Q&A - New Tires Must go on the Rear?

Q&A ImageI was told by a Costco employee that according to the laws of BC if you buy 2 new all season tires (other 2 still in very good condition) that the new tires must be placed on the rear of vehicle regardless of whether your car is a front or real wheel drive; otherwise, if you get in an accident you insurance will be invalid? Is this correct?



I would be careful taking insurance advice from a Costco tire installer. While they might have personal experience with this, it is not likely. Your best source of advice would be an Autoplan agent or directly from ICBC.

As far as the Motor Vehicle Act and Regulations are concerned, the only specific requirement for tire placement on light vehicles is that if you are using studded winter tires on a front wheel drive vehicle you must also have studded winter tires on the rear and if you are using radial ply tires there must be radial ply tires on all wheels. Conversely, if you are using bias ply tires (can you even buy them today?) they must all be bias ply tires.

If your vehicle has ABS it is a good safety consideration to have identical tires on all 4 wheels. If their circumferences are different it could interfere with the operation of the ABS.

Consumer Reports does recommend placing the new tires on the rear. The Tire Rack web site says the same thing.

I'm going to take a guess at what ICBC will tell you: no, your insurance will not be invalid.

I don't agree with the rationale ...

... provided by Consumer Reports or Tire Rack, espousing putting the new - which is to say, the best - tires on the rear; particularly if your car is front wheel drive.

Why?  Well it's simple.  With FWD, the front tires are basically providing all of the traction for acceleration, most of the traction for changing direction, and more than two thirds of the traction required to slow down or stop.  Oh and also, they're providing probably 99% of the ability to prevent hydroplaning, which is dependent on the tread depth and design (as well as adequate pressure of course).  The hydroplaning factor alone is enough to justify having the tires with the least wear on the front of the vehicle, rather than the rear; this is real.

That's why, both with personal vehicles and the fleet of driving school cars I used to manage, the policy was to rotate with every oil change, so basically every 8,000km.  This ensures the best overall tire life, as well as the greatest safety.

The rear tires on a front wheel drive vehicle are, in essence, along for the ride. There's generally little weight to carry compared to the front, and little demand for traction other than during hard braking or cornering more likely to occur on a race track than a city street.  So putting your new tires on the rear of the vehicle is just plain dumb.

Consumer Reports try to be expert on everything, and don't always succeed.  Tire Rack are terrific at what they do, but a large part of their market is comprised of enthusiasts, guys and gals with more high performance (often RWD or AWD) vehicles.  Not the Toyota Corolla / Honda Accord / Volkswagen Passat type of vehicle owner.

I suppose it could occur, where a driver on a road surface with a low coefficient of friction might suddenly turn the wheel and induce oversteer (unless the vehicle has stability control, which would probably keep things pointed the right way) but that's because of a dangerous lack of talent on the part of the driver (why would they do that with the vehicle anyway?), not because the rear tires were more worn than the fronts - provided they have adequate tread they're not going to suddenly let go unless induced to do so.

With something over 2 million kilometers of accumulated experience of vehicle ownership and fleet management, I'm absolutely confident that the best tires belong on the front of a car.  So there!

Canadian Tire

Told me the same thing. The rationale they used is that a slide that starts at the rear is much harder to correct for an average driver; even said that this nation-wide store policy was a result of some sort of legal action (which I was never been able to find - but I didn't look hard).

I told them in no uncertain terms to do what the customer asks, otherwise the customer is not going to pay if the requested service is not completed per specifications (rotate the tires).

I agree with Competent on the FWD tire placement though, like my racing instructor told me - on a FWD - you'd be fine sticking two pizza cutters in the back - won't make much difference in handling.

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