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Best tires on front or back?

I bought a 1999 Toyota Camry XLE in August in Utah and now have it in Massachusetts. I knew, when I bought the car, that the tread on the front tires was wearing thin but the tread on the back was still pretty good. A few months later, I'm looking to purchase just two new tires (instead of four) due to financial restraints.

The worst two of the four are currently on the back wheels and the best of the two are on the front.

If I get two new tires, should I have them mounted on the front or rear wheels for winter driving?

Do I need more traction on the front to be able to dig in? Or do I need it in the back to keep the rear of the car stable in turns in wintery conditions. I've had the rear end slide around a bit during a turn at an intersection at a very low speed -- I suspect mostly due to lousy tread.

Thanks for your help!


  • edited February 2010
    This comes up often here. The majority (but not unanimous) opinion will be that the best tires go on the back. You brought up the reason already, which is that you don't want the back tires to lose traction in a turn. Most drivers can safely recover from the front tires losing traction. Very few drivers can recover from the back tires losing traction.

    Chances are that your tire shop will insist on putting the better tires on the back anyway.
  • edited February 2010
    I too would have the new ones in the rear. But I would also figure out how the dig up the $$ to do all 4 tires. But that's just how I am - I buy & wear 4 at a time.
  • edited February 2010
    Best tires to rear. Getting going is not as important in winter conditions as stopping or ability to maintain stability of vehicle.

    Majority of tire shops in modern times will not mount a pair only of new tires on front wheels for FWD.
  • edited February 2010
    I agree with the others. Putting the best tires on the rear axle is safer than putting them on the front axle. However, before the dissenters chime in, let me play devil's advocate.

    When you apply your brakes, most of the braking (usually about 70%) is done in the front. The other ~30% of the braking is done by the rear brakes. Therefore, expect your emergency braking distance to be a little longer if you put the worn tires on the front.

    Generally, especially with front wheel drive vehicles, the front tires wear faster than the rear tires, so if your goal is to rotate your tires to have them wear evenly, it makes sense to put the good tires in the front.

    However, if your goal is to be safe for now, and replace the two bad tires shortly when you have the money, put the bad tires in the front and the good tires on the rear.

    The reason I make these points is to urge you to replace all four tires. It is really the safest option. I also urge you to slow down in corners and get your tires rotated with every other oil change.
  • edited February 2010
    70% of braking on the front with the best tires means when you slow on a slippery(winter MA) surface car will want to swing right around. This 99 car likely does not have stability control which can compensate for this somewhat.
  • edited February 2010
    Poor drivers and poor handling cars do better with the better tires on the rear. But if your car handles well and you have above average driving skills, the improved winter traction (on a FWD car) you get by putting them on the front might pay off..

    As others have said, you should REALLY try to mount 4 new tires. It can make a BIG difference in driving security that you must deal with EVERYDAY!!
  • edited February 2010
    I know, I am wrong, but I want my best tires on the front. The steering is better and safer, and the balance probably would be better. If i had a flat tire or a blowout, I would rather it be on the back.
  • edited February 2010
    I agree with the best on rear theoretically....but practically speaking, I may put the newer ones on front if I couldn't afford 4 and if the ones on back still had good tread and better than half their life. It's more critical that the tires match in performance which includes tread wear, but also design, size etc. Other wise, if you don't put the "slightly" better ones on front, you may NEVER be able to rotate the tires on a FWD car. So for me, it's a matter of degree...big difference in wear, better on back; slight difference, I could do what's expedient.
  • edited February 2010
    With the best tyres on the front, in a panic stop the front end grabs and the back end tends to loose grip. It only takes a little bit to start the back end skidding around to the front so you are looking where you have been and can't see where you are going. Stick with the best in the back.

    If you have a tyre that is bad enough to be a blow out risk, please part that car until you can save up enough to get proper safe tyres on it.
  • edited February 2010
    With all due respect, may you never have a blow out on the rear of your car. You have more control if it happens on front.
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