By Oliver Hall
The debate about fitting new replacement tyres to the front or rear of a vehicle has taken an interesting turn thanks to an entry in the new Mercedes C-class handbook.
The long established Tyre Industry view is that the new tyres should be fitted to the rear. The advice probably dates back from when most cars were rear wheel drive and this was for the best grip to avoid common oversteer or spinning out of control.
But, in a letter to Mercedes the Tyre Industry Federation stated: ‘The advice in the vehicle handbook of the new C-class Mercedes is that, if tyres of the same size are fitted on the front and rear wheels, where necessary single new tyres should be fitted on the front wheels first’.
The TIF warned: ‘This is not consistent with the advice of the tyre industry to the effect that, in general, when new tyres are fitted, they should be fitted to the rear irrespective of whether the vehicle is front or rear wheel drive.’
However Mercedes credit new technology, namely the Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) with overtaking the old teachings.
Mercedes was the first automobile manufacturer to fit its passenger cars with ESP, which is an active safety system which improves vehicle stability in all driving situations.
Its introduction has removed the need for drivers to fit the new tyre to the rear for driving stability and safety, because in an unforeseen situation (emergency braking/tight corner) the system simply takes over.
Drivers are particularly impressed with its effectiveness on wet surfaces or in aquaplaning conditions.
ESP operates by actuating the brakes individually on one or more wheels on the front or rear axle.