No tires can keep running on the road forever. The days when at least one of the four tires breaks down will be inevitable, requiring you to buy replacements as soon as possible.
Here comes the most headache-inducing question: is it truly necessary to swap ALL four tires if only one is malfunctioning? Can you change only one tire?
This article has the answer you need. Keep scrolling.
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Can I Replace Just One Tire?
Yes, you can. Such replacements can still last the car for at least hundreds of extra miles. Nevertheless, most tire technicians never regard it as a good long-term solution!
To achieve the best ride comfort, road traction, and vehicle handling, you must have all the tires replaced in one go. Changing only one out of the bunch will bring about numerous road issues due to the major variations in the tire’s tread depths.
More specifically, this single new tire will have different cornering abilities, braking, and accelerating from the remaining three, compromising the car’s consistent performance!
Worse, significant tread imbalances throw off the vehicle’s stability, too. Not to mention, some car models with mechanical/electronic systems (ex: traction controls, anti-lock, differentials, and transfer cases) will encounter difficulties interpreting tire data when one is so different from others.
If all this info still sounds too confusing, let’s imagine a pair of running shoes.
Suppose one of them has holes at the bottom, and instead of changing the entire pair, you only buy one new shoe. Running around in one old and one new footwear is certainly not a nice experience; you would keep feeling unbalanced and awkward! The same applies to car tires.
Yet, buying all four new tires in one go can be financially challenging for some drivers. That’s why many consider buying only two front/rear tires instead; but is that allowed?
Can We Replace The Tires in Pairs? Or Should All Four Tires Be Changed?
Yes, if the wear-down rates are only 40-50% percent, it’s alright to buy only two tires (similar to your existing ones) and put them at the rear axles.
However, 70% percent wear-down rates (or even more) require replacements for all four.
While at it, remember NEVER to change your tire types (ex: mixing all-season and summer tires). Doing that will imbalance your car’s grip and disrupt its dynamic performance. Some automakers have to invest millions of USD in tuning them back!
Factors to Consider If You Just Replace One Tire
Have you still decided to risk the car’s performance and buy only one tire? That’s your choice to make, then. While we do not approve of it, here are some aspects to bear in mind:
1. Other Tires’ Treads
It can be quite tricky to replace only one tire without negatively affecting the safety and performance of the entire car. Hence, only choose this method when the other three still have sufficient tread left!
Let’s say your tires are still quite new; then getting away with only one tire replacement is possible. However, for cars whose tires suffer from at least 4/32” variations, get rid of them all to bring home four new tires.
2. Types of Tires
You might have guessed it already, but let us stress again: the tire types and tread patterns among all four must be similar. Whether at the rear or front, every single tire must belong to only one model/category and share identical tread conditions.
Why is that? Even the subtlest difference will affect the tire’s behaviors – specifically, their abilities to handle water, corner, brake, and accelerate. Your driving inexperience will grow unpredictable and extremely unbalanced.
In rare cases that the tire model you want is no longer available on the market, aim for the ones that resemble them the most. Does your car use all-season?
Then buy another all-season type. Or has it run on tires with directional patterns? Then avoid alternatives with symmetric or asymmetric tread.
3. Types of Vehicles
Though we did suggest that replacing only one or two tires is feasible, not every vehicle can get away with that.
For instance, should your car belong to the AWD category (all-wheel drive vehicles), one-tire replacements are out of the question. You must buy all four new tires, then – a conclusion stated explicitly by TIA (Tire Industry Association).
Otherwise, there will be excessive strains on its engine components (transfer cases, transmission, etc.) due to unbalanced rotation and reduced diameters. Major harms and pricey repairs will plague you for years!
The same could also be said about vehicles whose tire tread variations exceed 2/32”. It might be difficult to believe such small differences can leave big impacts, but trust us; even slightly mismatched tires can destroy the car’s drivetrain forever.
Things are much easier for average-sized cars with tire variations below 2/32”. In these cases, changing one or two tires only is acceptable; but consult with the vehicle manufacturer and manual first to address possible consequences, if any.
4. Proper Tire Maintenance
As there are many more dangers associated with one replacement tire than four, you must pay even more attention to their maintenance.
- Check its pressure monthly. Regular tires lose about 1 PSI (pound per square inch) each month. Colder weather climates speed up that process even more.
So do not just rely on tire professionals and mechanics for oil changes and pressure inspection; monitor them yourself to keep your family members out of harm’s way!
- Inspect them regularly and before long trips. While washing the car or checking its tire pressure, do not forget to spare a second glance and their physical inspections. Get down to your knees and hands to do that, if necessary.
Symptoms to check include bulges, cracks, and alien objects that might puncture the tires (stones, glass, screws, nails, etc.). Replace the tires immediately if their sidewalls are destroyed.
- Rotate and rotate. The best way to ensure maximum lifespan and uniform tread patterns is to rotate the tires after 6000-8000 miles.
Are tire purchases from local stores? Then you may enjoy free rotation services from the staff. But even if that’s not the case, don’t worry; these tasks are often quite inexpensive.
- Avoid overloading the car. Look for the placard/sticker on the car’s door frame; it contains information on the maximum weight your vehicle can handle without encountering danger. Exceeding that benchmark will lead to premature tire failure.
When To Replace Car Tires?
You should buy a new front or rear tire if any signal of cracks and uneven tread wear show up. And even if none of these issues occur, regular tires only last 12000 to 15000 miles (about three to five years). Have them changed and replaced before that!
What Is The Cost Of 1 Tire?
About $50 to $150. For higher-end ones, though, expect to pay at least $300.
Can I Replace Just One Tire on A 4WD/AWD Vehicle?
No. And there are zero exceptions!
Is Replacing One Tire With A Different Brand Possible?
No, buying tires from different brands is never recommended. Stick to one type and brand only to avoid mismatched tires.
Can I Replace Flat Tires By Myself to Save Money?
Yes, if you get the know-how.
While the costs can indeed stoop lower, your handwork is by no means comparable to that of tire experts. You may have to bring the car to auto tire shops/tire manufacturers again if trouble ensues, resulting in even higher charges.
All tips and tricks regarding one-tire replacements have been covered.
Still, we only suggest replacing only one tire as a last resort – or if your financial situations are too tight to afford four model tires. Also, keep in mind some maintenance tips to ensure troubles can never find you.