Which Tires Wear Faster – Front or Rear?

In a perfect automotive world, all four tires would always wear evenly, and you’d never have to visit the tire shop, hat in hand, avoiding eye contact, sheepishly fessing up about your uneven tire wear while the tire techs shame you (oh yeah, it can be just that dramatic)…

But seriously, if you’ve ever experienced uneven tire wear, you’re not alone. Uneven tire wear between the front and rear tires is a pretty common occurrence.

What are the causes of accelerated front and rear tire wear and is there anything you can do to avoid this dreaded uneven wear scenario? Here’s the scoop.

Maximize overall tire wear

Before diving into the causes of uneven tire wear between the front and rear tires, let’s make sure that you’re on a path to understanding how to maximize overall tire wear in the first place.

In most cases, the primary causes of premature tire wear -- no matter front, rear, left or right, or spare (think about it…) -- have to do with user error and a lack of tire awareness, or vehicle alignment/suspension component issues.

Tires are not like other automotive components in that they operate optimally and indefinitely, without monitoring or user involvement. They also rely upon the mechanical soundness of ancillary component systems to wear properly.

If front or rear tires, or any particular tire is not addressed as required to maximize tread life, then premature tire wear is probable.

So if you’re not necessarily tire aware, check out our article on how to make your tires last longer, then come on back to find out the causes of uneven front and rear tire wear.

Causes of high rear tire wear

High wear on the rear tires is typical, even expected on sports cars and high powered, high performance coupes and sedans.

With all of the drivetrain forces being sent to just the rear wheels, the rear tires bear the burden of transferring that power to the pavement. Of course, more power will exacerbate the wear situation, especially if the rear tires are regularly called upon to harness that power (ahem…).

Further stress is focused on the rear tires of performance cars because they trend more toward an oversteer balance than a typical car. This means that the rear axle is more often "in play" during cornering and maneuvering, which again puts a disproportionate burden of traction management onto those rear tires.

A graphic illustration of oversteer handling balance on a high-powered, rear-wheel drive car.

If you drive a rear-wheel drive performance vehicle with a square tire setup, then regular, even, accelerated tire rotation protocols between front and rear axles can work to even out your tire wear situation.

If your tires are staggered, then minimizing rear tire wear comes down to maintaining proper inflation, alignment, and keeping that right foot in check.

If none of this applies to your situation, but you’re still experiencing high rear tire wear, then inflation, alignment, or suspension issues are likely causes. (More details below.)

Causes of high front tire wear

Under normal driving circumstances with a front-wheel drive vehicle (passenger cars, minivans, etc.), the front tires will wear at a slightly higher rate than the rear tires.

Similar to the case of a rear-wheel drive performance vehicle, although not to the same extent, the front tires are called on to manage all the drivetrain forces in a front-wheel drive arrangement. Front tire wear is further advanced because the front tires handle the bulk of the steering and braking forces.

Tire rotation is the solution to even tire wear in a front-wheel drive vehicle. Most front-wheel drive passenger cars have a square tire setup, which allows for front to rear tire rotations.

If tire rotations are occurring and your front (or rear) tires are experiencing a clearly disproportionate amount of wear in a front-wheel drive vehicle – especially uneven wear across the front tires – then inflation, alignment and/or suspension issues are the likely causes.

Examples:

  • Underinflated tires will develop high wear on the outside edges.
  • Overinflated tires will develop high wear in the center of the tread.
  • Toe wear and camber wear will manifest in high wear on the inside or outside tread blocks of the tires.
  • Cupping wear is a sign of worn out or broken suspension components.

If you’re experiencing high, uneven front or rear tire wear, first rule out improper inflation as the cause. Check out knowing your tire pressure for guidance.

If tire pressures are within specification, then alignment and/or suspension issues are the likely culprits. Visit a tire shop for professional diagnosis and solutions.

How to manage uneven tire wear

If you’ve happened on this article too late, and are currently in a position of deciding how to deal with your uneven front or rear tire wear, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. If wear is advanced enough, all four tires should be replaced. Even if only the front or rear tires are expired, the remaining two tires might be worn to the point that replacement is advisable. Fitting two new, full tread depth tires could create a traction and handling imbalance with the older set.

    Not maximizing the life of any tire is always regrettable, and feels like money down the drain, we get it. But in many uneven wear circumstances, replacing all four tires is the much better path in both the near- and long-term. We suggest you heed the advice of your tire technician.

  2. All four tires should be the same brand, model and specification. If the two tires with remaining life are going to be kept on the vehicle, then they must be matched with two new equal tires. Mismatching tire brand/type on the front and rear axles is highly inadvisable. This practice can cause drivetrain damage, among other drivability problems.
  3. Two new tires should always be fitted to the rear of the vehicle. This means the partially-worn tires would be kept or moved to the front. Why? You want your full tread depth, maximum traction pair of tires at the rear axle of the vehicle to prevent a loss of control. (Think an unintentional version of the oversteer image above.)

Have questions about uneven tire wear, or want our help with any type of high tire wear conundrum? Give us a call at 866-961-8668.

Get the right tires for your car or truck.

Tell us what you drive and we’ll show you all the best options.

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Get the right tires for your car or truck!

Tell us what you drive and we’ll show you all the best options.