TIRE questions

I have a 2004 Buick Century, and I was just looking at the tires installed by the previous owner. Thankfully, all 4 tires are the same size (P205/70R15), they’re all steel belted radials, and they’re are all M+S (mud & snow). I’m going to very soon replace the front 2. Isn’t it best to have the best (new) tires on the rear? Although the 2 tires currently on the rear have a lot of tread left, they don’t have the same tread design (one has 2 grooves, and the other has 4 grooves). So will the mismatched designs also affect whether it’s best to have this pair on the front or rear?

The tire shop I use says if only buying two tires they should be on the rear no matter if it is front or rear driven. But I would buy 4 at the same time because of safety for the people I care for.

This question has been discussed ad infinitum. The major consensus was to put the good tires on the rear. I in my 2wd vehicles have never rotated tires, put the new in the front, and the old in the rear. I am not talking about tread bare tires, but good and great. I think if you keep decent tires on all your wheels, and drive within your limits you will not have a problem whichever way you go.

The new tires should go on the front!

Best case is 4 new tires

Nope, back. Go to tirerack and see.

Steering is more important then going. You need best traction on the rear to steer. You can’t turn successfully with out a stable base to turn from. The most important foot for turning left for a person, is the right foot, the opposite to the turning foot as that supplies the necessary traction for turning. In cars, you turn off the rear wheels. That means the rear tires. Stability in the rear is most important for control. You can’t turn as well obviously with poor tread on front, but you can at least maintain control and won’t spin as quickly. Tread differences of less then 2/32 inch are insignificant. So rotate to maintain and stay within this difference

The fallacy of not rotating your tires is, you have to replace them a lot more frequently to maintain any semblance of equality in tread depth. It isn’t like tire experts make this stuff up and people who disagree know better ! If you drive in snow and on ice with unequal tread depth and design, you tempt fate.

Btw, you can’t drive within the limits of poorly managed tires if all of a sudden you have to make an emergency maneuver you did not plan. You must plan for worst case scenario when driving. That means, doing what the experts say.

They go on the rear.

If you ever race in slippery conditions, you want the good tires in the rear.

Taking a corner where the rear of the vehicle loses traction is much harder to control than if the front of the vehicle loses traction.


Bad tires wear faster on the front. I always put any uneven wear on the rear. They wear better

No Racing

I once ran bias on the front and radial on the back. In the winter no less


Normally I would have said put the new ones on the rear but the mismatched tires then on the front would be a concern to me in the winter. Even being the same size and type, the different tread designs up front would undoubtably cause different traction characteristics.

And the question the OP asked but no one answered:

The mismatched tires?

In emergency situations, vehicles tend to pivot around any odd tire - and the more different the tire is, the stronger this tendency.

It’s hard to tell from the description what is different about the tires - other than the tread pattern, which might be meaningless. Advice? Look at the speed rating and see if there is a difference. if not, likely the difference is minimal enough to take the risk. Oh and these should go on the front.

But if you aren’t much of a risk taker, then replace all 4 and be done with it.

Two thoughts.
. The faster you go, the greater the potential problem of both unequal tread design and wear differences. Speed is a magnifier of problems. So, driving at city speeds in dry weather may never be a concern. A rain soaked road at 70 ?

The big problem with different tread designs is, you don’t know which has worse traction under different conditions. The newer tire of one style may be worse in rain or snow…if you put them on the back, it could be as bad as putting the worse there in different weather. That’s why you don’t mix tread designs.

The mismatch still concerns me. So you need two tires and the 3rd is a mismatch from the 4th? Seems to me you just replace all 4 and start over. How bad can it be.

For some reason that I can’t recall right now, I started going down the road with one car replacing two tires at a time. It was a continual hassle trying to get the same tire again two years later and never ended up with a good set of tires all around.

– I addressed roughly the same question several years ago with our 2wd Ranger, using two studded tires and two non-studded ones in an empty parking lot after a wet and slippery snow (sample size n=1 so this is anecdotal. Years ago, studded tires gave more traction in these conditions, which may provide a rough analogy for your question). As I recall,studded tires in the front seemed more controllable in normal braking and turning, but for sudden or higher-speed stops and turns, the truck spun quickly, which was fun in an empty lot but more dangerous on the road (it’s better to hit a mailbox with your front end than with your doors). Four higher-traction-on-the-ice studded tires made things seem considerably safer (we had these at the time and just wanted to see if the extra grip justified the high extra noise).
– I also found increased speed and increased steering corrections made more of a difference than I would have thought. When traction is bad, fast driving is poor driving.
– How well you drive probably matters more than where you put which tires: I also discovered practicing in an empty parking lot at the first snowfall was an excellent way to beat the steep learning curve that happens every winter. Over 20 years ago our car club put on a driving school and they used bald tires on an empty lot that they doused with water to show how to drive when traction was poor, and this may be worth investigating. Where you live also makes a difference and if you are well outside the snow belt it may not be a big deal.
– BTW one problem with buying two tires rather than four is that when you buy your next set, the tread design may have changed (even if the name of the tire is the same).

Bottom lines: In an ideal world it may be best to get four high traction tires at one time, and practice your driving skills in low traction situations.

I see i earned a “Disagree” for my comment here. The fact is if you want to get the most life out of your tires the new ones go on the front. Just like i said.

Who wrongly disagreed with me…no christmas card for you

Bad bearing,

First, you are factually wrong about tire life. The front tires on a FWD wear 2 1/2 times faster than the rears. But no matter how you slice it, it doesn’t matter if you put the tires on the front or the rear, the overall tire life for the entire vehicle is unchanged regardless of where the tires start their life.

More importantly, you get longer wear by rotating tires because the part of the tire that gets unused in one position, gets used in another position, and that now used portion results in a longer life.

Second, the reason new tires go on the rear has to do with safety, not tire life. Having the new tires on the rear reduces the risk of the rear end spinning out. - And when a vehicle regains traction after losing it, it’s better to be pointed in the right direction. Hard to steer going backwards.

Testing by the tire industry has shown that on a FWD vehicle, having the new tires on the rear is safer. A typical FWD vehicle has about 60% of its weight on the front wheels, meaning that the front already has a 50% advantage (more weight = more traction). Having less tread on the front exascerbates that imbalance, as many people that have slid out on exit ramps can testify. Load transfer to the front during braking can even make the difference greater.

There’s a famous test film that was made public years ago by the Michelin Testing facility in France that clearly shows this difference. Some companies have established a “new tires always on the rear” policy that may make your question irrelevant. Your shop may refuse to put the new tires on the front.

By the way, as already mentioned, how worn are the current rear tires? If they’re getting down to where the wear bars are obvious, you should change all four.

I know tractors and plow trucks and sand trucks and dump trucks and …you name it are not cars, but everyone of these working vehicles REQUIRE maximum traction on the rear. Everyone of them are absolutely unforgiving and dangerous to operate without it. It’s hard to explain to a life time fwd plow driver who feels safe going in a straight line, that absolute best stability and traction in the back is best.

As far as non rotating is concerned, fwd wears the front tires, not only faster, but much more unevenly. If you don’t rotate, safe mileage in snow is reduced dramatically.

The question of rather it is better to lose traction on the front or the rear always amuses me. Do you want to plow into the tree head first or backwards. I’d prefer to not loose traction at either end.

As for the difference between putting the new tires on the front or the rear, if there is that much wear on the old tires that it will make a difference, then I replace all four, other wise I don’t think it makes any difference, but if I have a FWD car and the rear tires have 8/32" or more tread depth, the new ones are going on the front.

Think about it, not much difference between the old and the new, and if you put the new on the rear, that difference is going to grow and pretty soon, you will not have the option of rotating the tires at all. Put the new on the front and the front will wear faster thus decreasing the difference between the tread depth between the new and the old.

On the other hand, if economic conditions precluded buying all four tire at one time and the two to be saved were less than 8/32", then I would put the new on the rear and hope for good weather until I could afford two more new tires for the front, and hopefully I 'd get them before the rears wore down more than to the 8/32" tread depth.

This something hard to agree on,I tend to drive per conditions and always put the good ones on the front which does most of the steering and stopping,my Boss likes to drive on a rubber bag that will still manage to hold air and brag on the mileage He can get(a bald tire holds good on dry road)-Kevin