After the wheel alignment procedure was completed, the technicians wheeled my tyres to the car to put them back on. Then I overheard one telling the other to bring the newer tyres to the front.
I had been paying close attention. I called out to the dude and asked why he would put the newer pair of tyres in front. He responded that it’s always best to put new tyres in front. He didn’t explain why, but I guess his reason must be safety – related.
I quickly asked them to retain the rear position of the newer tyres. Time was of the essence. They hesitated but I was firm. Grudgingly they did as I asked. This happened in Abuja.
So this Friday I had to replace damaged wheel hubs and I had to do go to a wheel balancing and alignment shop again.
After what seemed like eternity, the wheel balancing and alignment had been completed and once again, it was time to reattach the tyres. I suspected ‘new tyre must be in front!’ drama, so I was prepared. This guy was particularly obstinate but I prevailed in the end.
You might wonder why I differed with experienced technicians. But I can tell you that being a man or woman of scientific bent has its own perks.
Have you noticed that when your Toyota camry or Honda Accord has 4 brand new tyres installed at the same time, the front tyred always wear faster? The reason this is so is because these cars are front wheel drive, hence braking and acceleration and all the power of the engine is applied at the front tyres, making them to work harder than the rear tyres.
In luxury brands like Mercedes and BMW cars, the reverse is usually the case. Since they are rear wheel drive, the back tyres wear faster.
Many people cannot afford to replace worn tyres all at the same time, and usually it’s cheaper to replace the most worn pair. I believe most people drive front wheel cars in this part of the world, and of course they must confront this issue once in a while. By intuition, you might want to put a new pair of tyres in front to replace worn front tyres, or to exchange them with the less worn rear tyres. THIS IS WRONG AND POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS.
For owners of rear wheel drive cars, intuition turns out to be correct. Putting the less worn front tyres at the back and switching the worn back tyres to the front is not just correct but safe. For front wheel drive cars, it is unsafe to exchange worn front tires with good back tyres. Indeed, if a new pair is purchased to replace worn front tyres, the less worn rear tyres must be moved to the front and the brand new tyres installed at the back. In challenging situations, the front tyres even when lacking in optimal tread can be controlled through the steering. The back tyres when worn cannot be controlled through the steering wheel. Loss of control at the back may lead to an accident hence it’s safest to have really good tires at the back.
Again, on wet road surfaces, a phenomenon called hydroplaning can occur, whereby the tires cannot maintain traction with the road surface. This usually causes understeer when the front tyres are more worn than the back tyres. In understeer, a vehicle going round a corner fails to respond to the steering and keeps heading straight. Taking the foot off the gas can stop the vehicle from leaving the road and ploughing into the bushes, pavement or buildings.
With more worn tyres at the back, oversteer will tend to occur on wet road surfaces especially around corners. Loss of control at the back will cause the rear to drift off the road; this is a more dangerous problem than understeer. Skilled sport drivers piloting rear wheel drive cars can exploit oversteer to dramatic effect without crashing, by accelerating even harder as the vehicle drifts, eventually correcting the problem.
Now you can appreciate some of the dangers of traveling by road. I wish more people are like my friend who never fails to inspect vehicle tyres whenever he intended to board a public transport vehicle. Those operators are the worst as far as vehicle safety is concerned.