Should You Place New Tires on the Front or Rear Axle?


At some point, thinking about which axle new tires should be installed on changed…and somehow when it did, I must have missed the memo.

I bought new tires for my car over the past couple of months. I purchased the first pair back in March and the second pair at the end of April.

To give you an idea of how little I travel, these are the first new tires I’ve purchased since I bought the car back in August of 2014. Almost five years on the original tires. (And yes, my car is only now about to flip to 34,000 miles on the odometer.) You can enjoy the benefits of living close to work!

I bought two tires at a time so that I wouldn’t be locked in to buying four at once.

So for the first two, I asked the guy at the tire store if they would place the tires on the front axle.

For the record, I’m not a tire expert. In fact, I’m not an automotive expert of any kind.

But he told me those tires should go on the rear axle, not the front one.

I was a little surprised by this. I distinctly remember that it used to be just the opposite, but he acted like it’s always been this way.

Workers installed the tires on the rear axle just as they insisted they were supposed to.

I checked a few websites and found the same general consensus: it’s the rear axle, not the front.

Apparently it’s a well-established myth

Popular Mechanics debunked the idea pointing to the front axle in 2012:

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!”

Experts preached about the front axle way back in 2012, so maybe I remembered incorrectly.

I checked a few other websites and found the same information. Everyone agreed.

I swear I remember it being the other way around! I know I’m not imagining this.

Finally, I found out I was right. I had to go back to a 1990 letter from Car Talk. A letter to Tom and Ray, the resident experts from the series, asked which axle got the newest tires.

Tom said conventional wisdom used to be that a bad tire would go on the back wheels because if it blew out you’d still be able to steer. Ray then jumped in, saying that conventional wisdom had changed.

I don’t know when it changed, but this post, almost 30 years old — yikes! — proved my point. There was a time when new tires went on the front, not the back!

With my four good tires, I know I’m covered either way.

But at least I also know that I wasn’t crazy when I thought that something did change over the years!

Now, at least, we know!

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.