By on January 8, 2016

Photo courtesy of Washington State DOT: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov

Suppose you have a front-wheel-drive vehicle and you’re looking to fit a set of winter tires. Also, let’s assume that two of those tires have much more tread depth than the other two. On which end of the car do you install the better rubber?

According to the CBC, a woman in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada (that’s my town!) ran into just this problem, complete with conflicting advice from two repair shops: One said putting the fresher rubber up front is safer as the vehicle is front-wheel drive, while the other said giving the rear more grip is the best course of action to reduce the chance of a spin out.

Which one is correct?

The vehicle in question, owned by Susan Hachey, is a 10-year-old Toyota Echo. She bought two brand-new winter tires and had them fitted to the Echo by Costco, along with two older tires she already owned.

Later, she went to her local Toyota dealership for an oil change. CBC explains:

“As they were doing the oil change they came out and told me the mechanic was recommending the tires with the better tread be put on the front because it was a front-wheel drive,” she said. 

So she went back to Costco and asked them to make the change.

“The guy at the counter said, ‘Well no. It’s a safety issue. The tires with the better tread go on the back,”‘ she said.

She pointed out her car was front-wheel drive, but the technician told her it didn’t matter because the tires with the better tread always go on the back.

“Living where we live and considering that we have winter every year, I couldn’t believe I was getting conflicting information from two reputable organizations,” Hachey said.

As it turns out, the Costco technicians are correct, at least according to Popular Mechanics:

The truth: Rear tires provide stability, and without stability, steering or braking on a wet or even damp surface might cause a spin. If you have new tires up front, they will easily disperse water while the half-worn rears will go surfing: The water will literally lift the worn rear tires off the road. If you’re in a slight corner or on a crowned road, the car will spin out so fast you won’t be able to say, “Oh, fudge!”

There is no “even if” to this one. Whether you own a front-, rear- or all-wheel-drive car, truck, or SUV, the tires with the most tread go on the rear.

However, as is typically the case, not all is as it seems.

In their defense, vice president of service operations for O’Regan’s Toyota Tim Manuel said, “Generally our policy is that the best tires would go on the rear,” but in the case of Hachey’s Echo it’s “debatable” whether the new tires should go on the front or rear as the old tires were worn to 4/32nds of an inch of tread remaining, making them fairly useless in the snow.

In Nova Scotia, a tire worn to 2/32nds of an inch would be cause for failing the province’s vehicle inspection process. Summer, all-season and winter tires are all held to the same tread depth benchmark for inspections in Nova Scotia, as well. While winter tires are constructed of rubber compounds to provide better traction in colder temperatures on bare surfaces, more than 2/32nds — or even 4/32nds — of an inch of tread is needed for winter tires to perform in snow.

According to Hachey, she didn’t know because she was never told her older tires were unsafe.

So, bottom line: If you absolutely must run two newer and two older tires on the same vehicle, fit the newer ones at the rear. But if you can come up with the extra scratch, do us all a favor and please buy a full set of winter tires — even if they’re the cheap ones.

[Photo: Washington State DOT]

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110 Comments on “Winter Tires: Business Up Front or Party in the Back?...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Oh lordy, 200+ comments upcoming to argue about snow tires + AWD + FWD + RWD + all seasons.

    Don’t nobody got time!

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Let’s page Dave, get his answer, and close the thread.

      Also, she just needs to throw 4 snows on her Echo. Tires be $53/piece.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        ” she just needs to throw 4 snows on her Echo”

        Exactly! A person living in snow country would be well advised to invest in a separate wheel/studded-snow tire combos.

        My father-in-law who lived in mountain snow country kept a set of studded winter tires on steel rims for ten or more years at a time for each of his vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        Sorry, can’t help, I’ve never NOT purchased a full set of tires, and then rotate regularly, keeping wear relatively even, making the above questions pretty much moot.

        My answer to the woman above? Buy a full set of tires.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          That’s the right answer. Shut it down.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            And it’s not like she has to swap the tires herself.

            Most local tire shops (every place I’ve been) will come to your house and swap the wheels in your driveway for a very modest charge.

            How about AAA? Do they offer this service for their members? I know tire changing is free if they have to come out and help you on the side of the road.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            bball, I’d just like to add… paying my way through university, moving to another city after school, starting entry level and all the like, I’ve never been poor by any stretch, but I’ve always had to prioritize my income and make sure I’m not squandering my money.

            There is no two ways about it, doing the required maintenance to keep a car both safe and reliable is not cheap. Its also not optional, IMO. Sadly, more people than not think it IS optional. Bald tires, failing brakes, degraded to useless exterior lighting, cracked windows and failed wipers, just to name a few. Its absolutely disgusting, and its not helped by the fact that these people justify their bad behavior because enough repair shops out there are actually trying to rip them off.

            Driving is a privilege. I’ve always acted as if its my absolute duty that whatever I am driving is not going to fail and cause an accident if at all in my control, even if money is tight. Wrenching myself (in apartment parking lots, in friend’s garages, in my boss’s garage) helps, but still. I believe in always paying rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance and car maintenance on time, and if discretional spending it curtailed, so be it.

            Sorry if this comes off as preachy, but it bothers me. Cars are deadly weapons, and neglecting maintenance is akin to taking the safety off and walking around with your concealed carry in your waist band. At best you only hurt yourself, but collateral damage is always possible.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            If she can afford auto insurance in Canada, a Costco membership, two winter tires, and services her vehicle at the dealership, she has enough money for two more 14″ winter tires on her Echo.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Preach brothers, preach.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Dave,
            I saw a 90s Blazer at the gas station the other day that would drive you nuts. Bald tires. Not just 1/32 bald, but shiny cue ball bald with no tread pattern visible at all. I don’t know how that thing even made it there through the slush and slop present on the roads.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            Thats easy 30 mile. Its a 4X4!!! It don’t need stinkin tread! Tread is for lames who don’t know how to drive!

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Bingo bango. Done.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            No, no! The best answer isn’t the only one! Like getting used tires with more tread for the rear, and if she has a manual, never shifting past second gear!

            Or, for maximum FUN, putting four barely legal summer tires on the Echo and driving only roads that haven’t been plowed to bare pavement. Perfect for drifting, if you get my drift.

            OTOH, if the Echo is just for commuting to work, take public transit. If P-T is not running, it’s too dangerous to be out so stay home.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          davefromcalgary- agreed. Buy 4 tires. If you can`t afford proper tires then you shouldn’t own a car………and if you can`t see that point one shouldn`t have a driver`s licence.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I’m popping up a BIG bowl of popcorn.

  • avatar
    JK43123

    I was right! I told Goodyear to put my two new tires on the rear for traction, and they insisted on the front because it’s FWD. I WAS RIGHT HAHAHA!

    And yes I’m retired so I got time!

    John

  • avatar
    Vojta Dobeš

    Well, 4/32″ seems to be 3mm and some change – which means those should be mounted inside the dumpster.

    And yes, in case there’s just a slight difference in thread depth, the better ones should go to the back.

    The absolutely worst thing to do is to use winter tires in front only and summer ones in the back. You can go up the hill allright, but the lift-off oversteer will get you.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Agreed. They are now worthless as winter tires.

      • 0 avatar
        Kevin Jaeger

        Yep, with 4/32″ of tread I might consider them still usable as 3-season tires if cash is tight, but they shouldn’t be considered winter tires anymore, assuming they were winter tires when they were new.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      “Well, 4/32″ seems to be 3mm and some change – which means those should be mounted inside the dumpster.”

      Best answer!

      Though I disagree with your second point. If there’s really only a slight difference in tread depth and both have a safe amount of tread, I rotate tires on FWD by placing the better ones in front to even out the wear. The only other option would be to always buy in pairs with the new set on the back until the fronts are done. That’s a decent way to do it too. Really, the best way if you’re paying someone for rotations.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    Easy. diagonally place the deeper tires at the front left and right rear. The front left because that should help keep you from understeering into oncoming traffic assuming a LHD vehicle. Right rear because it will help you from oversteering on into oncoming traffic.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I had to explain that to my mom when I bought her two new tires and had them installed on the rear axle, even though her car is FWD. In inclement weather, bad front tires will understeer when they hydroplane; bad rear tires will oversteer as the rear end becomes loose. I, at least, find it easier to control understeer than oversteer.

    So yeah, your better tires go on the rear, no matter which axle is driven.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Car & Driver discussed this recently – and even tested it.
    http://www.caranddriver.com/features/winter-tire-test-six-top-brands-tested-compared-feature

    “No one recommends you install just two winter tires. If you must for reasons of cost, though, the conventional wisdom is that you want the best shoes (or the least worn) in the rear no matter if you have a front-, rear-, or four-wheel-drive vehicle. To confirm or bust this bias, we mixed two sets of Michelin tires, winter and all-season [see “Seasoned Perspective,” below], and ran a few laps of the snowcross with the all-seasons in front and the winters on the back, then vice versa. Conclusion: Putting the winter tires on the front wheels was a lot more fun. Not only was the grip-in-front car easier to steer and brake, it was also 3.2 seconds quicker around the little circuit at Test World. But that lap came with a wallop of oversteer, the kind of rear-end looseness that would catch most drivers out and toss them right into the ditch. Putting the winter tires at the rear yielded stubborn understeer, which is way more predictable than the alternative. So if you’re going to mix tires, for safety’s sake put your best rubber at the rear. “

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      Totally agreed. Last time I changed tired on the Soul, the shop screwed up and only ordered three of the tires I needed. So I had them put a new pair on the front, against their recommendation, just for sh!ts and giggles. I had to promise them I wouldn’t let the old lady drive it that way, which was good advice. It was a mighty exciting week of busting the rear end loose on a FWD car. An average driver would indeed have braked herself right into the ditch. Rear it is.

  • avatar
    iMatt

    I’d prefer to face oversteer (which I did in this situation) opposed to not being able to achieve maximum braking and steering performance. Unexpected oversteer can be scary however, expected and helpless understeer can be worse.

    • 0 avatar
      EAF

      I’m with Matt! If FWD I’m placing the tires with more tread, snow or otherwise, on the tires doing the braking, steering & accelerating. I don’t care what Costco says.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        If the remaining 2 tires have any kind of tread life left on them, I’ll put the new pair on the driven axle so they more rapidly wear to be in parity with the other 2. If you’re driving with 2 tires that are in such poor condition that you have to worry about significant differences in performance versus the new pair, you need a whole set. With AWD/4WD, not even an option.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          “If you’re driving with 2 tires that are in such poor condition that you have to worry about significant differences in performance versus the new pair, you need a whole set. ”

          Exactly. This is why I find the argument for the rears stupid. If the two old tires are in good shape. Put them on the non driven axle. If the old tires are so bad as to cause a severe difference, as in the article, replace all 4.

          • 0 avatar
            Slocum

            Yep. Just what I did on our winter beater — the older tires still have half their tread life left. Not close to bald. So the new ones went on front. With that setup, the set of tires will probably last longer than the car. BUT — I had to rotate them myself to do it. Discount Tire absolute refused to put them on that way.

      • 0 avatar
        carlisimo

        Rear wheels participate in steering too, and in preventing unintentional “steering” while braking.

  • avatar
    runs_on_h8raide

    Cliffnotes version of article:

    A woman Toyota Echo (LOL) owner values life at approximately $300.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      It’s less than that. The Echo has 14s! On TireRack, you can get four 14″ steel wheels WITH four brand new General Altimax winter tires for the low low price of $364!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’ll give you $50.

    • 0 avatar
      iMatt

      Don’t be a dick.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Sorry, I forgot its your job.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          I think iMatt is referring to the LOLing by “h8raide” about someone driving an old Echo, and I therefore tend to agree with him.

          You drive a 10-year old Echo because you have to, not because you want to, and I don’t get any pleasure out of laughing at the poor.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            “You drive a 10-year old Echo because you have to, not because you want to, and I don’t get any pleasure out of laughing at the poor.”

            I hope you don’t laugh at me for choosing to drive my 1989 Camry V6.

            After my son finagled me out of my Tundra, the Camry is my one and only DD.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Oh, if that’s the case my bad iMatt.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            You saying you need to borrow a few bucks, highdesert?

            I’m sure there are some people would drive an old Echo out of choice, but I really think that is the slim minority.

            Keep rocking that 89 Camry V6, it’s a quality car. I learned to drive a manual transmission in one.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            30-mile fetch, that Camry turned out to be a real fun car. It’s more nimble than my wife’s Sequoia and gets much better gas mileage to boot. I use it daily now. No complaints.

            I may even consider swapping out the OEM NGK plugs myself if I could find a way to R&R the three rear plugs.

            Man, that’s tight back there!

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            30-mile fetch, not short of money, just delaying the purchase of a new truck for myself indefinitely.

            Since we retired a year ago, we spend a lot of our time traveling. Just spend 15 days in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, for Christmas and New Year. It was magnifico!

            Once the terrorist scare in Western Europe eases, we hope to spend at least six months in Germany at my wife’s parents.

            We were going to go over these past Holidays but the Paris shootings nixed that.

            So buying a new truck now would mean it would just be parked in the desert next to the Sequoia for all the time we would be gone.

            I’d rather have the money now and buy that new truck when we are going to be staying “home”.

            And that won’t be for awhile. Still have places to go, people to see and things to do on my bucket list.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Sorry, highdesert, was joking on that one. I know from your prior posts that you’ve got it together. Enjoy your travels, but I don’t want to hear no more about Mexican and European retirement vacations when I’m still 30 years from that!

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            30-mile fetch, understand. But don’t deny yourself vacays. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @30-mile fetch

            HDC doesn’t need to borrow any money as he does alright. What he needs to do is adopt me as a grandson, or heir, or something.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            I was thinking the same thing, but his son already got the Tundra. Looks like we’d be last in line.

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            Well, I drive a 12 year old GM U-Body (2005 model built in 2004) by choice because it is cheap to operate, mechanically reliable as the sunrise, and my commute is a brief 7 miles.

            I could afford something nicer, but I elect to spend my money elsewhere. It helps the wife has a Subbie and we have the Holdenized 8 in the garage.

            I have to say – I like not having car payments.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            APaGttH,

            I knew I’d catch some flak about the Echo comment and you may be right. I just know of two people who drive beat up Echos because they simply cannot afford not to, so that probably colored my comment.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            I know a corporate lawyer who drives a 10-year-old (or at least close to it) Echo hatchback, with manual transmission, that she bought new. She’s the best friend of my ex, who is a pharmacist with a ’93 MX-6. I suspect that the Echo is still in pristine condition. The MX-6 isn’t anywhere near perfect at that age, but everything works, it’s reliable, and it would pass a safety right now if it had to.

            Both of them dislike waste and consumption. You really can’t say you care about the environment, or are against western consumerism and materialism in any way, if you’re driving more than you need. However, I have argued that buying a new compact car or CUV would make a lot of sense for safety reasons.

            Both do have full sets of winter tires.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I like the lawyer’s style, I wonder if she’s available?

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            No, she’s married. Nice girl.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Sounds it.

          • 0 avatar
            S1L1SC

            My ex loves her Echo. She bought it new. And would buy anotherone new if she could. But there also is a reason why she is an ex…

    • 0 avatar
      runs_on_h8raide

      Where is she poor? I don’t make fun of poor people, maybe you do iMatt. She shops at COSTCO….do you know the demographic for Costco? Its affluent. I always laugh at the Echo (its a clown car POS and I wouldn’t want to drive that car in snow unless I was terminally ill and didn’t have healthcare) I also LOL at the woman’s dangerous cheapness. Pennywise, pound foolish. Don’t put your assumptions on me, dick.

      bball40dtw is right…the dumb woman can afford a costco membership, shop at costco, pay for insurance, but can’t shell out 200 bucks for tires? GTFO.

      • 0 avatar
        iMatt

        Yeah, from the sound of it, an Echo wouldn’t be large enough for you to tote around your insecurities anyhow.

        I’m sure you drive a lot like you type, that is until you have to step out of your non-pussy mobile and confront people face to face.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    You obviously want the best grip to be in the rear. Loss of grip in rear = snap oversteer. Loss of grip in front = understeer. Which would you rather deal with? Or perhaps a better question, which would you rather the terrible average driver deal with. In an FWD car the ONLY advantage of the better tires up front is getting moving from a complete stop.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Safer? The worn tires on front. You can’t spin out if there is not enough traction to even get you moving in the first place.

    A 10-year old Echo + only bought 2 new tires = serious financial constraint. Perhaps there is a point where you just cannot afford to drive in the snow.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      “A 10-year old Echo + only bought 2 new tires = serious financial constraint.”
      She could just be a tightwad.

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      You would be surprised at how accommodating Ma and Pa tire shops can be. I had several friends helped out by a Walhalla, SC tire shop that would sell good, used tires to those who really couldn’t afford anything else. There are plenty of people who upgrade their wheels that leave 80% tread for recycling.

      Same shop mounted my ’84 Continental Cooper tires white lettering out because the owner said that my ‘Lincoln deserved nothing less.’

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        This seems like good advice. If I couldn’t afford 4 at Costco or wherever, I’d be looking for used ones at a local shop before I would drive in the winter on badly mismatched tires.

    • 0 avatar
      hybridkiller

      “Safer? The worn tires on front. You can’t spin out if there is not enough traction to even get you moving in the first place.”

      Given the choice I’d prefer you not moving at all if the alternative is that you DO get moving – and then get sideways and kill ME.

  • avatar
    jeoff

    Would the same be true for regular tires in places that don’t get snow?

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      For places that do not get snow, my advise would be to put the best/newest tires on the front wheels, regardless of driveline type.

      In case of a blow out, the front wheels will change attitude and direction because they control steering. If it happens on one of the rear wheels there’s less chance of swapping end for end at speed.

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        “For places that do not get snow, my advise would be to put the best/newest tires on the front wheels, regardless of driveline type.”

        Great plan, as long as you’re in a place that also does not get rain.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          I live in the Great Southwest desert, about 99 miles north of El Paso, TX.

          Experienced blow outs at speed on US54 on different occasions.

          The blowout on the rear wheel was just noisy and thumpy. The blowout on the passenger-side front wheel was a handful and caused me to go off the pavement and into the dirt.

          There’s no way you can control a front tire blow out and keep the vehicle on the pavement. Not even with power steering.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            More dependent on the car. On a truck with crude suspension, yeah, I can see a front blowout being a handful. On a modern car it is pretty much a non-issue. I had one at 80mph on my ’84 Jetta, and while exciting, there was no time I was not in 100% control of the car, and it did little more than pull to that side a tad. Made one heck of a racket and lots of thumping and bumping though!

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            krhodes1, I like your description of “exciting”.

            I wasn’t going that fast, 45mph tops, in my 2006 F150, when the front blow out occurred.

            It was more than exciting for me. It watered my eyes, cleared my plumbing and I had a death grip on the steering wheel trying to keep the truck from leaving the pavement.

            Completely destroyed the alloy wheel so that set me back >$400 to replace it, adding insult to injury.

            But it all ended well. A Border Patrolman stopped to render aid and we mounted the spare tire.

            After I cleaned myself and threw away my soiled underwear, I was on my merry way home.

            OTOH, I had a rear blowout on my 1988 Silverado with a trailer and a full load in the bed. A lot of noise, a lot of rubber slapping the wheel well, sparks coming of the steel rim, but no drama.

    • 0 avatar
      honda_lawn_art

      Actually, I think it depends on which end of the car is most likely to slide out, the rear usually.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Yes, always install the new tires to the rear if they are the same size and speed rating.

      The best most inaccurate way of putting it that I’ve ever heard was to “put your best tires where you have the least amount of control”. A Yokohoma rep I knew in the 90’s used to put it like that. His thinking was with worn tires in the front and in the event of a tire failure you could still steer the car leaving the better tires in the rear to help maintain stability.

      Now its mostly about how new tire placement effects the handling ability to the vehicle in the rain and how worn tires in the rear increase oversteer under those circumstances.

      Michelin has a neat track down at its South Carolina Laurens Proving Grounds. Its a nice smooth concrete doughnut with sprinklers around its circumference that is used to demonstrate the effects of tire placement on a vehicle in the wet.

      They take two identical vehicles with the same tires in the same condition except the new tires are placed in the front of one and the rear of the other and they let people drive the cars around the track typically with the new tires up front and just let you go until the car loses control.

      The only caveats are to watch what speed the loss of control occurs at and don’t try to steer the damn thing when it goes. Just hit the brakes until the car slows enough to regain traction by letting the ESC and ABS do their job.

      Then you hop in the second car and take it around the track. The difference is substantial in the amount of control you have by placing the better tires in the rear noting where the vehicle starts to lose control and how much easier it is to regain control compared to the opposite scenario.

      For anybody that installs tires in the US at least it has been a sticky legal issue and I know shops have been successfully sued for placing the tires in the wrong position and the driver losing control and ending up in a life changing situation either through serious injury or death.

      Most big operations like Costco that sell tires or businesses like Tire Rack are fairly well informed about the matter but a lot of confusion results due to mom & pop operations selling tires based on information that was relevant maybe when the Michelin brothers were still gluing tires to bike rims, general mechanics who should stick to changing spark plugs, alignment “specialist”, and dear ol’ dad and granddad who like the mom & pop operations are dispensing advice that was relevant to Fred Flintstone.

      And if you guys think the two tire placement deal is bad you should see what people consider acceptable when it comes to flat repairs and tire fitments on rims along with the proper pressure.

      The latter bit speaks volumes about how well even the crappiest tires are engineered especially when you see egregious examples displayed by those idiots who like to “stance” their automobiles (which frankly is the automotive equivalent of basting yourself in blood and jumping into a swimming pool filled with starving sharks).

  • avatar
    rev0lver

    When I used to live in St. John’s Newfoundland I blew my rear passenger side tire in a snowstorm. Being a poor student at the time I decided to put on the dummy tire instead of paying for a tow across town. The trip was all urban side streets but it was one of the scariest drives of my life.

    I vote for rear tires.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I do find this interesting, even some of the comments and advice.

    We do have snow and ice in Australia, but I’ve only driven on Australian snow and ice a few times. Each time I had a proper 4×4.

    My advice would be to replace all the tyres and not just fit new to the front or rear.

    To have a balanced (not in wheel balance) set of tyres all round is how a vehicle is designed. Also, wheel rotation is not so you can just gain the maximum life out of a set of tyres.

    If you don’t have the money to adequately equip your vehicle so it can operate safely, then don’t drive it until you have the money, use pubic transport.

    This rule applies to off roading, dry warm weather driving, etc.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Yes, the better tires should go in the rear, except if they are reasonably similar. If that’s the case, the better tires go in the front where they will wear-out more. That’s called rotating the tires…

    The real problem is people who only get two tires at a time (excepting those with powerful cars and staggered tire sizes). I don’t really care about them, but become my problem when their luck runs out. You know the feeling: you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic and when you get to the wreckage you think “you really had to take that old POS car on the highway?”

  • avatar
    Jellodyne

    Front wheel drive vehicle will wear the fronts faster, I rotate my winter tires to keep them roughly the same tread, but if I put my deeper tread in the back, they’d just get more unequal as the fronts wear more and more.

    • 0 avatar
      Preludacris

      That catch-22 is the reason I’m currently running tires with deeper tread up front when I know they should be on the back. I bought them used and the previous owner doesn’t appear to have ever rotated them.

      Those of you saying tires are $50/ea clearly don’t live in Canada. Believe me, I wouldn’t have bought used tires if a set of new ones cost only $200!

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        If someone is only paying $50 each for tires they’re either getting the cheapest they can find (which wouldn’t be true snow tires, especially) or they’re buying used/retreads. I can’t get by with less than $120 each even for my little Fiat while my Jeep runs almost $250 each. Even my truck with the most basic tires available (which is not what it wears) exceeds $115 each while the ones I chose were more like $150 each.

        Where is anyone finding them for a mere $50 each?

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          tirerack.com has plenty of tires for the Toyota Echo that are around $50. There are other expenses that will probably bring their fitted cost to more like $80 a piece, but the tire prices are low for 175/65TR14 tires.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            You’re right, a Toyota Echo would be like that; ‘just transportation’ without any suggestion that it could be more than it is. At least the Fiat 500 is fun, as well as economical.

  • avatar
    ajla

    What about if I want to build a drift car?

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    I know both my SuperDuty (real 4WD) and my XC70 (AWD) say “put chains only on the rear”.

    That *suggests* that if you’re going to have winter tires only on two, it’d be rear.

    (I am not sure why Ford and Volvo don’t say “sure, put chains on all four if you *want*”.)

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I suspect this is an issue of clearance for the chains. The front tires swivel, the rears don’t. And more things to tear up in the front if part of the chain comes apart.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    The point is moot. Don’t be a cheap ass; buy 4 matching snow tires and rotate them so they always have nearly same tread.

    If a customer insists on being a cheap sh1t, ask them which they prefer, poor traction or instability.

  • avatar

    I have snows on the front, good all-weathers on the rear. The rationale: the roads around Boston get cleared pretty quickly, so that it’s rare Im actually driving through snow. But when I need to drive in snow,I want to avoid getting stuck. But I’m going to be driving pretty damn carefully, so it’s unlikely I’m going to be putting myself into oversteer.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      In Canada most tire shops will categorically refuse to install the setup you have. It is prone to being unstable but with modern ESP systems it might not be too bad.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I would do the same if I somehow had only two of each. Oversteer is pleasurable to me, I’m firmly programmed to only brake in a straight line unless I’m specifically trying to rotate the back end, and nothing too dramatic is ever going to happen with the relatively minor differences in that setup anyway. Studs in front with anything studless in back, or good tread in front with no tread in back are the two setups I would not be willing to drive on. You still need something back there. There’s a huge difference between having only half the grip in back versus having no grip there in certain situations.

      But I’d never install tires that way for someone else. They’re just not that type of driver if they need me to do such basic mechanical work. Every guy I know who thinks oversteer is a desirable trait to be experienced as much as possible in winter conditions does his own tire rotations/changes.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      Whoa dude crack open that wallet and pony up for two more snows. Never run different tires front and rear, might have to revoke your enthusiast card heh. In the meantime ill stay away from cambridge in the snow…

      Your rationale though is exactly why everyone wants to drive an awd SUV around here though, not getting stuck is the most important criteria!

  • avatar
    honda_lawn_art

    Rear. But really it’s all four because it’s an echo and we’re talking like $80 to have the right equipment in the snow. I’ve been potatoes-for-two-weeks poor but I’ve never been which-end-of-the-car-am-I-gonna-roll-the-dice on poor.

    And if you’re that poor, you can definitely get away with all seasons if they’re good.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Dartmouth, huh? Do you know Ricky, Julian and Bubbles?

  • avatar
    koshchei

    If you can’t afford all four, ride public transit. It’s not worth risking your life or the lives of other drivers sharing the road with you.

    PS. Is Mr. Lahey still camped outside the front gate of Sunnyvale with Randy?

  • avatar
    pragmatic

    this is why all cars should be RWD

  • avatar
    chris724

    Wow, you use 32nds of an inch in Canada? I remember when I drove a 1980 Buick Century wagon, with “baloney skins” on the back. I once got stuck in the snow going downhill.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    JFC, how much to repair even minor collision damage vs a full set of new snow tires? This really isn’t a choice.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    I’m hearing an echo in here….

    Anyway, my issue is with the vehicle inspection legislation, how can they be so dumb as to think the same tread depth measurement should apply to snow tires?

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Here’s what I did with my FWD Saturn Vue:

    I started on a set of brand new tires. After roughly 30K miles, the fronts were wearing down notably, as such will, so I went to my local tire dealer and had them rotate rear to front and put the new tires on the rear. For the next 100,000 miles I continued that practice. Why? Because by doing so I averaged 50K miles per tire and the ones that went on the front were almost as good as new; almost no notable wear UNTIL they got moved to the front. Practical, economical and efficient, since the tires on the drive axle were still practically new. The Vue went through a total of 2.5 full sets in 130K miles.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    California– the land of regulation for everything– has a regulation prescribing tire chains on “drive wheels” under certain specified snow conditions. Snow tires won’t cut it, unless you’re 4wd/AWD with snows or all-seasons. Recently, I was at Yosemite in such conditions and saw lots of FWD vehicles fitted with chains on the front wheels. I made sure to keep extra distance behind these guys on downhills on the curving park roads. I bet they could be a real thrill when using aggressive engine braking (as many auto trannies do these days) or even the brakes depending upon how well the ABS/stability control system works. Videos of cars slowly spinning down icy hills with wheels apparently locked tell me that ABS/ESC is not totally idiot proof.
    I think the worst situation for a major traction imbalance between fronts and rears (with fronts having more traction) is in braking. Even the super skilled B&B would have a very tough time keeping the rear end where it belongs on any but a straight road when having to brake.

  • avatar
    Baldpeak

    Tires on the front if you want to go somewhere and crash. Tires on the rear if you want to be safe and not be able to get out of your driveway.

  • avatar
    MattPete

    Meh, I’d put the good ones in front, but that’s just me. I’ve never had a problem with oversteer in a front-drive car in snow — if anything, I’ve had to grab the handbrake more than once to induce some oversteer so I could make it around a corner.

  • avatar
    DCwiexplorer

    As the owner of a similar Toyota Echo in snow country, (near Green Bay, WI) I can personally attest to the fact that no matter whether the better snow tires are on the front or the rear, the car is so lightweight that two teenage boys will be able to push & shove this car out of any snowbank or drift with relative ease.

    I purchased this particular Toyota Echo because I wanted an economical car that got good mileage (this was before the gas price crash), it has a manual transmission, and Echos are far less likely to be altered by rice-modders than similar smaller Toyotas such as Accord or Camry.

    Not many extras (factory subwoofer is nice) but pretty peppy, and fun to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      My son’s Echo only 2000 lbs. In high school, the starter died. Couldn’t get an appointment for three days to get it fixed. He still used it because it was so light and easy to push start.

      He paid $2k from a summer job and it took him through high school, college, and now it’s getting him to work at his biotech startup.

  • avatar
    zip89105

    Back. The best tires always go in the back.

  • avatar
    DirtRoads

    Crikey. Learn to drive. Who cares what tires are in what position? It’s snow, folks, it’s not going to matter much if you can’t drive in it in the first place.


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