Your vehicle’s tires will wear and tear after a few uses, and there would also be times when one blows out, so they would need replacing. You might not be able to find the same brand and size, or your budget at that time might not be enough to purchase the same tire as the rest of your car tires. That’s the reason why most wonder if it’s okay to install mismatched car tires.
So, is It OK to have mismatched tires installed on your vehicle? Ideally, your car should have the same tire specifications and brand. However, you can do otherwise if the manufacturer allows it or your car has a mixed-tire fitting approval; plus, there is a workaround if you really need to do so.
With all the possible dangers and car damages that come with installing a wrong tire, let’s talk about the do’s and don’ts of installing mismatched tires. That includes concerns regarding replacing just one, two, or three tires, fitting in various tire brands and sizes, mixing all-season and winter tires, and where you should install the new tires if you don’t plan on replacing all of them.
Mismatched Tires: A General Guide to Do’s and Don’ts
Mismatched tires can mean a lot of things. One is your car has a mix of all-season or summer tires with winter tires. It can also have a set of non-run-flat tires with run-flat tires. Lastly, it can also indicate that your tires have different brands, sizes, or various tread patterns.
So let’s answer a few questions regarding installing a mismatched set of tires, specifically regarding its brand, size, and types according to the season usability, to ensure you don’t make a mistake when the need arises.
Is It OK to Change Just One Tire?
Knowing whether or not you can replace just one tire is essential to help you decide better if you should or shouldn’t install a mismatched set of car tires. Generally, you should replace all your car tires at the same time to ensure proper handling and traction.
Having the same set of vehicle tires also ensures that you can maintain stability and control, and allows you to rotate the tires regularly. Remember that tire rotation is essential to extend the tire’s life and ensure even wearing.
The Tread Depth Factor
If we consider tread depth, replacing one tire or even two tires would be fine for most cars. You’ll find that most new tires have a tread depth ranging from 10/32 to 12/32 inches. If your car tires just lost between 2/32 and 4/32 of tread, then that wouldn’t be much of a difference. Thus, replacing a tire or two instead of all four wouldn’t be a problem.
The Off-Road Vehicle Factor
Off-road-capable vehicles like the Wrangler and Rubicon have a somewhat different design than passenger vehicles. For instance, their tires are capable of traversing difficult and various terrains. As such, their tires would most likely lose tread depth faster than other car tires. With that said, here are things to keep in mind when considering tire replacement:
- 4WD and AWD
Do you have to replace all 4 tires on a 4WD and AWD vehicle? Manufacturers of off-road-capable cars strongly recommend that you replace all the tires at once. That’s because the new tire has larger overall dimensions than the original, used tires, causing the older tires to spin faster and engage the AWD or 4WD system on dry pavement. Worst, this may lead to costly or irreparable system damages.
- RWD and FWD
For FWD and RWD vehicles, replacing one tire is also a big no-no because one of the wheels will spin slower than the rest. This situation can lead to the system sending false signals to your car’s traction control or ABS, so one tire will have lesser or more traction for braking, accelerating, and corner grip than the rest of your tires.
It’s also best not to replace just one tire of your RWD or FWD two-wheel-drive vehicle; replacing two tires instead of four is okay, though. In this case, you should place the new tires on front or back axles. Meaning, you should install the new set of tires on the same axle or installed side by side (left and right in front or left and right at the back). Still, if the old tire is completely or significantly worn out, it’s a must that you replace all four tires.
A Possible Workaround
Of course, changing all your tires or even just two or three at the same time is costly. Likewise, it would be impractical to throw out the other tires that are still functional and have a long way to go.
If you’re really tight on a budget, a recommended workaround is to have the new tire shaved to match the old tires’ tread depth. Tire dealers that do this kind of job will charge you for a certain fee, which, of course, won’t cost as much as a new set of two or four tires.
Is It OK to Have Two Different Tire Brands?
If you really need to replace just one or two tires, you should consider some factors when choosing a tire. One of which is the tire brand.
Experts recommend that you pick a tire/s from the same brand because it will have almost the same dimensions, material make, tread design, and internal construction. Installing a tire from the same brand will also ensure it has the same number of revolutions per mile or kilometer.
In situations where you can no longer find the same brand, though, make sure the tire you’re getting has the same performance ratings as the other tires installed on your vehicle. That includes speed and load ratings, traction, and handling.
Can I Put Different Size Tires on My Car?
Apart from knowing whether you can put different brand tires on front and back axles, the next thing you need to worry about when choosing a replacement tire is its size.
The Tire Size
Although all you have to do is compare specifications when choosing a tire size, it’s much better to understand what these specs are. When you look at the tire size specifications, you will notice two different sets of numbers; one of which comes with letters. What does this mix of numbers and letters indicate?
For example, your tire has a size specification of 225/65R17. The 225 is the tire width in millimeters, 65 is the aspect ratio expressed in percentage, and the R17 is the wheel rim diameter in inches.
Now that you fully understand tire size, can you install differently sized tires on your car? Yes, you can definitely fit in a different size tire, but with some considerations.
First, whatever type of vehicle you have, you must make sure that its suspension geometry allows you to install different tire sizes. You must also keep in mind that both the front tires should have the same sizes or both the rear tires should have the same sizes.
You must also keep in mind that it’s not advisable to install a tire smaller than your car’s standard tire size. If you’ve no choice, like it’s the only spare tire you have during a tire problem, make sure you drive at a speed lower than 80KPH or 50MPH, at a minimal distance.
Make sure you have the tire replaced immediately since it can damage your car’s differential when you drive it for a more extended period. Accelerating will also cause your vehicle to pull on the side with the smaller tire. Your car’s ESC or traction control system might also get activated more frequently than usual, confusing its sensors and reading it as skidding.
Should I Put New Tires on the Front or Back Axle?
Answering “Can you replace just one tire?“, “Can I put different size tires on my car?”, and “Can you install different brand tires on front and back axles?” isn’t enough to ensure you have a safe trip with your newly installed tires. Whether you replace one, two, three, or all tires, you must know whether to put new tires on front or back axles.
According to professionals, your new tires should be installed on the back axle because worn-out rear tires are more prone to hydroplaning. That being said, there is an exception to the rule.
Apparently, you must fit the new rubbers to your car’s front axle if you have a front-wheel-drive unit for an obvious reason. As such, you should always consult your car manufacturer’s manual or handbook, call their technical support, or talk to a professional mechanic or tire specialist.
Can You Mix Snow Tires With Regular Tires?
The winter season is one of the most dangerous times to drive, but fortunately, tires meant for snow (view on Amazon) are available. Most of the time, though, some people would wonder and ask, “Can you replace just one tire with a snow or winter tire?” because of budget concerns.
Sadly, experts don’t recommend mixing and matching all-season or regular tires with winter or snow tires. That means the rule of thumb is to replace all tires, and this time, there is no exception. When replacing two tires instead of four tires with a winter variety, the regular tires will not give any feedback, or if they do, it would be too late, so the car spins out due to lost traction.
You must remember that most all-season tires’ function starts to deteriorate at 7C (44F) and becomes nearly useless at -5C (23F). That’s because the rubber they’re made of is quite hard, and their tread pattern’s design gets clogged with snow.
On the contrary, snow tires are made of softer material, so they stay pliable even when the temperature reaches below the freezing point. Their open tread pattern also ensures the tire remains free of snow.
Is It OK to Have Mismatched Tires: The Conclusion
Every car has different tire specifications that you need to keep in mind and is pre-installed with tires of a similar brand and size. Your car tires play an essential role when it comes to your car’s stability, control, and ability to grip to the ground you’re driving on. So, as much as possible, you must replace all your tires when one or two have worn or blown out.
You can replace one or two tires with a different brand or size in some situations, but you’ve to make sure you install them in the right spot. In terms of tire type according to the season, though, you shouldn’t mix all-season tires (view on Amazon) with winter tires for safety reasons. You must also remember that the damage that might be caused by installing mismatched sets of tires would be more expensive.
Kris is an avid off-roader and outdoor enthusiast who loves to brave the elements and take on challenging terrain. He also enjoys sharing his passion and knowledge with others so that they, too, can appreciate the ride.