Changing a tire is a basic automotive skill that most drivers will have to tackle at some point. But when it's time to replace all four tires, many wonder - just how long does it take?
In this article, we'll walk through the entire process of changing all four tires, from lifting the vehicle to putting on the final lug nuts. We'll look at different methods, from using a basic jack to more advanced lifts, to give you an idea of the time investment.
We'll also provide tips on whether you actually need to change all four at once, how to know when your vehicle needs realignment, typical costs for a full set of new tires, and more.
With the information in this article, you'll know what to expect when it's time to swap those tires so you can budget your time accordingly.
Time Requirements for Changing All 4 Tires
The amount of time it takes to change all four tires depends primarily on the methods and tools used.
With basic tools like a jack, each tire can take 5-20 minutes for a total time of 20-80 minutes. More advanced methods like using a jack stand, or a professional lift can reduce the total time to 10 minutes or less.
The key factors that impact time are:
- Tools used - Jack vs. jack stands vs. professional lift
- Experience level - Beginners will take longer than seasoned mechanics
- Access - More clearance speeds up the process
- Assistance - Extra hands make quick work
Knowing the time investment involved with the method you plan to use can help you budget the time required when taking on a full tire change. With the right preparation and tools, an entire set can be swapped out in less than an hour.
Methods for Efficient Tire Changes
Changing all four tires doesn't have to be an all-day project. With the right approach and tools, the job can be done quickly and safely. Here are some of the most common methods:
Using a jack
The basic DIY method is to use a jack to lift each corner of the vehicle one at a time. Raise the vehicle, change the tire, lower it, and repeat on each wheel.
This takes the most time at 5-20 minutes per tire. But all you need is a good jack and basic tools.
Be sure to chock the wheels, loosen the lugs before lifting, and lower the vehicle fully before torquing the lugs.
Using Jack Stands
A faster approach is to use jack stands with your jack. Lift each corner and place a stand underneath before lowering it with the jack.
With all four corners on stands, all the tires can be changed rapidly without having to raise and lower each time.
Just be sure to work safely with stands securing the vehicle. This method can cut the time nearly in half.
For a step-by-step tutorial, you can watch this video:
The fastest way is to use a professional lift that raises the entire vehicle up. Shops can swap all four tires in a matter of minutes with the right equipment.
While not realistic for a DIY job, it sets expectations for time at a shop. If you do it yourself, jack stands are the next best alternative.
Do You Need to Replace All 4 Tires at Once?
Whether or not you need to swap all four tires at the same time depends on the drivetrain of your vehicle.
For front- or rear-wheel drive vehicles, you can generally replace tires individually or in pairs on the same axle. Just be sure that the tread depth matches between the left and right sides.
AWD Tire Replacement
For all-wheel drive vehicles, it's imperative to change all four tires together. The AWD system relies on even tread wear across all four tires to function properly. Mixing tread depths can cause damage to diffs, transfer cases, and drivetrain components.
The vehicle computer assumes even tread wear and sends power accordingly. Mismatched treads will confuse the system. Stick to rotating at recommended intervals and replace all four tires together when the time comes.
The only exception is if a tire is damaged and needs to be replaced prematurely. In that case, replace just the bad tire but replace the remaining three soon after to prevent uneven wear.
What's the Cost for a Set of 4 New Tires?
The price for a complete set of new tires will vary based on several factors:
- Brand - Major brands like Michelin and Goodyear are more expensive than lesser-known brands. Shop around for a good balance of quality and price.
- Type of Tire - All-season tires are generally cheaper than high-performance summer or winter snow tires. Choose based on your needs.
- Quality - Longer-lasting tires with better ratings are more expensive upfront but pay off over time.
- Size - Larger wheel diameters and wider tires will cost more. Measure your current tires for the right replacement size.
- Basic Tires: $200 - $600
- Mid-Grade Tires: $400 - $1200
- Premium/Larger Tires: $800 - $1600
Many tire shops offer deals like "buy 3, get the 4th free" to incentivize buying a full set. Always have quotes from multiple vendors to find the best tires for your budget.
Should You Get an Alignment After New Tires?
According to Motor Biscuit, it's a good idea to get your vehicle aligned if you have replaced your tires.
An alignment ensures the wheels are positioned properly relative to each other and oriented correctly to the road.
This is especially important if the previous tires had uneven tread wear. That's a sign the wheels were out of alignment before.
What Causes Wheels to Go Out of Alignment?
Wheels fall out of alignment over time for a few reasons:
- Hitting potholes or road debris
- Accumulated wear from small road imperfections
- Natural loosening of suspension parts
Misalignment causes uneven tire wear since the wheels are no longer oriented properly to the road. This results in poor handling, decreased fuel economy, and safety issues.
When to Get an Alignment
- Anytime you install new tires
- Once a year as preventative maintenance
- If you notice uneven tire tread wear
- After hitting something substantial on the road
How to Tell if Your Car Needs an Alignment
There are a few clear signs your vehicle is out of alignment and needs adjustment:
- Vehicle Pulling - If the car consistently pulls left or right on straight roads, that indicates misalignment. Test this by taking your hands briefly off the wheel on a straight highway.
- Uneven Tire Wear - Check the tread on your tires. If they are worn more on one side than the other, the wheels are misaligned. Severe cases can cause tire failure.
- Crooked Steering Wheel - While driving straight, if the steering wheel is off-center, it can mean your wheels are out of alignment.
- Excessive Tire Squeal - Does your car squeal loudly around turns? That can signal improper alignment as well.
Any of these symptoms mean it's time to get your alignment checked and adjusted. This will maximize tire life, keep your vehicle driving straight, and enhance safety.
Changing Tires Safely is Key
When it's time to swap out your tires, make sure safety is the top priority. Follow all precautions in your owner's manual and use the proper tools and techniques for the job.
While a full set of four can be changed quickly with the right equipment, allow enough time even when using basic tools like a jack. Rushing can lead to mistakes.
If you aren't completely comfortable changing your own tires, have the work done by a qualified professional. Proper tire maintenance is vital for safe handling and preventing blowouts.
By knowing what to expect for time requirements, costs, and alignment needs, you can keep your vehicle running smoothly on a fresh set of tires. Just be sure to rotate them at the recommended intervals and check tread wear regularly. With the right tires and proper maintenance, you'll keep rolling in confidence and safety.
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