One tire on car different size from other three

My husband and I just noticed that our 2002 Camry has three 205-65 R15 tires and one 205-70 R15 tire. We have driven the car several thousand miles like this (with annoying noise). I have had the tires rotated several times - regularly every 6000 thousand miles - and don’t know if they realized they had made a mistake or not.

When questioned, the tire dealer told us this would not have hurt the car because the only difference was in the width of the tires. But, after checking on the Internet, we see that the diameter is different as well. Since the tire dealer has already lied to us, we are wondering if this could have done any permanent damage to the car?

How do folks recommend that we proceed?

Tina Jones

It could hurt if the odd tire was on front, making the differential work continuously. And yes, the tires have identical width, it’s the hight, and therefore circumference, that differ. Describe the noise.

Differentials work almost continuously anyway, so that’s no big deal. But having mismatched tires is not a good thing. I would demand 4 new tires of the proper size. There is really no other way to make it right. This is THEIR mistake, not yours…

The front differential is designed to allow the two front wheels to travel at different speeds. Here’s a great depiction:


So the differential is under constant load at all times, but the load characteristics would differ during a turn or, in your case, with one tire of a circumference 1.22 inches greater than the others.

In real numbers, the larger tire would revolve one less time for every 635 feet of vehicle travel, or 8 fewer revolutions per mile.

On a going forward basis, I would be a little concerned about how the optional anti-lock braking and traction control systems would respond to the differing wheel speeds in a panic braking situation.

I would keep the odd tire on the back and replace the back tires when it starts to wear out or feather really bad. I had an old car and bought three 165 13’s for it and a 155 13. I told them to put the small one on the left front because I had rear wheel drive. Kind of dumb to knowingly do that. I had no problems.

I agree with texases. Having mismatched tires on the drive end of a car would make me very antsy about the transmission.

Especially if this noise was not there before, the noise is up front, and the noise remains up front even after a tire rotation.

The tire dealer screwed up, they’re lying, and they should cover this for you.
By stating what they did about sidewall height and width the tire dealer is either one of the dumbest dealers on Earth or one of the biggest liars around.

Get this straightened out and avoid them like the plague afterwards.

Just to add one thing. That one different tyre is going to cause a difference in handling, no matter what position it is in, unless it is used as a spare. That said, I would suggest that the difference would be minor.

How many miles on the tyres currently? What is the remaining tread depth? If they are getting towards the end of their useful life, I would just replace them.

The car has been driven about 45,000 miles like this. It never occurred to us to check to be sure all 4 tires were the same when we purchased new tires. We noticed the problem because we were thinking of getting a new set of tires that are on sale and each of us checked a different tire for the size we needed. (The tires have been slipping a bit as we take off from a stoplight or stop sign and the tread is getting down and they are still noisy.) The noise (a flapping kind of noise) got very bad last spring after a scheduled rotation. The tire dealer told us there had been some cupping and that the tires would flatten out some and the noise would lessen as we drove it. (It has never improved.) Right now the odd tire is on the rear, but with all of the rotations done I presume it has been on the front for half of the time.

I don’t think we can ask for new tires at this point, but we will certainly not use this tire dealer again. I would have thought that they would have noticed the problem during one of the regular tire rotations they did for us (and they may have). We just want to know if there is anything we should be looking for damage-wise because it seems like now is the time to have him pay for any repairs that might be needed. Is there anything we could have checked at this time?

You can try to have the tire dealer pay for repairs, but if he refuses to pay, then you would have to take him to court. In court, you would lose, simply because of the time factor.

If you put 45,000 miles on the car since suffering the “damage”, presumably this represents several years of driving. I believe that you would lose simply because of the amount of time involved, meaning that you did not pursue this in a timely fashion–whether you were aware of the incorrect tire size or not. The legal principle here is called Laches, if I recall that lesson correctly.

I agree with VDC driver completely and don’t think you have a prayer of doing anything about this.

Unless I’m misreading something here, “several thousand” does not equate to 45,000 miles and cupping points to worn out shocks/struts. The noise is more than likely the tire cupping and the dealer was making a legitimate prediction that the tires COULD, not WILL, flatten out a bit after rotation and lessen the noise.

They would not have noticed the mismatch during tire rotations because the person doing it is under a workload and would have simply been concentrating on the job at hand without taking time to verify whether the tires matched or not.

The OP expected that the people who rotated her tires a few times should have noticed the inconsistent tire sizes on her car. Well, if those people–operating under time constraints–were supposed to notice this detail, how about the issue of whether the OP noticed this same detail on the MANY occasions when she should have checked her tire pressure? A conscientious car owner will get “up close and personal” with his/her tires every few weeks in order to check the inflation pressure. I use this opportunity to also do a visual check of each tire for damage–as would any conscientious car owner.

What’s that you say? She was not in the habit of checking her tire pressure? In that case, then I would make a case of owner neglect of the car and its tires. That issue, coupled with her failure to pursue the “damages” on a timely basis, makes this issue a non-issue in a legal sense. If this was to go to court, any competent attorney representing the tire store owner would be able to convince the court to quickly dismiss this case as a result of its lack of merit on multiple counts.

I’m sorry tina, but I am a firm believer in the concept of personal responsibility, and the information that you have provided indicates to me that you have not exercised adequate personal responsibility.

As I answered through another web site, I don’t think this has caused any problems - and I’m glad to see concurrence on this forum.

The noise is probably irregular wear on the tires, which is caused by misalignmetn and aggravated by insufficient inflation pressure and insufficient rotations practices - and will go away when the tires are replaced.

Without any provable damage, there is nothing at issue. You know: No harm - No foul!

While I am not an expert on contract law, my expectation, when a tire shop signs a contract to mount, balance, and properly install four tires of the same size, brand, and type, is that the shop accepts responsibility for putting matching tires on all four corners of the car.

As I said, I am not a contract expert, but if there were a legal finding and loss of, say, auto manufacturer warranty rights due to drive train damage resulting from improper tire installation, I would be well within my rights to seek relief in transferring the loss to the tire installer, and I think I would have no trouble winning that argument in court. None whatsoever.

Contracting obligations to third parties is not uncommon at all. When you take your car for service to fulfill automaker warranty maintenance requirements, that is exactly what you are doing. You are free to perform the maintenance yourself or you may contract it to someone else.

On the question of maintaining matching tire size, the original poster fulfilled any personal responsibility by contracting the work to a professional, who received monetary value in return.

There is no ongoing requirement to continuously verify the size of the tires on your car after they’ve been professionally installed. Don’t make me laugh!

This is not just an academic issue, either. Had the original poster been driving an older viscous-clutch all-wheel drive vehicle, the tire size mismatch could have been fatal to the AWD angle gear/bevel gear. The car would have been out of warranty, the bill would have been expensive and the tire installer would have been at fault.

Wow, what lively discussion has resulted from my posting. I am really not interested in taking the tire dealer to court. I just wondered if the mis-matched tires could/would have done any damage to our car, and, if so, what we should be looking for. I do believe the noise is due to uneven wear on the present tires, and I guess we’ll know more once we get these tires replaced.

We do check tire inflation regularly (we want the best mileage and tire wear we can get), but, I’m sorry to say, do not check the tire specifications when we do that. (Naive, trusting soul that I am, I believed that all 4 new tires would be the same when that’s what I paid for.) I also was very diligent about getting those tires rotated and aligned on the 6000 mile schedule that the tire salesman recommended. (Another tire dealer we have talked to has said that they should be rotated every 3000 to 4000 miles instead of 6000. We’ll do that from now on.)

I can assure all of you that when we do get new tires, we will check to be sure all 4 are the same…and when we get them rotated we will again check to be sure the same tires are still on the car.

Well, I just came back from the local Nissan Dealership and found out that I needed 3 new tires and that one of the 3 that was below specs was of a different size (205/65 R16 vice 215/60 R16). Not only that, but my tranny fluid smells “burnt”. I’ve asked them before to look at my tires in the past when they rotated them because I’ve noticed a little shaking or noise at speed. Each time I was given tire pressure, temperature, alignment, ballance, etc for possible causes, but nothing more. After rotations the problem would be different and not as noticable for a while.
I knew this morning that I had 3 tires that appeared to wear more than one, but with rotations and ballances, and checks of air pressure I never thought to check if the manufacturer-provide tires were the same size.
My car is a 2005 Nissan Altima, bought new, and now has 46k miles on it. Burnt smell in that engine’s tranny can mean problems far too early for its age. Could this also have caused the car to lose alignment and ballance more often than necessary?
Unfortunately I’ve not complained enough I guess, and only had half the maintenance done on my car at the current dealership for 2 years. Before that it was at the original dealership I bought it from and they are out of state.
How bad could this problem be and is there any recourse?

Eric, the difference in the sizes of your two tires is just over 4mm, a difference that would be normal just from normal pressure variations. While I don’t like different size tires, I think you need to look elsewhere for the source of your problem if you develop one. I don’t think this is enough to definitively tie it to any problems.

Is it just me who thinks that tires of different sizes (or even different brands of the same size) are a safety issue? When braking hard with different tires and, thus, different friction, I would assume it is much more likely that the car will not keep a straight track.

It isn’t just you. It’s me too. The problem can become even more pronounced on poor road surfaces, such as rain snow or ice.

Is it just me who thinks that tires of different sizes (or even different brands of the same size) are a safety issue?

Not it is not just you. Normally it is best to have all four tyres closely matched and all the same size and model. It would not be too far off to have two models of tyres with the best ones on the back, but IMO it is best to have all four of the same make and model and similar wear with the best ones on the back.

"best ones on the back" because with any car AWD, 4WD or FWD or RWD, you are safest with the best ones on the back.

BTW it is possible that the dealer didn’t “lie”, the person who you were talking to was just a complete and utter moron (as far as automotive service people are concerned).

It isn’t the end of the world, but you should get the tire replaced.