How important is it for all 4 tires to match?

I drive a Ford Focus Coupe that absolutely devours rear tires. From the Google results that I’ve seen, it’s a common problem that Ford thinks isn’t a problem. The alignment guy tells me that there’s no problem with my alignment.

So, after the latest round of wearing out rear tires, I decided to only replace the back 2 since the front 2 are still in very good condition and I’ll have to start rotating my tires with every oil change. :mad:

Obviously I don’t want different tread patterns on tires on the same axle. How important is it to have all 4 match? Am I taking my life into my own hands? My googling leads to mixed results so I’m turning to the smartest people on the planet.

I’ve never had any problem with doing exactly what you propose. I’ve done it on three different vehicles, with both road tread, and in the case of my 4x4, full mud tires. The mud tires had probably the greatest difference in tread between the two types, but no problems, even at highway speeds.

Of course, the tires are all the same size, and as you note, stay matched per axle.

I once had a tire replaced due to a nail, and the guy who replaced it rotated it to the rear wheels. He said that all four the same was ideal, but if not that at least the two front and two back should match, but if not that at least the two on the drive wheels should match (which is why he rotated the new one off the drive wheel).

I didn’t have any problems in that configuration.

I’ve never heard that all four should match. Whenever I’ve gotten new tires, I’ve bought them two at a time, and they’ve never tried to talk me into replacing all four at once.

Unless it’s four wheel drive, I wouldn’t worry about all four matching. I would however try to keep the front two matching each other and the rear two matching each other.

On a front wheel car, if the rear tires are shot I would have the new ones put on the front and the still good front tires rotated to the rear.

The tire manufacturers advise against this because the tires with the lesser tread will hydroplane first. If the front tires hydroplane, the result is understeer which can be controlled fairly easily by taking your foot off of the gas. If the rear tires hydroplane, the resulting oversteer is more difficult to control and can lead to a spin.

True, however the front tires are going to wear faster; putting new ones on the front allows the wear to even out between front and rear, while putting them on the rear will result in having to buy another pair of tires sooner rather than later. And if those new ones are then put on the rear, the cycle continues. It’s a bit of a dilemma. Practically speaking, I think it makes more sense to put new tires on the front of a FWD vehicle. The driver(s) should be advised about the possibility of a rear wheel skid, and cautioned not to push too hard on wet or snowy roads.

I have an issue with this statement; surely your steering tires hydroplaning is a much more serious issue than the rear wheels losing traction? For example how do turn into a skid/oversteer if you have no steering? During a hydroplaning incident what if a solid object is in your way - would you rather have your front or rear wheels operational? If you’re going around a corner would you prefer to oversteer or head straight on?

Next time you get four tires, keep rotating them so that they all wear out at about the same time.

Also, you can get the tread on new tires shaved down so that they match the remaining tires.

only matters if you have advanced 4wd, if diameter is not equal then some tires will rotate faster than others, throwing it off?

This is what the tire manufactures recommend when mounting new tires.
Forget hydroplaning. As the tire wears it loses grip. When this occurs in the front it is very natural to turn the wheel a bit more to compensate. This also has the effect of moderating your speed a bit as you unconsciously notice that you are having to do this and tend to slow down just a tad.
Put the new on the front and most drivers won’t notice anything until their car swaps ends in a corner.
Most people can’t drive their way out of a spin.
New on the rear.


Just for information, in Spain it is illegal to have different makes and types of tyres on a vehicle.

I do not like the idea of tyre rotation as it implies that your alignment is out and they are getting unequal wear. Secondly if they all wear out together the bill is twice as high as replacing two at a time.

On a rear wheel drive car the rear tyres should wear out before the front ones. That is then the time to put the new tyres on the front and the older ones on the rear. You definitely need better traction on the front than the rear of a car.

On three of my classic cars, the rear tyres are much wider than the front. 235 on the rear and only 195 on the front, so I cannot swap them around anyway as they are designed for one way rotation only, apart from slow moving reverse.

Wow, people actually replace all four tires at once? And it’s illegal not to do so somewhere?

Front wheel drive, and I never change all of my tires at once. Never.

Little bit of background - about 6 years of experience in the tyre industry, in Australia. So, I know nothing about snow tyres.

As others have noted, two tyres at a time is fine, except for the exceptions…

We like to get people to keep matching axles at a minimum, and haven’t come across instances where different tyres front and rear was the cause of a problem. I guess when you think about it, the back and front axles are required to different things anyway, so if anything you might try and find two different treads that complement what each axle is required to do…yes, I know, getting a bit silly now.

Our experience with putting new tyres on the back has usually been negative, and for that reason we like to put the new tread on the front, rotating tyres as required.

If your finding that the inside edge of the tyre is wearing out before anything else, depending on the labor it may be cost effective to have them flipped on the rim partway through their life. Note that its not recommended to do with asymmetrical tyres.

On a side note…does anyone else find it extremely odd that on the OP’s Focus, a FWD car, the rear tires are wearing faster than the fronts? There’s something just not right there.

I do on my truck, but it is 4 wheel drive and all four tires do tend to wear out fairly evenly (even though it is in 2WD mode most of the time).

I also usually replace all four tires at once on my Cadillac, but it isn’t driven very often and the tires tend to dry rot before they wear out.

On our other cars though, I’m with you. I replace them in pairs, front or back, but rarely both front and back at the same time.

I usually do all four because, well, when it’s time to change one for me, it’s usually time to change them all.

It’s a fairly common problem with the 2 door model. I’ve read (with a large grain of salt) that the back end isn’t heavy enough and that the rear tires don’t have the best contact with the road. My awful Oklahoma roads can’t be helping the situation either.

It implies no such thing, so long as we’re talking about normal wear and not the kind of assymetrical wear that misalignment can cause. It is quite normal for the tread to wear down faster on one axle than on the other – the drive wheel tires tend to wear faster than the non-drive tires, and to a lesser extent the steering tires will wear faster. On a FWD vehicle, these factors combine to make the front tires wear noticeably more quickly. Rotation is recommended by the manufacturers to even out the wear over time, as steering and suspension systems are designed with the assumption of equal tread on all tires.

True, but over time the same number of tires are going to need replacement. The only cost savings is in not paying for rotation, but that’s at the expense of possibly compromised safety.

I don’t know where you got this idea, but it’s contrary to industry standards. See the above posts addressing rear wheel skids.

Interesting. What has your negative experience been?