What Is A Tire Rotation
For those that may not know, a tire rotation is the act of moving the location of the wheels and tires of your vehicle to a different location on the vehicle. Different vehicles are designed with different weight, steering, and drive-axle configurations. This means that all tires don’t wear evenly on all four corners of the vehicle. Different types of vehicles have different tire rotation techniques or recommended rotation patterns.
Different types of vehicles have individual patterns that the tires should be rotated. For example, if you have a front-wheel drive vehicle, all four tires will eventually be placed on each wheel hub location within the first 20,000 miles. In this example, if we follow the left front tire’s original location and assume all the tires are brand new and the vehicle has 50,000 miles on the odometer, the rotation process would be as follows:
Left front tire would be rotated to the left rear at 55,000 miles.
That same tire now on the left rear would be cross-rotated to the right front at 60,000 miles
Once on the right front, that same tire would be rotated straight back to the right rear at 65,000 miles
Finally, the same tire now on the right rear would be rotated back to it’s original location at 70,000 miles.
Use A Lug Wrench To Loosen The Wheels Before Lifting
Most cars will have a lug wrench and wheel lock key in their toolkit in the trunk. Do not use the torque wrench to break the lug nuts loose, it will damage it. Dont be afraid to use your legs on the lug wrench to crack them loose! Dont remove, just loosen them. You wont be able to loosen them in the air.
Remove Wheels And Follow The Appropriate Pattern
Get your lug wrench that you used to loosen the lug nuts and use it to fully remove the lug nuts. Keep the lugs somewhere safe and carefully remove the wheel. If the wheel is stuck, give it a kick or use a mallet on the tire to free it from the hub. Remove the pairs you intend to rotate first and swap them so wheels dont get mixed up. Remember to use the patterns specified above. Furthermore, directional tires need to remain on the same side of the car, and be aware of staggered sizes that could affect pattern and rotation.
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Find The Front Jack Point And Lift The Car
Most cars will have a main front jack point under the center of the front of the car to make lifting easier. If that is not the case, you will have to lift each side of the car separately and place jack stands underneath a secure point like a control arm joint or the main jack points. Refer to your owners manual.
Road Test Your Vehicle
Once you’ve rotated your tires, you’ll be ready to take it on a test drive. If you took our advice in Step 7 and had your tires balanced professionally, you should have a very smooth ride. However, if you didn’t, you should look for the following signs that the tires need to be balanced.
- The vehicle steering wheel vibrates when you accelerate
- The front end shakes when you approach highway speeds
If this happens on your road test, take the vehicle to a professional tire shop and have the front wheels and tires balanced. Rotating your tires can add thousands of miles to your tires’ lifespan, prevent uneven tire wear, and keep you safe from tire blowouts. By maintaining your tires, you will save both time and money in the long run and ensure your safety on the road. Take the time to care for your tires by rotating your tires yourself, or having a professional mechanic rotate your tires for you.
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How Often To Rotate Tires
Want to make the most of your tires? We have tips from an expert on how often you should rotate them.
Tires cost a lot of money. If you want to get the most life out of your rubber, its a good idea to have them periodically rotated to ensure even wear, saving you cash in the long run. Heres how often to do it, including advice from an expert.
Road & Track spoke with Kevin Hines, senior technician at McLaren Philadelphia, to learn how often tires should be rotated. Hines is North Americas only factory-certified McLaren F1 technician, which means his day job revolves around working on $20 million exotics. If anyone understands how tire rotations work, its him.
Understanding Tire Rotation Pattern Directional Tires
Directional tires have a uniquely designed tread pattern and are made to only rotate in one direction. They have an arrow on the sidewall to point in the correct way the tire should turn, and the tire can only be mounted correctly on the corresponding side of the car. The most significant advantage of directional tires is that they offer better handling in wet conditions and they are optimized to be more fuel efficient.
In terms of tire rotation, directional tires can only be rotated front to back. As shown in the diagram, the front right tire will be switched with the rear right tire the front left, with the rear left.
While this simplifies the process, this also mean that directional tires tend to have a shorter tread life than normal tires. Also, in some cars there may a slight difference in tires size between the front and rear tires. In that case, you will not be able to perform tire rotations at all.
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How To Rotate Your Tires
Time needed: 20 minutes.
1. Engage parking brake. Just for your safety.
2. Loosen the lug nuts on all your wheels. You dont want to take them completely off yet. Loosening them now will make unscrewing them when the car is elevated much easier.
3. Lift up one wheel with car jack and place jack stand underneath it. If you just have one or two jack stands youll need to do a bit of mental work before you start jacking so you know how youre going to proceed with lowering and raising your car. Because you have fewer stands, youll also spend more time lowering and raising your car in order to switch them out. Despite the extra effort, you still wont spend much more than 20 minutes on the job. Ive seen some people place their car on all four jack stands. Its not exactly the safest thing to do, but it will definitely help you get the job done faster because you dont have to switch out jack stands.
4. Remove the tires and rotate them according to the appropriate pattern for your type of tires. When you place a tire back onto the wheel mount, screw the lug nuts on by hand as much as you can.
5. Lower the car from the jack stands. Take the lug wrench and tighten the nuts even more. Its best to work the lug nuts diagonally from one to another. It looks like a star pattern. This ensures even tightening. Tightening the lug nuts unevenly can warp the brake rotor.
Star pattern when tightening lug nuts
Why Is Tire Rotation Important
There are several reasons why tire rotation is an important element of your standard tire care. First, by routinely rotating your tires, wear is spread evenly across all four tires, and their tread life is maximized. Thatâs because each specific position on your vehicle requires a different give from each tireââand can lead to more, or less, wear on the tire. It is especially important to rotate new tires by 5,000 miles because deep, fresh tire tread is more susceptible to uneven wear.
Secondly, even tread wear keeps the tread depth on your tires uniform, which can help keep traction and handling consistent across all four tires. This will improve cornering and braking performance and keep your vehicle safer for driving overall.
Finally, if your vehicle has all-wheel-drive, evenly worn tires lower the stresses on the drivetrain, reducing wear on expensive drive components.
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Rotated Not Rotating There’s Most Definitely A Difference
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Rotating your own tires is an essential but misunderstood part of automotive upkeep, especially if you think this already happens while driving. Yes, tires rotate while you’re moving. No, rotating them doesn’t mean spinning them even morethat’s called a burnout and requires a whole other, much more fun, how-to. For now, rotating your tires means you’re playing musical chairs with them, but instead of being the last one on a seat, you’re equalizing their tread wear.
That said, not all cars are the same and if your car has mismatched tire sizesthink Corvettes, Lamborghinis, and even some Mustangsyou won’t be able to rotate your tires. For those that have a square stance, equal sizes all the way around, here’s how to rotate them yourself without damaging the car or your body. Let’s get going.
Rotation Pattern: Directional Or Non
Before we start loosening those lug nuts, we need to know what pattern were going to use to rotate our tires. The way you rotate your tires depends on a few factors, the biggest one being whether your car has directional or non-directional tires.
How to Rotate Directional Tires. Directional tires have a one-way tread pattern that are optimized for the direction the tires rotate on the car, so theyre specifically made for either the left or right side. The grooves are angled to optimize handling, and they also do a good job of channeling water out from under the tire on wet surfaces, reducing hydroplaning and improving wet traction.
Little arrows or triangles on the sidewall indicate which way the tire is supposed to turn.
To rotate directional tires, just switch the front right tire for the back right tire, and the front left tire for the back left tire, like this:
How to Rotate Non-directional Tires. The tread pattern on non-directional tires is designed in such a way that the tire can be mounted on the wheel for any direction of rotation. So you can switch which side the tires are on when you rotate them.
To rotate non-directional tires, use the cross pattern. For cars with rear-wheel drive, move the front tires to the opposite sides of the rear: left-front to right-rear and right-front to left-rear. The rear tires are moved straight forward. Heres how it looks visually:
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When Should You Rotate Tires
Most drivers should rotate their tires approximately every 8,000 kilometres. Some people like to do their tire rotations along with every other oil change.
In parts of Canada where drivers ride on winter for half of the year, the semi-annual winter tire changes are also an ideal time for a tire rotation.
If you pile up the kilometres in your vehicle each year , its advisable to add in an extra tire rotation. In addition to spring and fall, you could rotate your tires sometime in the summer.
What Is Tire Rotation
Tire rotation means periodically changing the position of each of the tires on your vehicle. You should rotate your tires as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer, or every 5,000 miles. For many of you, that will mean when you get your vehicleâs oil changed.
Regularly rotating your tires also gives you a good opportunity to visually inspect them for damage, check their air pressure, have them rebalanced if youâre noticing any vibration, and check their tread depth.
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Lower The Rear Onto The Rear Jack Stands
Same as before, lower the car slowly onto the stands and make sure everything lands securely. Give the car a shake. After thats done, keep the hydraulic jack just beneath the height of the jack stands on the side youre working on. That way, if one of the jack stands fails, the jack will be there to save it.
What Is The Best Type Of Jack
We’re partial to hydraulic jacks since they are easy to move around and still strong enough to take the weight of most vehicles. Scissor jacks are good when you need to lift the vehicle on the side of the road to change a tire. More specialized jacks, like floor jacks, are also useful but are less flexible in use.
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Rotating Tires The Basics
With daily use, the front and rear tires on your car typically endure different rates and patterns of wear. Both front tires wear faster than the rear tires due to the most of the cars mass being at the front. In addition, typical turning patterns as we drive can cause one or the other front tire to wear down faster.
In all, rotating tires is essential to balance out these wear patterns and extend the life of your tires, which mitigates the cost of tire replacement. It also helps maintain the cars traction and handling, which can be life-saving in inclement weather from rain to snow.
A lug wrench is essential for loosening and tightening the nuts that secure the tire to the car. A four-sided wrench is versatile enough to use on a variety of nut sizes and also provides a good grip to get the leverage you need to turn nuts when tightening.
Most cars come with a small jack packed along with the spare tire kit. This jack is only intended for quick roadside repairs. If you intend to perform DIY maintenance on your car regularly, you should invest in a hydraulic car jack. It provides a reliable lift and can securely hold the weight of the car provided you buy one in the correct size.
How To Rotate Car Tires
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration , tire failure leads to approximately 11,000 automotive crashes every year in the United States. Of these car accidents that occur in the US each year due to issue with tires, almost half are fatal. Most Americans don’t think twice about our tires we assume as long as they are round, have tread and are holding air, they are doing their job. However, having your tires rotated at recommended intervals can save you a ton of money on buying new tires but also potentially save a life.
Most automotive as well as OEM and aftermarket tire manufacturers agree, tires should be rotated every 5,000 to 6,000 miles . Proper rotation intervals can reduce the potential of the leading causes of tire-related accidents including tread separations, blowouts, bald tires and under-inflated tires. However, by simply taking the action to rotate and inspect your tires, you’re also able to diagnose problems with your suspension and steering and can improve fuel economy as well.
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How To Tell If Tires Are Directional
The performance consequences of running directional tires incorrectly can be significant, so tire manufacturers clearly mark directional tires with an arrow/rotation direction on the outside tire sidewall.
The easiest and most certain way to tell if a tire is directional is to examine the sidewall, and see if there is a “ROTATION” indication, as pictured here:
All directional tires will have the rotation direction indicated on the outside tire sidewall.
The Most Important Step: Making Sure You Can Rotate
The first thing you need to do is figure out whether you even can rotate your cars tires. The easiest way to rotate tires is by moving wheels to different locations on the car, but you cant do that on every car.
Cars sometimes use directional tires where the tread pattern is designed to work in only one direction. This direction is denoted by an arrow on the sidewall that points in the direction the tire rotates, or more generally by a V-shaped tread pattern. You can swap these wheels and tires from front to back yourself with relative ease. However, you cant swap these tires from side to side without having someone dismount the tire from the wheel, since changing sides as-is would flip the tread pattern in the wrong direction.
Many performance cars use staggered tire sizes, which usually means that the rear tires are larger than the fronts . In this case, you cant slap your wide rear tires on the front. You can only rotate tires to the other side of their given axle, which means youll need someone to dismount and remount the tire to fit on the wheel on the other side.
In this case, you may be able to swap wheels from side to side if the tires arent directional, however, you will have to dismount and remount tires to swap them from front to back. Check your owner’s manual on that one since it won’t be obvious just by looking.
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Understanding Tire Rotation Pattern Non
The tread pattern in non-directional tires is designed to perform generally well in all conditions, and while they are not as aesthetically flashy as non-directional tires, they are durable and economical. Non-directional tires have a longer tread life due to their ability to be rotated around the car uneven tread wear is much easier to eliminate, and the tires dont need to be wholly replaced as often.
As shown in the diagram, the standard rotation pattern moves the tires in a figure like a horizontal hourglass:
- The front left tire rotates to the right rear position
- The right rear tire rotates to the right front position
- The right front tire rotates to the left rear position
- The left rear tire rotates to the left front position
If the car is a model with front-wheel drive, reverse this pattern, beginning with the front tires:
- The front left tire rotates to the left rear position
- The left rear tire rotates to the right front position
- The right front tire rotates to the right rear position
- The right rear tire rotates to the left front position
- Place the vehicle in park on level ground.
- Engage the emergency brake.
- Place a tire block or a wedge of scrap wood under one of the tires.
- Loosen the lug nuts on all the wheels, but do not remove them completely.