By on March 28, 2009

Eric writes: 

I have a FWD car.  One tire has a nail in it and probably can’t be repaired.
1a)  If the replacement is the same model/size/brand tire, should I replace one tire or buy two? 
1b)  If one tire, should it go in the front right (to wear out the new tire faster, catch it up to the other 3) or rear (newer tires on back avoid oversteer)?

Same question as 1a and 1 b except:

2)  if they don’t have the same model tire, and I am offered a different tread but same size/manufacturer/all season…

Lots of people get nails in one tire only, so hopefully your answer will get lots of Google hits! Thanks!

Sajeev writes: 

You can get away with one, if the other three aren’t so old/worn they should be replaced anyway. I once had a nail through the sidewall (insert NSFW here) when I had about 25 percent tread left all around. My summer tires aren’t cheap, so I didn’t consider a cheap stop gap tire because I’d need a new set soon(er or later). That’s how I roll, so to speak. 

For 1b, it also depends on the age of your other three tires. And the driving skills of the people who drive this car. If drivers are familiar with controlling oversteer and the current rear tires have 75 percent or more tread left, I would put that new tire on the front right.  Actually I’d take it to the drag strip and do a parking brake-on burnout to shave that new tire down in a hurry. Hey, might as well make lemonade out of lemons, right? 

My reasoning for question #1: in a FWD car, differentials compensate for the speed differences (tire height and circumference between a new tire and a used one) between the left and right tire. This may not apply to AWD vehicles (or 4WD with locking hubs), and the owner’s manual is a great resource for that.

For question 2, get the closest quality and design to what you currently have. Same speed ratings, same basic mission: if you have three summer tires, winter tires or all seasons, keep the fourth tire on that same track.

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16 Comments on “Piston Slap: This Group Must Somehow Form a Family Edition...”

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I am unclear on why a simple nail puncture cant be repaired?

  • avatar

    Most nail punctures can be repaired with a simple repair kit available at your neighborhood auto stuff store. If the puncture is in the shoulder of the tire, most shops will refuse to repair it, especially if it is a run-flat tire. A candid tire guy will roll his eyes and complain about liability.

    These repairs are easy–if you have the kit and are familiar with basic tools like pliers, you can do it yourself. I’ve even done it while the wheel is on the car. I never take a road trip without one of these kits and a mini compressor.

    It’s important to remember that any shop that can repair your tire is in the business of selling tires as well. Let’s see, $15 to repair your tire or several hundred (or more) for selling, mounting, balancing two or four new tires. . . .

  • avatar

    Andy D – in my experience punctures are only considered repaiable if they are in a tread block. Damage between the tread or sidewalls mean new tire.

  • avatar

    Andy – Coincidentally, I was looking at the guarantee for my winter tires yesterday. Yeah, I know, I need a life. Anyhoo, the documentation said repairs allowable only between outermost tread grooves on the contact surface of the tire. Too much chance of major damage to the belts if the nail is in the side walls.

  • avatar

    I would put the new tire on the front, as the author stated if you did have a good amount of tread left. If you are below 50%, I would buy two and probably put them on the front. Keep the good removed tire for the next nail. If the tread discrepancy between the new tires and the remaining rears is so much that oversteer is a concern, perhaps a full set could be justified?

    If you have/opt for new tires, don’t cheap out and go to a lower quality tire than you have now. Many cars, ever relatively inexpensive ones, come with rather expensive tires – tires that often don’t last as long as you might expect. My father’s Avalon needed new Michelins at 28K, quate a shock for a guy who’s previous softie (Buick) went 50K or more on a set, like all his cars before him. The temptation was to put “passenger” tires on instead. I was able to convince him not to. Avalons squeal like burning pigs just looking at an off ramp. The thought of that on cheapies is scary.

  • avatar

    happened to me, the tread was about 25 or 30%, i bought two new tires, put them on the front (FWD car). Kept the other tire for emergencies which didnt come. However now i have two diferent ages of tires on my car. Looks kinda dorky to my eye. Oh well.

    I also noticed how expensive tires are these days. Geeze.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    I recently sourced a very good never damaged, never repaired same brand/model/size replacement tire at an extremely fair price from an auto recycler. The tread depth even matches the current tires! Google used tires to locate an outlet in your area.

    Standard Auto Wreckers, operating in the U.S. and Canada, maintains several thousand used tires in inventory. 2nd Time Around Tires is another. Many install and provide a guaranty.

    Don’t overlook Craigslist and Kijiji. Last Fall I purchased two sets of four high quality, brand name used winter tires mounted on pristine OEM alloy wheels for a fraction of new cost from private sellers. Unbeatable value!

  • avatar

    Go put a different shoe on each foot.Now go for a
    walk.Your feet won’t get wet,or cut,or bruised.But it don’t feel right and it looks goofy.

    I buy them in fours,if I have to maybe pairs.It depends on the car.If the car is 6 months from the junk yard,I suppose anything goes.

  • avatar

    As Westbound pointed out, a used set from the recyclers is worth looking for.

    Last year I was able to pick up 5 wheels and tires at ~75% for my KJ for about the cost of 2 new tires.

  • avatar

    My wife was a Realtor for years, so we found out that guys who build houses throw nails around as though someone else had paid for them. We got a lot of nails in tires, but never one in a sidewall.

    I bought an old Chevy pickup once that had such lame cheapo tires on it that each one had taken a nail by the time I’d owned it three months. The last one was what caused me to replace the tires though; a round-head phillips screw went through the tread, head first.

  • avatar

    jerseydevil :
    March 28th, 2009 at 8:23 am

    happened to me, the tread was about 25 or 30%, i bought two new tires, put them on the front (FWD car).

    New tires always go on the rear if purchasing two only, no matter the drive, to prevent oversteer.

  • avatar

    tulsa_97sr5 :
    whats the difference if puncture is in tread block or between?
    Inst the underlying structure the same?

  • avatar

    I’ve seen these emblems misaligned from the factory on vehicles that were displayed at public auto shows. Mark of Excellence FTW!

  • avatar

    The tire plugs are good as long as you get the brown ones approved for radials. The only place I found that sells them locally is Harbor Freight. These brown plugs are what most shops use anyway now. Tire manufacturers don’t recommend the interior patch/plugs, because you have to file into the tire where the patch will go. The brown plugs work great anyway. The black plugs at auto-parts stores have always fallen out for me.

    If the nail is to close to the sidewall you still might be able to get away with plugging it. Most places won’t do it, because they don’t want to be liable. If you do plug it, be sure to check often with soapy water, at least for the first week, to make sure it’s not leaking.

  • avatar

    I plugged my own tires for years UNTIL I repaired a screw puncture dead center in BFG radial. A couple weeks later the tire came apart at speed 65+ MPH. Causing SUBSTANTIAL damage to the rear quarter panel, and my undergarments. In one moment the laws of Karma regained all I had saved over the years fixing my own. Nowadays I take all my flats to the tire shop and if they say it’s a new tire, it’s a new tire.

    On the FWD deal, I believe Sajeev broached this above, the differential in your car HAS to allow for variances in wheel speed from one side to the other, like when you go around a corner and the outside wheel has farther distance to travel. That’s great in a limited situation like that, but when you have a speed differential all the time you are constantly wearing bearings and gears that are not designed to take that load. I see this all the time with the Tempa spare deal on the front of FWD cars. Any time you get a flat on the front of a FWD car you should move that tempa spare to the rear…

  • avatar

    You didn’t mention whether or not you have a full size spare and its condition. If it’s still new, you can get away with only one new tire. Buy a new one and match it with the spare while putting the other tire on the spare wheel.

    And yes, only a nail through the tread can be replaced — to close to the sidewall and you compromise the integrity of the tire.

    When I used to work at a tire store we were always on the look out for interesting flat tires. The best I saw was a open-end wrench that went in through the tread and came out of the sidewall. Way cool and we put it on display for customers.

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