Most vehicles are equipped with the same size tire at each wheel position. Ideally all of these tires should also be of the same type and design, have the same tread depth and be inflated to the pressures specified by the vehicle placard or owner’s manual. This combination best retains the handling balance engineered into the vehicle by its manufacturer.
However, due to a front-wheel drive vehicle’s front tires’ responsibility for transmitting acceleration, steering and most of the braking forces, it’s normal for them to wear faster than rear tires. Therefore if the tires aren’t rotated on a regular basis, tires will typically wear out in pairs rather than in sets. And if the tires aren’t rotated at all, it’s likely that the rear tires will still have about 1/2 of their original tread depth remaining when the front tires are completely worn out.
Logic might suggest that since the front tires wore out first and because there is still about half of the tread remaining on the rear tires, the new tires logically should be installed on the front axle. This will provide more wet and wintry traction; and by the time the front tires have worn out for the second time, the rear tires will be worn out, too. However in this case, logic fails…and following it can be downright dangerous.
When tires are replaced in pairs in situations like these, the new tires should always be installed on the rear axle and the partially worn tires moved to the front. New tires on the rear axle help the driver more easily maintain control on wet roads since deeper treaded tires are better at resisting hydroplaning.
Hydroplaning occurs when the tire cannot process enough water through its tread design to maintain effective contact with the road. In moderate to heavy rain, water can pool up in road ruts, depressions and pockets adjacent to pavement expansion joints. At higher speeds, the standing water often found in these pools challenges a tire’s ability to resist hydroplaning.
Exactly when hydroplaning occurs is the result of a combination of elements including water depth, vehicle weight and speed, as well as tire size, air pressure, tread design and tread depth. A lightweight vehicle with wide, worn, underinflated tires in a heavy downpour will hydroplane at lower speeds than a heavyweight vehicle equipped with new, narrow, properly inflated tires in drizzling rain.
If the front tires have significantly less tread depth than the rear tires, the front tires will begin to hydroplane and lose traction on wet roads before the rear tires. While this will cause the vehicle to understeer (the vehicle wants to continue driving straight ahead), understeer is relatively easy to control because releasing the gas pedal will slow the vehicle and help the driver maintain control.
However, if the front tires have significantly more tread depth than the rear tires, the rear tires will begin to hydroplane and lose traction on wet roads before the fronts. This will cause the vehicle to oversteer (the vehicle will want to spin). Oversteer is far more difficult to control and in addition to the initial distress felt when the rear of the car starts sliding, quickly releasing the gas pedal in an attempt to slow down may actually make it more difficult for the driver to regain control, possibly causing a complete spinout.
How Kerry’s Car & Truck Centre Can Help
Your safety and the safe and reliable operation of your vehicle is one of our main priorities. Feel free to drop in for a visit and have your tires evaluated for safety. We offer complimentary air pressure adjustments and are happy to inspect your tires to ensure they are roadworthy.