Replacing only one tire isn’t recommended in most cases. However, depending on the current condition of other tires, you might keep two or even three of them if you’re lucky.
In this article, I will share with you how many tires you need to change under which conditions. Let’s begin!
Since you’re all here to save some money, let’s begin with the one tire replacement conditions. Thought worth reminding, I don’t recommend it unless you don’t have any other choice.
One-tire replacement isn’t applicable for 4WD or all-wheel drive vehicles. However, if the other three of your tires are kinda new, you can change only one tire.
In this case, you should follow the maximum tread depth difference limit which is 3/32” between the rear and the front axle and 2/32” for the same axle.
To apply this strategy, the tread depth difference between the rear and front axle can’t be more than 2/32” and your tires should wear a maximum of 3/32”.
You should buy the same size and same pattern to apply my strategy.
For RWD vehicles,
- For instance, let’s say you have a new set of tires that has 10/32” tread depth when it’s new. Since you have an RWD vehicle, your rear axle will wear more.
- After a couple of months, your front right tire got flat. At the moment, you have 8/32” tread left for the steer axle and 7/32” for the rear axle(Image-1).
- So, you buy one new tire. Contrary to theory, you should mount the new tire on the right rear axle and rotate the right rear axle tire to the front right(Image-2).
- Well, the critical point is you should check your tread depths constantly. Since your rear tires wear more than the fronts, at some point, the new tire on your rear axle closes the tread depth gap with the front right one(Image-3).
- The last step is the final rotation. For this step, all of our tires will go back to their starting position. So, the new tire will mount the front right axle(Image-4).
For FWD vehicles,
Since the front axle tires wear more for FWD vehicles, to apply this strategy, your flat tire should be on the rear axle. The remaining steps are the same.
Strategy isn’t applicable.
Note: You need at least 2 rotations to align your tires. Moreover, this isn’t a guaranteed strategy and you should make a wheel alignment on every step. So, buying two tires can be cheaper for you.
Replacing Two Tires
Replacing two tires is the most common move when you have a flat tire. It’s also way much safer than replacing one tire. However, this one also has restrictions to follow.
As I’ve mentioned in the previous section, the tread depth difference between the rear and front axle can’t be more than 3/32”. So, if your tires wear more than 3/32”, you have to change 4 of your tires.
Let’s say your rear tires are worn 2/32”. In this case, your front tires most probably are worn more than 3/32”. So, in this case, you should keep the less worn tires on the rear axle and mount new ones to the front axle.
Just do the opposite. Use new tires on the rear axle and mount worn ones to the front axle.
Note: New pair of tires is recommended to use on the front axle due to prevent hydroplaning. In our case, hydroplaning isn’t an issue for higher tread depth. However, after your front and rear tires close the gap, I recommend using less worn tires on the front axle.
Not recommended. If you wanna do it, please read the owner’s manual.
Replacing 4 Tires
This is the securest way to replace tires. However, it’s a pricy. Well, if your tires wear more than 3/32”, this is a must for you. If don’t, I still recommend it to stay on the safe side.
In this case, I don’t have too much to recommend but pay attention to the load and speed indexes of your new tires.
Note: In my point of view replacing 4 tires is a must for 4WD vehicles.
Let’s say you still have tons of tread on your healthy tires but you can’t match them with new ones due to restrictions.
Good news, tire shaving on your service.
Some dealers have this option. They shave new tires to match with existing ones. However, this option needs expertise.
In this case, the only dealer that I can recommend is TireRack. If you’ll ask them to shave your tires in the buying process, they’ll handle the situation for 20-40$.
Here is a perfect document from them –> https://www.tirerack.com/tires/tiretech/techpage.jsp?techid=259&
Even though I’ve offered a solution, I don’t recommend changing one tire. It needs too much effort and you might hurt your suspensions if you don’t follow the process closely. Instead of doing this, find somewhere that shaves the tires and aligns the tread depth of new tires with old ones.
I hope the article was helpful. If you have any further questions please leave them in the below section. Please don’t forget, this is your money or your life situation. Replace all four tires if your specialist recommends. Have a safe ride folks!
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