Can I Just Change One Tire?

Can I Just Change One Tire?

Changing a tire is a common occurrence for most drivers, and it's not unusual to wonder if it's okay to change just one tire instead of replacing all four. After all, replacing all four tires can be expensive and seem unnecessary if only one tire is damaged or worn out. However, changing just one tire can have consequences that affect the vehicle's performance, safety, and longevity. So, what is the solution?

This answer lies in the tread depth of the tires.

Tire’s Tread Depth:

The rubber tire’s tread depth gets measured in 32nd parts of an inch. You can find that new tires usually have 10/32 to 12/32 inches of tread. When you start using the vehicle, this depth depreciates, reducing the overall diameter of the tire.

That means you will be creating a difference in your vehicle’s tires’ tread depth by replacing just the damaged one. This can imbalance their performance, causing trouble for you. A few problems you may encounter by changing only one tire are:

  • AWD System Damage: The difference in diameter of the tires can cause an AWD system to catch up on the dry pavement. This can sometimes damage the system. That is why almost every all-wheel-drive vehicle manufacturer recommends changing all tires simultaneously. So, they can function correctly.
  • False Signals: When the tread depth of a front/ rear-wheel-drive vehicle is worn out more than half, the wheels start spinning faster. So, if you replace just one of them, you create a difference in the revolution rate. This can send false signals to the antilock braking and traction control systems.
  • The difference in Working: Acceleration and braking of your vehicle depend on its tires’ grip. Changing only one tire can create a difference in the hold. Hence, affecting the vehicle’s behavior.

The Quarter Test

The quarter test is a simple way to check the tread depth of your tires. To perform this test, take a quarter and insert it into the grooves of your tire with George Washington's head facing down. If the top of Washington's head is covered by the tread, then the tire has at least 4/32" of remaining tread depth, which is the minimum legal requirement in most states. If the top of Washington's head is visible, it means the tire has worn out and needs to be replaced. This test is a quick and easy way to determine if your tires are still safe for use and can help prevent accidents due to poor traction. However, keep in mind that the quarter test only measures tread depth and does not account for other factors such as age, tire type, and driving conditions, which can also affect tire safety and performance.

tire tread depth test

What to Do:

The best solution is always to replace all four tires even when only one of them gets damaged. This will ensure that your vehicle works appropriately, and you don’t face any problems while driving it. However, you can even work with changing the axle’s two tires if you own a forward/ rear-wheel-drive vehicle.

When to Change a Single Tire:

There is one exception to this whole tire changing situation. You can go for a single tire replacement if none of the tires have worn out more than 4/32 of their tread depth. They can easily handle this much difference. So, it won’t be required to invest in all four new tires, but you must keep a few points in mind:

  • The new tire should be shaved off its tread depth to match it to the older ones’ level. This will keep them balanced.
  • The new tire should get mounted on the rear. This will help avoid hydroplaning, which can rotate the vehicle on a turn during the rainy season.

So Can You Change Just One Tire?

Whether it's okay to change just one tire depends on various factors such as the condition of the other tires, the type of vehicle, and the driving conditions. While replacing all four tires may seem costly and unnecessary at times, it's essential to prioritize safety and vehicle performance. When in doubt, visit our service center and ask the Toyota experts at Rocky Mount Toyota. Remember, taking proper care of your vehicle's tires can prolong their lifespan, save you money in the long run, and keep you and others safe on the road.

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