Can I Replace Just One Tire on My Car?
Blowing out a tire can be a hassle. You figure that it will be a quick fix — head to the tire shop, pick out the same model (or maybe one that’s a little less expensive?) and boom — you’re done.
In many cases, you’ll be told that you should really replace all four tires. Wait, what? The cost just quadrupled and you’re getting rid of three tires that are, as far as you can tell, doing just fine.
Asking if you can replace just one tire on your car is a common question. The short answer is that it depends. There are some variables that will help to identify if you can replace 1 tire, 2 tires, or need a set of 4.
First, let’s look at why replacing a tire on your vehicle might be necessary in the first place.
When Do You Need to Replace a Tire?
In many cases, the culprit is your tire tread depth. Generally, the tread on most new tires ranges from 10/32 to 11/32 of an inch. The Virginia State Police say tires must be replaced when the tread depth reaches 2/32 of an inch.
However, Virginia Tire & Auto mechanics are more cautious. We recommend replacing your tires when they get to 4/32 of an inch or lower. It’s a question of safety.
Once tread wears down to below 4/32 of an inch, wet traction becomes a problem. Your car may not be able to translate braking into a fast enough stop to prevent a serious accident. A couple seconds of stopping time on a wet road can be the difference between stopping short or not in time.
If you can’t remember the last time you had your tires rotated, you may be burning through your front tires. Front tires tend to wear out faster than back tires because they’re carrying the weight of the engine and steer the car, which adds additional fiction.
There’s always the possibility of a leak, which would cause the tire to be under-inflated — a leaky tire that cannot be patched could be cause for a new tire. If a tire can’t hold air, that’s obviously a problem. Vehicles that are 2007, or newer, tend to have Tire Pressure Management System (TPMS) sensors that will alert you if your tire pressure is low on your dashboard. However, it is always best practice to visually inspect each tire before any trip.
At the same time, an over-inflated tire can be an issue. Over-inflating a tire decreases the amount of contact the tire has with the road and also can cause the tire to be damaged more easily when hitting a pothole. When you have to fill your tires yourself, it can be easy to pump the tire full of too much air, which is why we recommend checking the tire pressure with a tire pressure gauge.
Even if the tire treads haven’t worn down, it doesn’t mean they’re safe on the road. That is, as tires age, they deteriorate, and, over time, they can become safety hazards. This is why, according to automakers and tire manufacturers, you want to replace tires every five to 10 years. This helps ensure safe transportation before tires decline to the point of failure.
What to Consider Before Replacing Just One Tire
So, can you replace just one tire on your car? The answer is — it depends. But to do so safely, you’ll have to meet a fairly diverse set of criteria that we lay out below.
1. Treads on the Other Tires
To replace just one tire without adversely affecting performance and safety, the other tires need to have enough tread. Following Virginia Tire & Auto’s tread recommendations, you want to replace tires when the tread depth gets to 4/32 of an inch or below. You can always use a quarter or a penny to check the depth of your tire grooves.
2. Type of Tire
The treads pattern and type that your tires have should be similar. That is, whether they’re front or rear tires, you want the same type, model, and condition of the tread.
Why? Because subtle differences in tires affect their behavior — more specifically — your vehicle’s ability to accelerate, brake, corner, and handle water. You want a balanced, predictable driving experience.
3. Type of Vehicle
Is your car all-wheel drive? If so, vehicle manufacturers and the Tire Industry Association (TIA) recommend that you replace all four tires. That’s because the reduced diameter of the lower-tread tires causes them to spin faster than a new one. Wheels moving at different speeds on an AWD vehicle will put the vehicle into 4-wheel lock, which can cause damage to the drive train.
Whatever your vehicle’s make and model, the tire experts at Virginia Tire & Auto can guide you to the tires that are right for you.
How to Care for Your New Tire
Whether you need to replace one or more tires, you want to prevent premature wear. Well-maintained tires prevent significant damage to your vehicle and potentially serious injuries. To maintain your tires, follow these simple steps:
Rotate Your Tires
To get the most from your tires, rotate them according to the schedule recommended in your owner’s manual. In addition, have a trusted tire professional inspect your tires at each rotation.
Check Air Pressure
This should be done monthly and pressure should be adjusted as needed to prevent a dangerous blowout. Be sure to choose a service facility equipped to care for Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS). All vehicles made since 2007 come with this.
Repair Flat Tires (safely!)
There’s a right and a wrong way to repair flats. Even if, based on price, they seem like a good deal, do not accept string- or fabric-based plugs. Driving on plugged tires can result in serious accidents and fatal injuries. For safety reasons, you want to use the patch method. No other method for repairing a flat tire is safe, and, normally, patching takes 20-30 minutes.
For peace of mind, let a qualified auto-care expert repair your flat tire. They will inspect it inside and out to make sure it can be safely replaced. It is far better to replace a damaged tire than risk potentially serious or fatal injuries.
And remember, for safety reasons, a tire can be repaired two but not three times.
Need Auto Care?
No one likes to replace a tire. But at the end of the day, we want to ensure that you have a safe ride. When you’re putting in a few hundred miles a week on our often-hectic Virginia roads, we want to make sure you’re safe. Replacing all four tires for one flat may seem like a waste of money, but oftentimes it is the safest investment to make in the health and well-being of your vehicle and all of the people who share the roads with you.
Whether you need a new tire (or set of tires), a simple oil change, new brakes or complex repairs, the experts at Virginia Tire & Auto can help. For a better, safer driving experience, schedule an appointment or drop into one of our 14 locations today!