How do you replace a tire?

On the Road 3 min read

Most car care experts recommend replacing all four tires simultaneously if you’re dealing with normal wear and it’s time to swap out the old ones.

Where do you put new tires?

What if two tires wear prematurely, and you want to replace them with two new tires? Where should you put them? Should you put the new tires on front or back? What if you have a blowout shortly after buying a new car with brand-new tires and only want to replace a single tire?

Should new tires go on front or back?

According to Bruce Chidsey, vice president of Automotive Technical Support for AAMCO Transmissions and Total Car Care, if you’re replacing two tires, the new tires should always go on the back of the car. The same rule applies whether your car is rear-wheel or front-wheel drive. “You always want the tires with better tread on the rear because your rear tires provide stability on the road,” he says. “If you have lower tread on your front tires, you might lose some traction, but you can still maintain control of your car with the steering wheel.”

Putting new tires on the front of the car rather than the rear axle can also result in an oversteering situation. That happens when the two new tires with better tread grab the road tighter in the front than the back and cause your back tires to kick out.

Can you replace a single tire?

In most cases, replacing a single tire is only good if your car tires have experienced minimal wear. If your tires are brand new and you run over a nail, it’s possible to swap out only one tire. You can also patch the tire if the damage isn’t in a critical spot. But be careful when driving with a nail in your tire. Replacing one tire is different if you have a newer model four-wheel drive.

Even minimal loss of tread depth can throw off your car’s differential, the set of gears that transmits engine power to the individual wheels. One new tire with more tread than the other three tires can cause major problems. “This could lead to warning indicators on the dashboard and affect how the car drives because one tire will be working harder than the others,” Chidsey says.

Should you replace two new tires at the same time?

Most brand-new tires have a tread depth of around 10/32 inches. As a general guideline, you don’t want a difference of more than 3/32 inches between the new tires and the tires you’re keeping on the vehicle. “If your existing tires have a tread depth of 7/32 or higher, go ahead and replace the two and put them on the rear of the car,” Chidsey says. “But if the tires you’re keeping have a depth of 6/32 inches or lower, it’s best to go ahead and change out all four tires.”

You can use a penny to track tread depth yourself. Place the coin into the tire’s tread groove, and if the tread touches Lincoln’s head, that means there are at least 4/32 inches of tread left. However, when deciding how many tires to replace, find a good mechanic or a local tire shop that can provide the most accurate reading. Learn how to check tire tread depth.

Do new tires have to be the same as the others?

When replacing two new tires, try to purchase an identical match: the same tire from the same manufacturer. If that’s not possible because the tires are discontinued or unavailable, be sure to match the same size, tread design, and speed rating, which you can usually find on a label inside your driver’s side door. Your owner’s manual will also provide tire size information, including whether your current tires are all-season or performance models. When buying new tires, be sure to get the right tires for every season.

When your vehicle has four tires that are an exact match, Chidsey recommends rotating them every second or third oil change to ensure their treads are all wearing evenly. Keeping your tires inflated to the recommended tire pressure can also help your tires wear evenly. However, rotating isn’t necessary if you switch out only two tires. Instead, you’ll want to rotate them when you buy your next new pair.

Was this article helpful?

4 min
1 min
3 min
3 min
3 min