AutosMaximize Safety: Why better tires belong on the rear axle

Maximize Safety: Why better tires belong on the rear axle

Which axle should I put the better tires on?
Which axle should I put the better tires on?
Images source: © Pixabay | PublicDomainPictures

10:01 AM EDT, May 13, 2024

Understanding which axle should be fitted with better tires can seem complex, given the variety of car drive types - front-wheel, rear-wheel, or all-wheel drive. However, the answer is universally applicable, irrespective of the drive type. Let's delve into the explanation.

Ideally, we'd replace all tires simultaneously, ensuring optimal safety and performance. But this isn't always feasible. Front-wheel-drive cars, which are common in the modern automotive landscape, typically see quicker tire wear on the front axle.

Why does this happen? The explanation is straightforward. The front axle bears a heavier load, both statically and dynamically. This means it carries more of the vehicle's weight and plays a pivotal role in driving, steering, and braking functions. Even without considering its role in propulsion, the front axle's responsibilities in steering and braking remain critical.

Regardless of driving conditions, the front tires are usually under more strain due to the vehicle's weight distribution. This load might decrease slightly when accelerating, potentially shifting some weight to the rear axle, a situation more common in high-power or all-wheel-drive vehicles.

Moreover, drivers can inadvertently increase the load on the front axle by decelerating or applying the brakes lightly, thereby enhancing the front tires' grip thanks to the vehicle's weight distribution.

Conversely, the rear axle is less burdened statically and has limited opportunities for dynamic loading. Its primary function is to ensure the vehicle maintains its course during turns. The front axle directs the car, and the rear follows, which is essential for balanced handling. Thus, car manufacturers often equip the rear axle with a more complex suspension system.

With its lighter load, the rear axle is more susceptible to losing grip, which can be problematic during abrupt braking on irregular surfaces or when navigating turns, potentially leading to dangerous oversteer skidding.

Which axle should be equipped with better tires?

Given these considerations, ensuring the rear wheels have the best possible grip is crucial. This can be achieved by fitting superior tires or adding weight to the rear, though the latter might not always be practical or feasible.

In motorsport, particularly in rallying, the strategy often involves fitting the better tires to the front axle. This decision is made based on the conditions of specific stages in a rally, where there isn't an opportunity to switch tires between stages. For instance, if rain is expected, a driver might install rain tires on the front axle to enhance braking performance, prioritizing stage completion time over safety. In such situations, skilled drivers can counteract rear axle skidding through their driving abilities.

Related content