Blog Car Care Advice Do You Have to Replace All 4 Tires on AWD? (+Is it Necessary?)
Car Care Advice

Do You Have to Replace All 4 Tires on AWD? (+Is it Necessary?)

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Do I have to replace all four tires on my AWD vehicle?

Yes, automakers recommend that you replace all four tires on your AWD car to maintain uniformity. It’s not just an AWD tire replacement myth.

Still, there are some exceptions and alternatives.
We’ll delve into why you should replace all 4 AWD tires, when you can replace just one, the related costs, and more. 

This Article Contains: 

Let’s go!

Do You Have to Replace All 4 Tires on AWD Vehicles?

In the all-wheel drive or AWD system, the transfer case collaborates with the car’s internal computer to distribute power to each wheel. 

Variations in tire size can disturb the AWD system and result in uneven power distribution to the wheels. This leads to frequent drivetrain adjustments, causing premature wear. That’s why AWD manufacturers recommend replacing all four tires to maintain the consistency of tire size and tread depth and avoid tire circumference and diameter variations.

Wonder what will happen if you don’t do so?
Mismatched tires can lead to: 

However, there can be exceptions to this rule. 

When Is it Advisable to Replace a Single Tire?

There are situations where replacing just one tire might be a viable, budget-friendly option. 

1. If Your Tires Have Minimal Tread Depth Differences 

It’s acceptable to replace a single tire if the difference in tread depth between the new tire and existing tires is minimal (within 2/32 inch or 1.6 mm). 

That’s because it won’t significantly impact your vehicle’s performance or safety.

You can also visit a tire shop that offers tire-shaving services to match the new tire’s tread depth to the remaining tread depth on existing tires.

2. If Only One of Your Tires is Damaged

Imagine this: One of your tires gets irreparably damaged due to a big puncture or holes in the tread (deeper than 6mm), but the other tires have substantial tread life left.

Throwing away the rest doesn’t make sense, right? 
In that case, you can simply replace the damaged tire. 

But remember: The new tire must have a tire size, brand, and tread pattern similar to the current one to ensure uniformity. 

3. If Your Current Tire Make is Unavailable 

If you have a flat tire and can’t find the exact tire of the same brand, you can temporarily replace it with a spare tire from a different brand.

However, your spare tire should have the same load-carrying capacity, speed rating, and diameter as your old tires. That said, try to get the same make tire as soon as possible to avoid any drivetrain damage.

Tips: For vehicle stability, it’s generally recommended to install new tires on the rear axle. You can refer to your car’s owner’s manual for instructions or call a mechanic for expert advice.  

So, how can you tell if your AWD tires require replacement?
Let’s find that out next.

4 Signs You Urgently Need AWD Tire Replacement

Here’s how you can tell if you need an AWD tire service:

1. Reduced Tread Depth 

As the tread depth decreases, the tire circumference gets smaller, reducing its ability to grip the road surface. This impacts the vehicle’s handling and compromises safety in slippery road conditions. 

Regularly measuring tread depth is crucial. You may need tire service or a replacement if it falls below the recommended 2/32-inch level.

2. Visible Bulges

Bulges and blisters on the tires’ sidewalls are signs that necessitate tire replacement. They compromise proper inflation and could lead to a flat tire, tire blowout, and other severe consequences like loss of vehicle control.

3. Improper Wheel Alignment

Frequently hitting potholes or curbs and driving with damaged suspension components, such as shocks or struts, can mess up your wheel alignment. Improper wheel alignments can cause tires to wear down faster on one side, resulting in irregular tread patterns and accidents due to poor steering and road grip.

4. Old or Worn Tires 

The traction and handling power of older tires diminish with use. The typical lifespan of most AWD tires ranges from 3 to 6 years on average, whereas performance tires last 6 to 10 years. It’s recommended to replace vehicle tires if they’re over six years old or have traveled a certain mile (55,000 to 85,000). 

Now that you know when to replace your tires, let’s discuss the costs.

How Much Does AWD Tire Replacement Cost?

Depending on the tire type, a new set of four all-wheel-drive tires can cost around $50 to $1500. 
Here are the estimated costs for different types of tires an all-wheel drive vehicle uses:

Have more questions?
Check out the FAQs section.

3 FAQs about AWD Tire Replacement

Here are answers to some common AWD tire replacement queries:

1. What Is Tire Shaving?

Tire shaving involves intentionally reducing the tread depth of a new tire to align it with the tread depth of the remaining tires on the same axle. 

A tire shop usually performs tire shaving when there’s only one damaged tire on an axle, and replacing it with a new tire makes more sense than replacing the entire set. However, this only helps if the remaining tread depth on the existing tires isn’t worn more than half the original tread depth, i.e., about 6/32 inches.  

Otherwise, it’s best to replace all four tires on your AWD vehicle if there’s significant tread wear on all tires. 

2. Why Is it Advisable to Install the New Tire on the Rear Axle?

Installing new tires on the rear axle in an all-wheel drive vehicle improves traction control. It also reduces the risk of your rear wheel oversteering or skidding during acceleration. Oversteers can happen when the rear tire loses traction before the front tire, leading to a loss of control, especially on slippery roads. 

Moreover, it helps prevent hydroplaning – a situation where water on the road causes your car’s rear tire to lose grip. The deeper treads on the new rear wheel can channel the water away.

3. What Causes Tire Wear?

Many factors can lead to tire wear, like:

The Best Approach for AWD Tire Replacement

Replacing all four tires on your AWD vehicle can provide better traction control and help maintain uniformity in tire diameter and tread pattern. 

However, replacing a single tire may make more sense if there’s only one damaged tire and the remaining tires have significant tread depth. 

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