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Replacing two tires

I need to replace two tires on the 2008 Honda Element FWD. I’ve always been under the assumption that the new tires should be in the front, but researching online I’m reading that the tires should be placed in the rear due to breaking. However, everyone I ask are saying that the new tires should be in the front. What would you suggest?

Best tires to the rear.

On FWD the rear end tends to swing around in slippery conditions or emergency. If your fronts are better that stays planted while the lessor tires on the rear come spinning around. FWD is more difficult to recover in this case.

Hence the recommendation for rears on new.

At my local tire dealer they will not put better tires on front…they also “require” a retorque after 100 miles to prevent loose lugs…all for our safety!

read for further info…

New tires on the rear. Always.

I know it seems counterintuitive, but it’s correct, and braking is not the reason.

You don’t want the rear end of the vehicle to lose traction first. This could result in a rapid and uncontrolled spin, which would ruin your whole day.

If you don’t feel comfortable with the two older tires on the front, then perhaps you should be replacing all 4 tires? Even with the new tires on the rear (which is the proper way to go) the fronts should have plenty of tread depth also. If not, then you need 4 new tires not just 2.

4 matching tires is very critical on AWD vehicles. Even in FWD and RWD cars you should have good tires at all 4 corners. Modern cars have ABS, trac control, anti-skid, and stability control systems and these systems work best when all 4 tires provide similar traction characteristics. If the 2 front tires are 50% or less worn and the rears are new you should be OK. If the fronts are more than 50% worn all these systems are compromised and might not provide the benefits designed into them.

The better tires belong on the rear. If you have worse traction on the front, the car will probably understeer if you turn too fast for conditions, but the average driver can usually recover from that. If you have worse traction on the back, the car will probably go into a spin instead. The average driver will usually crash when that happens.

Most tire shops these days will insist on putting the new tires on the back for liability reasons.

However, everyone I ask are saying that the new tires should be in the front. Then everyone is wrong. In day to day driving it is not a problem. However on that dark and stormy night when something happens an you need to stop, those front tyres will do a good job of stopping, but the back tyres will not be able to hold the back of the car in the back, they will loose grip and you will find yourself looking out the front window at where you came from and trying to seer away from danger looking out the rear view mirror.

 [b] Everyone is wrong. [/b]

Let me be the lone voice of dissent…well, question, anyway.

  1. I was under the impression the “ideal” was four tires of roughly even tread. Well, if you put the best tires to the rear (on an FWD car), won’t you just make the disparity ever worse? I mean, how do you even ROTATE tires on a “best pair back” basis?

  2. The reason for putting the best pair to the rear is to avoid oversteer. Given that a typical FWD car understeers excessively, wouldn’t a modest tread disparity just promote a more neutral (but still understeering) handling?

I suppose, if one has zero confidence in one’s ability to correct for oversteer, one might do well to follow the new CW. As for me (and I know I’ll get flack), I’d put the best pair on the front until roughly equivalent tread depth was achieved.

Well, it’s not to avoid oversteer, it’s to avoid a spin caused by loss of traction from the rear. And on wet/slick surfaces, I do have zero confidence in advising somebody I don’t know to correct for what could be snap oversteer/spin. But I agree, it makes rotating tires near impossible.

I agree with you. Given there is sufficient tread on the remaining 2 tires, I would put the new tires on the front. Of course ideally, regular rotation should have the tires wearing evenly so the all get changed at one time.

If you are replacing 2 at a time then you probably don’t rotate. The fronts wear faster than the rear on FWD. So every time you buy 2 new tires, move the back to the front and put the new on the back.

I rotate every 5K miles and all my tires wear evenly and are replaced 4 at a time. You could consider doing that instead. As UncleTurbo said if you’re looking at the older tires on the front and not feeling good about it then maybe you should just be doing all 4.

That is a very vivid and accurate description of what happened to me a couple of years ago on a dark and stormy night … We got out unscathed (even the car) but ever since I am a big proponent of 2 things:

a) Better tires on the back
b) ESP

Another reason to think to put the better tires on the rear is this:

If you’re in slick conditions, like snow & ice, and in a FWD vehicle, you’ll find it harder to start out from a stop if your front tires (the ones being driven) are in worse shape. By putting the new tires on the rear, and keeping the older ones on front, not only do you get the advantage andrew_j refers to, but you’ll find yourself driving a little bit more cautiously, as you realize quickly that you’re having a harder time getting going and subconsciously understand that you’ll have a harder time steering/stopping, too.

Better tires on the front may just make you overconfident and put you at more risk of the problems andrew_j refers to…

“If you are replacing 2 at a time then you probably don’t rotate”

Not necessarily true. I replaced 2 Goodyear tires on my Camry recently simply because I had two tires (not 4) that were worn. Why were the other two (Yokohamas) ok? Because I bought the Yokohamas to replace the other 2 Goodyears from that set of 4 when one of the Goodyears had an internal failure after just 2 years of use (Goodyear was no help for warranty).

So I rotate my tires, but because of a tire defect I’m replacing two at a time. If I had more confidence in the car to last, I might have bought 4. The same thing could happen to somebody if they had an unrepairable flat (sidewall puncture)…