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Which end of car to put the GOOD pair of tires?

Used to be all knew that on rear wheel drive the better pair of tires goes on back. On front drive better pair in front. I have switched to all wheel drive where 60+ power goes to rear so I put best rubber on rear. Recently gave co-worker concensus opinion on her front drive to put new pair in front, leave OK pair on rear and toss the baldies from the front. She called from the tire shop to say they wanted a disclaimer to put new pair in front. Per the manufacturer. (GM). I researched on line and found manufacturers switched over last ten years from good pair in front to good pair on rear. Regardless of drive! Can anyone explain this?

You don’t want the rear end or your car sliding around putting you into a spin, do you?

Don’t drive on any bald tires. Buy some inexpensive used ones off Craigslist that still have good tread on them.

Lots of comments on this topic, you can use the “search” feature of the site to find them. If the rear tires break loose in a skid the car is out of control. Therefore better tires in rear are recommended.

The best tires go on the rear regardless of the type of drive the vehicle has.

The “better tires on the drive wheels” rule was enacted so you could keep driving in the snow or other low traction situations and have less of a chance of getting stuck. People eventually figured out that the ability to control the car was a little bit more important than the ability to not get stuck. When they figured this out, they also figured out that understeer (steer tires plowing) is much less dangerous and much easier to control than oversteer (back end sliding). Having the better tires on the rear reduces the chance of oversteer, or spinning out. Ideally, of course, you should have matching tires on all four corners, and rotate them to keep them matching, but if you can only replace two of them, putting them on the rear will lessen your chance of losing control of your car during foul weather or evasive maneuvers.

The best tires always go on the rear. With worse traction in the front, the car will understeer, which a typical driver can usually recover from. With worse traction in the back, the car will go into a spin, usually leading to a crash.

"Ideally, of course, you should have matching tires on all four corners, and rotate them to keep them matching, "

Which is my problem with “better tires on the rear.” With a FWD car, if the “better” tires (the ones with more tread) are on the rear, the “worse” tires on front will be losing tread at faster rate than the rears, leading to ever-more-disparate tread depths.

The only way to “keep 'em matching” is to put the (slightly) worse tires on back, until the (slightly) better tires “catch up” to the rears, due to a faster wear rate. Strictly speaking, you cannot rotate tires AND have the better tires always in the rear (on an FWD car).

“They also figured out that understeer (steer tires plowing) is much less dangerous and much easier to control than oversteer (back end sliding).”

And I don’t understand why everybody nowadays thinks correcting for oversteer requires the driving skills of an F1 driver. Sure, it’s counter-intuitive the first few times, but if you practice the procedure on snowy/dirt roads, it becomes second nature quickly. (Not only that, “practicing” this maneuver is FUN.)

Besides, the typical “people hauler” has such an understeer bias that overcoming that tendency is beyond “mismatched tires’ poor power to add or detract.”

Simple. We all generally agree that it is better to see where you are going than where you came from. So best on the back.

Just in case you need another opinion; newest tires go on the rear axle, regardless of drive train configuration.

For the reasons stated above.

I am going to go against the grain again, not for the first time and likely not for the last time. I support the position taken by Quad4 and meanjoe75 fan. Put the better tires up front, especially for FWD cars.

For most of the 20th century everyone knew to put the new tires on the front. No need to explain, everyone knows the reasons. More recently the tire manufacturers invited drivers out to the proving ground. They encouraged drivers to drive aggressively on a flooded track, driving cars with different pairs of tires front and rear.

Not surprisingly, the cars hydroplaned more readily when they had good tires up front and well-worn tires in the rear. And so, concerned about liability and litigation, the big tire manufacturers ordered their franchises to insist that pairs of new tires must be mounted only on the rear axle.

Not all of us buy into this new order, however. We slow down in the rain and we allow greater distances between the other cars. We don’t push the envelope on flooded S-curves. And so the 20th-century wisdom is good enough for us. Better tires go up front, rotate them for even wear, and be able to replace tires in sets of four. Have all four corners match. Find a shop that offers free rotation and that will carry out the customer’s instruction.

In short, if hydroplaning and spin-outs were a common everyday hazard I would certainly accept the current advice of tire placement. But I prefer to rely on safety by proper driving technique. And so I retain the well-known advantages of having better tires up front. My choice. Everyone else can do as they please.

After Costco gave me 2 new tires for $20 under their road hazard warranty, I hang the rear out within 3 miles. New tires in the back gives LESS traction on the dry sunny day that I was driving; they have more flexible treads then the old front tires. However, the reverse is true when the road is wet.

All 4 wheels should have good tires. Otherwise you’re inviting trouble. Especially from bald tires.

In the old days, you would put the good tires in the front. The reason was most brake systems had the bias of the brake system at the front. So when coming to a stop in snow, the front tires would grip better so the rear tires wouldn’t push the vehicle past the point where you wanted to stop. If the new tires were in the rear, the front tires could lock up before the rears and thus the new rear tires could push the vehicle past the point where you wanted to stop. But those are the old days.


I have seen so many discussions on this, my philosophy was the best tires on front, as a rear tire failure is preferable over a front tire failure, and it is not how fast you can go (rwd) but how well you can steer and stop, both functions more dependent on the front tires. The argument is your rear end will slide out, I have not found that to be a problem but I do not run bald tires.

This is really a bogus question. Well worn tires have better dry traction on pavement for stopping and turning and worse in rain then new of the same type. Snow tires generally have better winter traction on snow or ice but worse rain and dry road traction then summer treads. Because the traction requirements can change as you drive with the surface, you may never have the best on the rear if the tires on one axle are different or worn and you should have equal tread wear within reason and the same tread design on all tires.

Anyone who in general does not put the best traction on the rear first when chains or other devices are used has never driven a tractor, garden or otherwise and is influenced by the fwd mentality. The rear wheels are still more important Stability wise. That’s why bumping the rear quarter of a chased car by police causes a spinout, fwd or not.

I disagree Waterboy. Your ability to steer safely is based upon the stability of the rear to turn or brace against which is just as if not more important as the turning wheels.

Meanjoe 75 and Steve F understand my thinking. On FWD a little practice and you can manipulate throttle to correct for the rear getting loose. But of course stay away from pushing to the limit to avoid the situation. As the newer tires on front do wear faster as they wear down to meet the older rears start rotating again to keep them balanced. Not talking about severly worn tires. Just differences of 10-25k miles. With fronts carrying most of the weight, turning the car, and transfering power to the ground, there is where you want best traction. You can get into this sit by either not rotating enough and letting fronts wear faster from new or, if one tire is unrepairable and you must buy a new pair. I say keep better pair up front until they wear to match the older rears then start rotating again to keep matched. Learn how to control your FWD by throttle manipulating to keep rear under control. Don’t push the envelope. Mark9207 right about best on drive wheels theory. Wrong about over/under steer controlability. On FWD oversteer correctable with a bit more throttle. SteveF right about manufacturers liability causing this line of thought to comp for poor driver training.

Would you rather hit a semitruck head on, over steer due to poor tires on rear? or an oak tree, under steer due to poor tires on front?

Good tires on the rear.

If you drive on icy or snowy surfaces without a doubt put the better tires on rear. The advice to the a contrary is likely from folks here who have little to no winter driving experience.

Winter (ice/snow/slush) is the worst condition and you want the front to stop at the same rate or slower than rear of vehicle. Otherwise you will find yourself in a spin and in the ditch.

If you don’t drive in winter stuff do whatever.

However given you have an AWD I assume winter traction is the mix?

“The advice to the a contrary is likely from folks here who have little to no winter driving experience.”

With all due respect, Andrew J, from my screen name one could make an educated guess as to 1) my place of residence and 2) my age.

Believe me, I’ve had ample winter driving experience. Much of that was as a postal employee (i.e. had to drive every day, even during the ‘blizzard of the century’ in '93.)

If someone was putting tires on, right now in late summer, putting the slightly better tires on front would likely result in four tires of roughly even tread come the first snowfall.

(Of course, if the “worse” tires are MUCH worse, put the better on the rear and budget for new tires in the near future.)

On a FWD vehicle the front wear out faster so how could you ever rotate the tires?