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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!!

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.

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.

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.

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.

EllyEllis, you don’t get a lot of snow and ice where you live, do you?

The theory is that in the average car weight distribution is about 60% front, 40% rear. That means the front tires have 50% more weight on them than the rears, and even more when braking. More weight = better traction. Therefore, having the better tires on the rear helps compensate for the difference in traction, preventing spinning. Having the better tires in front can result in you motoring along through a curve with a good solid (in contact) feel in the steering wheel, and suddenly the rear loses traction and swings around causing a spin.

I’ve seen films at testing grounds demonstrating the concept. The theory is valid. It’s taken me a long time to accept the validity, as it’s always seemed counterintuitive to me. But it’s true. The best tires should be on the rear.

First…no matter what it takes, like everyone else has said, buy four new tires. Even if you have to use a credit card, it will be easier to pay off a little debt than hospital bills or deal with insurance agencies.
Second…in my opinion, you shouldn’t put “bad” tires any where on your car BUT, I would put the better tires on the front and drive carefully. You can steer out of rear tires loosing traction (if it’s not bad) but if you loose traction on the front tires you may as well sit back and honk your horn to warn people you are about to hit them. If you have the bad tires on the rear of a rear wheel drive car then it’s probably better that you can’t get rolling because you can’t hit anything if you aren’t moving.
I have a joking tone with some of this but really, if you know your in an area that gets snow then buy all four tires new. Even if you have to get that credit card with the 24.9% interest rate they offer at the front desk.

As you can see, there are different schools here, both with valid arguments behind their thinking. Personally, I’ve had a blow out on a front tire, and one on the rear during the past 35 years of driving. If I was going to perform a risk asessment and minimize my chances for loss of control during a blow out, I’d want my best, newest tires on the front. In my own experience, I can confidently say it was much less scary when my blow out was on the rear. I know my capabilities in the snow and dry surfaces, therefore I would want the extra traction provided with the new tires on front wheel drive cars. If I carelessly sped through corners and thought the rear end might try to catch up with me, I’d want better tires in the rear, but for my driving style, there is no question, new tires go on the front. And oh by the way, during these economically challenging times, it’s easy for one of us to say “just buy 4 new tires” since we’re not the ones opening our check book. If your other two tires are safe, just buy two new ones and put them on the front.

Check this out … Good info …

I stand corrected
I should also state that I am an extreme hippocrit (is that spelled right?) due to the fact that I have on numerous occasions only purchased two tires. But I’m making my earlier statements with the false assumption that all four of the original poster’s tires are really BAD, in which case I would purchase four new ones. If they aren’t all bad then what the H E double hockey sticks.

I’m generally at odds with many but my preference is for new ones on the front.
Generally traction is an issue when the roads are wet and my preference is to have the tires with the deepest tread on the front for water displacement purposes.

New tires will shove more water aside than worn ones and the worn rear tires can tag along in the area cleared by the fronts is the way I look at it.
Worn ones on the front are going to have much more of a tendency to skate than new ones.

Please consider this if you think the best traction should be on front. State Police procedures during high speed chase when the situation presents itself, are taught to ram the rear quarter to send the chased car into a spin, out of control. When this happens, there is often little the driver can do. If a blow out or collision occurs on the front, and car skids, both steering and driving can be brought into play with a greater chance to regain control. You loose the rear end, you have less control…it’s simple, why do some keep fighting it. My point is that if tread depths are close, traction difference is less and within the difference of other factors, like weight distribution, road surface difference etc. Otherwise, significant traction difference should always favor the rear. I drive tractors ALL the time. Have you ever seen one with a traction bias on the front wheels ? We can even steer them using rear wheel variable braking w/o fronts. Traction preference, if needed, should always be on the rear.
And why I have always felt FWD is an engineering trade off that makes these debates so confusing because you have the wheels with the most static influence on front with the traction on the wheels with the most dynamic influence on back.

If the front (or rear) tires have a difference in tread depth of 1/32’, is one axels tires really considered “better” than the others? At what measurement do you consider saying “yes” to this question?