The age old question. The short answer is that its safest to replace all 4 tires but, in some cases you may change 2.
*(FWD = Front Wheel Drive / RWD = Rear Wheel Drive / AWD = All Wheel Drive / 4WD = Four Wheel Drive)
Which tires wear out the fastest in FWD / RWD / AWD / 4WD?
In FWD cars, typically the front tires wear out the fastest, especially if all four tires aren't regularly rotated.
In RWD cars, typically the rear tires wear out the fastest, especially if all four tires aren't regularly rotated.
In AWD / 4WD cars, typically the front tires wear out the fastest, especially if all four tires aren't regularly rotated.
Why do tires wear at different rates?
Tires can wear at different rates due to a number of variables; driving style, road condition, camber, suspension, off-road, turning and cornering, braking, acceleration, not rotating tires regularly, and differences in tread depth, brand, model, tread pattern, speed rating, and other specifications.
FWD / RWD
Can I change 1 tire?
On a FWD (front wheel drive) and RWD (rear wheel drive) vehicle, if you change 1 out of 4 worn tires (half tread remaining or less) then the new tire will spin slower than the other 3 worn tires, potentially sending false signals to the traction control and ABS (anti-lock system).
In addition, having one mismatched tire (regardless if its tire tread depth, tread pattern, speed rating or size) will affect traction, acceleration, braking, turning, grip, and can cause faster wear. This can change the behavior and feel of the vehicle.
Should I change 1 or 2 tires?
If you can only change1 tire, it's best to use the same exact brand, model, tread pattern, tread depth and specifications as the other 3 tires.
Its better to change both tires on that same axle. However, the best thing to do is to change all 4 tires. This ensures maximum safety and performance on the road, a zero compromise solution.
Should I change 2 or 4 tires?
If you must choose between changing 2 or 4 tires on your vehicle, its always best to change all 4 in order to maximize safety.
If you decide to only change 2 tires, its best to use the same exact brand, model, tread pattern, and other specifications as the 2 worn tires. These new tires should be placed on the rear axle.
AWD / 4WD
Can I change 1 or 2 tires?
Some manufacturers of AWD (all wheel drive) and 4WD (four wheel drive) vehicles recommend all 4 tires to be replaced even if you only need 1 tire changed. This is because worn tires have a smaller overall diameter than brand new tires and this difference can cause the new tires to spin slower, causing strain and possible damage to your vehicle.
If you can only change 1 tire, it's better to have no more than 2/32" difference in tread depth between the worn and new tires. Make sure the new tire is exactly the same brand, model, tread pattern, and other specifications as the other 3. However, the best solution is to replace all 4.
FWD / RWD / AWD / 4WD
Do new tires go in the front or the back?
Regardless of how many tires you change or what drivetrain you have, it is advised by industry tire experts to place your new tires on the rear axle of your vehicle. If new tires are placed in the front, your rear worn tires would be more susceptible to hydroplaning.
Please refer to your owner's manual for specific guidance on tire changes.