Why mixing tires is a bad practice.
Timothy Boyer's picture

What You Need to Know About Mixing Car Tires

Sometimes to save money, we are tempted to mix car tires. But is this really safe to do? Here’s what some automotive experts have to say about the practice.
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Tire Question #1: Single, Dual or Full Set?

There’s no doubt about it---buying good quality car tires is expensive. But what are your options when you have a relatively good set of tires, but one has been damaged beyond repair from a road hazard? Can you buy a single replacement tire or can you save money by buying the replacement tires in axle’d pairs rather than as a complete set?

According to a recent Consumer Reports update, answers to questions like these depend on a few commonsense variables. Two of which, are whether your car is two-wheel drive or all-wheel drive; and, what your vehicle manual says.

CR automotive experts tell us that:

All-wheel drive cars have specific tolerances for how much your tires can differ in tread depth. consult and follow your owner’s manual to avoid damage to the drivetrain. For two-wheel drive vehicles (either front or rear wheel) determine how much wear you have on your tires.

“If your tires are less than 30 percent worn you can get away with replacing just one tire and placing it on the rear axle.” says Ryan Pszczolkowski, Consumer Reports tire program leader. “If the tires are all approaching 40 to 50 percent worn, I would recommend you buy two of the same tires you already have and put the two new tires on the rear axle.”

The reason for placing the new tires on the rear axle rather than on the front axle is that it helps maintain a safer and more predictable response with handling the vehicle on the road. However, if your tires are getting closer to approaching as much as 70 percent in wear, then it is advisable to just go ahead and replace the complete set.

Tire Question #2: Is Mixing Brand Models Okay?

Mixing tire brand models is a lot like wearing a Nike shoe on one foot and an Adidas on the other. While the sizes are the same and may fit your feet equally well, you can feel the difference when walking or running. To carry the analogy a bit further, try wearing a shoe with cleats on one foot and without cleats on the other foot and then run from first base toward second base, ending in a slide. The odds are pretty good you will suffer an injury.

It’s really the same with tires that vary in their purpose dependent upon their tread design. If you investigate the physical differences between some of the tires we discussed earlier designed for SUVs and trucks under snow and ice conditions versus tires designed for sedans on hot, dry road conditions, you will find that the style of tread used is grip-optimized for their intended driving conditions. Furthermore, by tooling around even under relatively smooth dry road conditions you may feel an imbalance from mixing the wheel models that could affect your vehicles handling.

As CR experts aptly put it, however, “With tires, the decisions should always come down to safety, even if that means spending a bit more money to do the right thing.”

And finally…

For more about the latest tire-related information, be sure to check out these related articles on the best rated tires for large SUVs and trucks as well as high performance tires for sedans and smaller SUVs that are the highest rated for 2021.

COMING UP NEXT: A must-watch footage of drivers hitting the hardest of turns in a race.

Timothy Boyer is Torque News Tesla and EV reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily Tesla and electric vehicle news.

Photo by David Edelstein on Unsplash


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