Winter Driving Tips: The Dangers of Using Just Two Snow Tires

When driving in winter conditions, including ice and snow, staying in control and on the road is the top priority that starts with equal traction on all four tires. Installing snow tires on just the front or back of your vehicle won’t do the job, and could put you and your family in danger. Here’s why it’s important to install snow tires on all four wheels before facing winter’s fury.


Is it Okay to Put Snow Tires on the Front Only?

The short answer is no. Your vehicle might have front-wheel drive, but installing snow tires on the front and not all four wheels could end with you oversteering or fishtailing around corners or when applying the brakes in certain weather conditions — even at low speeds. Essentially, your back end will spin around, facing the front of your vehicle in the wrong direction. This can be especially bad if you’re out of control around a mountain corner and sliding into oncoming traffic.

Why does this happen? Even if there is no power to the back wheels, they still play a vital role in cornering and braking. All-season tires aren’t designed for cold weather and harden up when temperatures near freezing. Because they’re harder and have less traction, they easily slide on the snow and ice. Winter tires are designed for the cold and stay softer in low temperatures, helping provide grip.


Is it Okay to Put Snow Tires on the Back Only?

Again, the answer is no. Mostly. While it’s not recommended, the only time this could work is on rear-wheel-drive only vehicles. Even in these cases, we still recommend four matching snow tires for optimal performance. Anything else, including 4x4s, front-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive vehicles should have a full set of snow tires for best traction. Installing a set of snow tires on just the back wheels can easily cause your vehicle to understeer.

Why does this happen? When the front wheels have no traction it can become difficult to steer and stop. At that point, your front wheels are only helping guide your vehicle. Where you end up on the road is anyone’s guess. Additionally, installing snow tires on the rear only can cause anti-lock brakes and electronic traction control systems to malfunction.

Results of Using Only 2 Snow Tires Graphics


Get Your Tire Chains and Snow Tires at Les Schwab

The weather can shift and worsen quickly in the West. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a full set of snow tires and carry traction devices for your vehicle. Stop by your local Les Schwab for expert advice on the right tires and chains for your car or truck. Check out our article How to: Choose Snow Tires for advice on finding the right snow tires for your needs.

Winter Tires Warning Sign