Is a Staggered or Square Set-Up Best for Winter?

"My BMW is equipped from the factory with wider rear tires. Should I stick with this staggered set-up or switch to a square set-up and use the same size on all four wheel positions?"

A staggered set-up simply means that your rear tires are larger than your front tires. A square set-up simply means a vehicle has the same tire size on all four wheels.

Advantages to a square set-up:

  • Better winter traction from a narrower rear tire
  • Ability to rotate the tires for longer wear
  • Simplicity of installation with all four tires being the same
  • Generally a lower price in a more common front tire size

Advantages to a staggered set-up:

  • Better straight-line dry traction from a wider rear tire
  • Improved cosmetic appearance
  • More protection to the wheel from curb damage

For example, if you drive a 2007-2011 BMW 3 Series with the staggered 18" wheels, you can use 225/40R18 on both the front 8" wheels and rear 8.5" Original Equipment wheels. This is actually very common, especially when installing a set of winter / snow tires. Eliminating the stagger in this way results in better winter traction by changing the rear 255/35R18 to a narrower 225/40R18.

To learn more about the advantages of using winter tires, read "My Story on Winter Tires."

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