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Mixing tires

OK, here is a possibly hare-brained question: I have a 2002 Solara, and just put new all-season tires on the front. I figure I’ll need to do the rear tires in a few months. I live in an area that gets snowfall regularly during the winter, with sufficient accumulation to warrant snow tires useful for those days/weeks (but it’s not constant snow, every day of the winter). Is it smart/stupid/clever/moronic to pair 2 snow/winter tires with the two all season, and work the rotations so that the snow tires are on the drive wheels during the winter and then get rotated back to the rear for the spring/summer?

What are the impacts on tire wear, generally, with unmatched tires? With unmatched and different “species” of tires? Handling? Wet traction? Anything else?

I’m on the stupid/moronic side for this idea. In winter especially, but all year in reality, you need tires with very similar characteristics at all four corners. Right now your car is set up to spin in a slippery situation because the rear tires will lose traction before the front tires. Most shops will only install new tires on the rear to prevent this from happening. The same (but worse) will happen with your plan in winter.

If you’re strapped for cash, get the two rear tires replaced now and see if the 4 new all seasons can get you through the winter. Otherwise, also get 4 new winter tires (I’ve used for this).

I’m with texases on this one. It’s always a bad idea to mix tires…winter, spring, summer or fall.

Mixing tires (winter on one axle and snows on another) is a bad idea in general. In years prior to ABS, Trac Control, Stability Control and the like you could do it on RWD cars and get away with it. Since ABS came on the scene it simply isn’t safe to mix tires. It confuses the ABS and you might not have any stopping power when you need it the most. Going cheap and mixing tires could cost you a lot more in paying deductables in case of an accident and then higher insurance premiums.

The OP’s plan is totally flawed for several reasons:

The “best” tires (i.e.–the ones with the most tread depth) are supposed to be mounted on the REAR wheels of a FWD car. Otherwise, you risk loss of rear traction on wet roads. If you don’t believe me, check the websites of Michelin, Bridgestone, and other major tire companies for verification. If your tire shop mounted the new tires on the front, then they are not very knowledgeable about modern tire protocols.

Modern technology winter tires (the term “snow tires” now represents old technology) are designed to be mounted in sets of 4. Having vastly different amounts of traction on front and rear wheels during winter conditions is the perfect storm (pun intended) for spin-outs and skids, and your plan of mounting “snow tires” on just the front would give you vastly different amounts of traction from front to rear. This is a particularly bad idea.

Winter tires have a tread compound that is designed to remain soft in frigid temperatures–unlike all-season tires and the old-technology snow tires. That is part of the technology of modern winter tires that allows them to provide far better traction than the old-technology “snow tires”. However, the rubber compound of a winter tire will wear VERY rapidly in spring and summer temperatures. Winter tires should be de-mounted as soon as the threat of snow and ice is over for the season.

So–as texases suggested, either bite the bullet and buy new matching all-season tires for the rear now, or wait until the beginning of winter and buy a set of 4 winter tires. We all want to save money, but your plan could wind up costing you much more in the long run–if and when it results in a collision.

I’m with the crowd. You should have the same tire on all four wheels. If two of those have better tread, they belong in the back to prevent a spin. (Most tire shops will only do it that way.)

Here are two quotes from the Bridgestone tire replacement manual:

“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.”

“If winter tires are installed on the rear axle of any vehicle, it is recommended (but not required) that they also be installed on the front axle.”

And so Donutman, you can get by with only a single pair of winter (snow) tires if you must. And (it seems to me) only if you have RWD or all-wheel drive. If your vehicle has FWD, you really need to go with four matched tires.