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It’s a situation that plays out every day across the country. A couple has a vehicle. They don’t really get the tires rotated as frequently as they should so the treads on the front tires wear out before the tread on the back tires. They go to their local tire store, and they buy two new tires, but keep the back tires, which still have tread left. They leave with their two new tires, and they’re on their way.

Sounds safe enough. But it’s not.

Having a tread differential between the front and rear tires can be more dangerous and be a bigger risk for hydroplaning than having four worn tires.

What made me think about this? I was sitting in a deposition in Denver earlier this week for a deposition of one of our experts in a death case. The expert was testifying about the dangers of differential tire tread depths, and he was explaining the cause of the dangers to the opposing attorney. It wasn’t news to those of us that practice car wreck litigation, but it got me thinking about the general public. The public hears about the dangers of low tread and the penny (or now quarter) test and the dangers of old tires (even if not used), but I can’t remember hearing anything in the popular press about the dangers of tread differential.

So I went out and did a quick Google search to see what I could find. I didn’t spend a lot of time on it, but amazingly, the only thing I could find was an article from the Malaysian National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. In that article, the authors explained that when a consumer chooses to only replace two tires, resulting in tread differential, that the new tires with more tread should be placed on the rear of cars with front wheel drive, admittedly a counterintuitive move.

So consider your own car. The next time you need to replace your tires, make sure you do it in a manner that maximizes the safety for you and your family.

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