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Can I Replace Just One Tire on My Car: What You Need To Know!

Can I Replace Just One Tire on My Car: What You Need To Know!

So you blew out a tire and figured it would be a quick fix. You head to a tire shop, pick the same model and that’s it. But just when you think it would be that easy and inexpensive, you are told that you should replace all four tires. You find yourself having to spend four times the amount of money and getting rid of three tires that as far as you can see are pretty much doing fine. 

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE


Many people are still unsure if you can replace just one tire or not. The answer is…it depends on the situation. Here are some conditions that will help you determine if you can replace just one tire or two tires or all of the four. 


Insufficient Tread


Most of the time tire tread depth is the reason you would need to replace a tire. In general, the tread of new tires ranges from 10/32 of an inch to 11/32 of an inch. When the tread wears down below 4/32” you would have a problem with traction especially on wet conditions like when there is rain and snow. The lower the tread, the higher the probability of hydroplaning.


Moreover, with low tread depth, your vehicle may not be able to stop quick enough to avoid or prevent a serious accident. Remember even just a couple of seconds of stopping time matters as it can be the difference between stopping in time or not.

Having insufficient tread on your tires is considered illegal in many states, not to mention worn treads can make other parts of your vehicle wear prematurely.


To answer the question posted previously, when your tires have worn down which also means there’ll be more than 4/32” differences between the new tire/s and old tires, you should get all new tires. But if your tires are pretty new, you may be able to replace just one tire. 


Tip: One Quick Test to Know If Your Tread Wear is Still Good for Driving


Place a penny with head first into different spots on the grooves across the tire. If you will always notice the top of Lincoln’s head then it means your treads are worn and shallow. If this is the case, then you would need to replace your tires. But if part of Lincoln’s head is always covered by the tread, it means you have more than 2/32 of an inch of tread depth and you probably do not need new tires.


Tire Type


The tire type and tread pattern of your tires should be similar. Whether they are front or rear tires, all tires should be the same model and have the same or similar tread condition since even subtle differences can affect the behavior of your tires particularly, the car’s ability to brake, accelerate, corner and handle water. This is important for a balanced and predictable driving experience. 


If the exact tire model is unavailable, choose the most similar option. For instance, if you have all-season tires, go for another type of all-season tire. If you have an asymmetric tread pattern, do not go for tires that have a directional tread. 


Vehicle Type


Most carmakers and the Tire Industry Association (TIA) recommend vehicle owners with all-wheel drive (AWD) to always replace all four tires at the same time. So for AWD owners, you cannot replace just one tire. 


The reason behind this is the fact that the reduced diameter of the lower-tread tires can cause them to spin faster than the new tire. Wheels moving at different speeds on an all-wheel drive vehicle will put extra strain in components of the engine including transmission and transfer case. This could cause major damage and expensive repairs. 


A difference of more than 2/32” would require you to replace two or four tires. To make sure you make the right move, best check your car owner’s manual to see the recommendations of the manufacturer; some say it is okay to replace just two, but some say you need to replace all four tires. Yes, it might be hard to believe that such a minor variation can create a big impact, but remember that even slightly mismatched tires could damage the drivetrain of your AWD vehicle.


How much does it cost to replace one tire?

The reason you want to replace just one tire as much as possible is because you do not want to spend a lot of money. It helps to at least know how much you are going to shell out in replacing your tires. It actually depends. It can vary considerably depending on the tires’ size, quality and make. 


The average cost of a new tire is around a hundred dollars if you have an average car. It would cost more for an SUV at around $175, and $200 for a pickup truck. For a set of 4 cars you would need to shell out as low as $400 or as high as $1800 or even more. 


It would cost you  $100 to $300 to replace just one tire, with people spending around $125 for a tire on a standard car and $200 or above on tires for SUVs and pickup trucks. 


As mentioned previously, there are several variables that will determine the cost of new tires such as brand and size. A common passenger car has 16 to 18 inches tires, while trucks can have tires of up to 20 inches. 


You, as a consumer, should know that size really determines the price of the tire. If you have a 15-inch tire, you can probably get a really decent tire for $125 each. Expect that cost to double if you have a 20-inch tire, and may even cost more for a high-quality tire. Also, the more specialized your vehicle is, expect to have more expensive tires.


Another determining factor is the brand. The more a manufacturer spends on research and development, the more expensive the tire is, but it usually has a better quality. Vehicles are built around the tire the manufacturers have selected to use on them. The more high-end the vehicle is, the more expensive the tire is.


Tires with better quality are more expensive than bargain brands, but they also come with many advantages. Low cost tires, on the other hand, come with low-quality rubber and so they will not help maximize your car’s fuel economy and handling. So in the end, you are really getting more bang for your buck if you go for more quality tires, not to mention the fact that they last longer. 


In case you only need a gently used, retreaded tire for a standard car, it might only cost you as little as 20 dollars or less to replace just one tire. 


Is it OK to have mismatched tires?

Essentially, you should not have mismatched tires – you should not mix different tire brands and different tread patterns. There are very rare instances for approved mismatched tires, but generally, manufacturers do not recommend tire mixing. 


For optimal performance and safety, it is recommended to fit the same tires to every wheel position on your vehicles. Drivers must have the same size, brand, tread pattern, speed rating on the front and rear tires.


As a bare-minimum, tires must meet the recommendations in terms of size, load index and speed rating as indicated by the auto manufacturer. This is a legal requirement in several countries. 


If you drive a car with a set of mismatched tire sizes, load indexes, constructions or speed ratings, you are putting yourself and other road users in danger. It is always best to stick with the auto manufacturer’s specifications or consult a qualified tire specialist.


If mixing becomes an unavoidable option due to budget constraints or lack of availability, it is still possible to mix tire brands and tread patterns as long as you fit a pair of tires with the same brands and tread patterns across the same axle — meaning you should install a pair of identical tires on the front axle or a pair of identical ones to the rear. 


It may also be possible to have tires with different speed ratings and load indexes if the speed symbols and load index are higher than the vehicle manufacturer’s minimum threshold (extra load versus standard load). In such conditions, fit the higher-rated tires to the rear axles. 


When replacing only 2 tires on your car, the new tires will most likely have a deeper tread depth than the older ones. In general, mixing different tread depths is permissible. The tire industry, however, recommends having the new tires fit onto the rear axle to provide more grip to the rear axle and lessen the chance of any potential oversteer condition or reduce the loss of vehicle stability on slippery surfaces. There are exceptions though. Some vehicle manufacturers recommend fitting the new ones to the front axle for cars with front-wheel drive. Best check your vehicle manufacturer’s handbook or consult a tire specialist for more information. 


Some vehicles are factory-fitted with tires of different sizes between the front and rear axles. These types of tire mixtures are specific to the vehicle and will need special considerations when it is time to replace them. As stated earlier, you must always stick with the recommendations set by the auto manufacturer. 


Do I have to replace tires in pairs?

When replacing your tires, you will most likely be told you would need to replace tires in pairs, instead of telling you to replace just one tire. You probably wonder why is this so and why is it necessary?


There are a few instances where you can replace just one tire, but in general, this is only when the rest of your tires are fairly new. In most cases, you are required to replace your tires in pairs. On some all-wheel drive vehicles, the manufacturer may even recommend the replacement of all four tires. 


Here are reasons why you are required to replace all tires:

  • The variation between the tread can increase wear on the new tire and lead to it wearing out faster than the older tires, making it counter-intuitive.
  • When you replace just one tire, that tire can spin at a slower rate sending false signals to anti-lock braking systems and traction control. This can lead to dangerous errors. On all-wheel drive vehicles, it may l
  • ead to the system engaging unnecessarily, which can at best waste your fuel and damage your system at worst. 
  • The new tire will get more or less traction than the old tire, adversely affecting the behavior of your vehicle when accelerating, braking or cornering. More often than not, this will reduce the safety and performance of your vehicle.
  • Uneven tire wear can damage traction control, all-wheel drive systems, and even physical aspects of the vehicle over time. In addition, it can also make the vehicle less efficient which also reduces gas mileage. 


In most instances, you can purchase only two, not four tires. Be sure to check with AWD vehicles since some systems can have problems if there is a considerable amount of wear difference front to rear. However, the new tires must be of the same make and model as the ones that are already on the vehicles, meaning if those tires are unavailable for whatever reason you must replace all four. 


Should new tires go on the front?

When replacing tires in pairs, the new tires must always be fitted on the rear axle and the partially worn tires (but still good tires) moved to the front. The logic for this is when your tires at the rear of your vehicle are more worn than those at the front, you can experience oversteer in wet conditions, leading to a spin. Front tires wear out more quickly than rear tires on modern front wheel drive vehicles. 


As a rule of thumb, when deciding how many tires to replace you should always refer back to what the manufacturer recommends or consult a tire specialist.