snow - put the best tires on the front. The majority of cars are FWD here and you want as much grip as possible on the powered wheels. Yes, worse tires on the rear means a higher chance to spin out, but that can be countered by simply being more careful on the road, FWD vehicles are easier to control. Countering being stuck in the snow or losing control of your steering because of horrible front tires is much more difficult. In the case of RWD - better tires for the rear, AWD - all tires must be identical. – I have no idea what I'm doing Feb 3 '16 at 12:23

In my personal experience, having used cheap tires myself once, I'd say don't put them on the rear. If you use them on the front, the car won't have as much breaking power and might tend to under steer. Both of these things can be compensated with a more defensive driving style. If the car starts to under steer you'll feel it and slow down.

If your rear tires don't have good traction, you'll have over steer problems which, unlike under steer, you won't feel it until it's too late and you've spun out off control. This has happened to me even at speeds as low as 15 kmh on a wet roundabout, but also at higher speeds exiting the highway.

In summation, if you use cheap tires on the rear be triple careful on every turn, and if you feel the car handles weird change then to the front asap. If the car has trouble stopping or cornering after that, switch to proper tires.

  • Sounds reasonable. They wouldn't be my choice of tyre personally, but I'm not sure I can justify chucking away 2 tyres with 6mm of tread left! – Neil P Jan 11 '16 at 16:39
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    That's what I though too, until I replaced mine with proper tires. But keep in mind that cheap tires aren't all equally bad. Some are still drivable. Mine weren't. Just be careful while test driving, and then make an informed decision. – Davide Jan 11 '16 at 16:42
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    I disagree. Oversteer is very unlikely in normal driving for a FWD. In most situations its also simple to control. Understeer is much more likely and decent tyres also mean better stopping distances, which is likely to be far more useful. – Qwerky Jan 11 '16 at 21:20
  • Like I said, this is from my experience. Normal driving, both slow and fast the car would spin out of control. It's also, most definitely not easy to control – Davide Jan 11 '16 at 21:23

It depends whether you like understeering or oversteering.

I think understeering is more preferable over the other due to thing needs to be done to gain the steering control is simpler; slow down. Correcting/recovering the oversteer with over 1000 degree turn steering wheels nearly impossible. You need to be quick as a snake :) to introduce correcting maneuver in right time with right amount.

So, more grip on the rear is good idea in my opinion.


On a FWD car always have the best tyres on the front.

The tyres on the front are going to do all the steering, handle all the acceleration forces and 80% of the braking. I would definitely want my best tyres for that.

Any worries about bad tyres on the back causing over-steer are unfounded unless they are in terrible condition and you drive like a lunatic.

Personally I don't skimp on tyres, I think they're probably the most important part of the car. They're the only thing connecting you to the road. So if you can afford it, then get 4 decent tyres... but if you can't afford it then put the decent ones on the front.

There is an argument that having the better tyres on the rear will help prevent over-steer and a spin due to aquaplaning. This argument has some merit, but only if you come into the driving like a lunatic category that I mentioned above. The video from michelin at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oa9hzcjdi5Q is an example. If you drive like the guy in that video then you get what you deserve.

You will notice that the co-driver has to encourage him to lose control;

  • "Bring out the Corvette driver in you and hammer down"
  • "Go baby go"
  • "Keep going, go go go go go"
  • "Gotta get to where the rear tyres start to lose grip"
  • "keep going, keep going, keep going, keep going"
  • "Now break hard, I want you to stand on that brake pedal"
  • "Stay on it, stay on it".

Accelerating to a high speed on a very, very, very wet surface and then performing an emergency stop all while negotiating a tight bend is not a realistic scenario at all.

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    Michelin seems to completely disagree – Davide Jan 11 '16 at 21:29
  • I agree with you on FWD, just like if it was RWD i'd say new tires on the back. You want grip with the tires that receive power. If you start to over-steer you better hope your front tires have the ability to grip when you turn into the rear kicking out so you 'drift' (using the term loosely) instead of spin out. – Chris Marisic Jan 11 '16 at 22:17
  • I would not follow this advice. When slipping in the wet, if your front wheels 'catch' while your back wheels are still sliding, your car is going to spin like a pinwheel. In theory if you react fast enough you can maybe overcome this; in slower speeds, around shallower corners. The minor gains in braking are not worth the extra instability in emergency situations. – jmathew Jan 11 '16 at 22:39
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    @jmathew I don't think the braking gains are minor. I think they are very significant. You can find a lot more You Tube videos comparing braking distance with good/bad/worn tyres than you can spinning due to aquaplaning. The difference can be huge. – Qwerky Jan 12 '16 at 1:46
  • @Qwerky absolutely stopping power is what's most important. I have only hydroplaned once in my whole life and it was just straight going straight over pooled water on the road that just looked like a damp road. However needing to 'emergency stop' happens multiple times per year if you drive anywhere there are children, deer, or bad drivers. – Chris Marisic Jan 12 '16 at 16:59

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