How To Rotate Tires Properly

When was the last time you thought about your car’s tires? If you’re like most people you very rarely even look at your tires. Unless one of them is flat, you usually drive your car to your destination without giving them a second thought. This is not unusual.

After all, you’re not an aggressive driver and the roads you use are in pretty good shape so why worry?

Well, the real issue is that even normal everyday driving will wear out your tires. So, if normal driving will wear out your tires, what can you do to slow it down? The obvious answer is regular tire rotation.

For some of you reading this article you may have heard about tire rotation and understand its importance. For others, you may be wondering what it is and why you should do it. This article will explain the benefits of a tire rotation and describe how to rotate tires properly for maximum tire life.

What Does Tire Rotation Mean?

Simply stated, tire rotation is the process of moving tires from front to rear so that the tires wear evenly. Depending on the type of tires, the rotation method may vary but the tires still move front to rear. It is a procedure that you can easily do yourself or it can be done by a professional.

Is Tire Rotation Necessary?

For most cars, the weight of the engine and drive-train can be as much as 60% of the gross weight. For front wheel drive cars especially, this weight is directly over the front tires. Because of the weight distribution, the front and rear tires will wear differently. Now add a few quick starts to a bit of hard cornering and the wear on the front tires increases dramatically.

You can’t prevent this wear, but you can reduce it by rotating your car’s tires on a periodic basis. The advantage of rotating your tires is that you will extend tire life. The bonus is reducing the possibility of having a blow-out or other serious tire event on the road.

How To Rotate Tires Properly

Whether you do it yourself or have a professional do it, there is a right way and a wrong way. Doing it yourself, you’ll need jack stands and a hydraulic jack capable of lifting two wheels off the ground. Once you have the tools, you can move forward with the tire rotation, so let’s go:

Step1: Start by looking at your tires to determine if they are directional or non-directional. Most of the cars on the road today have non-directional tires. High-performance cars typically have directional tires to optimize handling and overall performance. Directional tires have a little arrow or triangle on the sidewall indicating the tire rotation direction. If there are no rotation direction arrows, then you have non-directional tires.

Step 2: Next, prepare the wheels for removal. With the car on the ground, use a lug wrench to slightly loosen the lug nuts on all the wheels.

How To Rotate Directional Tires

For directional tires, here is the step-by-step procedure:

Step 1: Raise the driver’s side or passenger side tires off the ground and place jack stands under the front and rear axles.

Step 2: Remove both the front and rear tires on that side and swap them front to rear.

Step 3: Repeat this procedure on the other side of the car.

Step 4: After the car is back on the ground, check each wheel and ensure the lug nuts are tight.

Here is a visual of the tire rotation diagram:

Tire rotation diagram of directional tires rotation.
Tire rotation diagram of directional tires rotation.
Credit: Autozik.com

How To Rotate Non-directional Tires

For non-directional rear wheel drive cars

Here is the step-by-step procedure:

Step 1: Raise the front tires off the ground and place a jack stand under each wheel axle.

Step 2: Raise both rear wheels off the ground using the hydraulic jack placed under the rear differential axle.

Step 3: Remove both rear tires but make sure you know what side they came from (left or right rear).

Step 4: Remove the left front tire, move it to the right rear location and install it.

Step 5: Remove the right front tire, move it to the left rear location and install it.

Step 6: Lower the rear of the car back onto the ground.

Step 7: Take the right rear tire, move it to the front right location and install it.

Step 8: Take the left rear tire, move it to the front left a location and install it.

Step 9: Lower the front of the car back onto the ground.

Step 10: Check each wheel and ensure that the lug nuts are tight.

For non-directional front wheel drive cars

The procedure is just the opposite of rear wheel drive:

Step 1: Raise the car as described in the rear wheel drive procedure.

Step 2: Move the rear tires to the opposite corners of the front of the car.

Step 3: Move the front tires straight back.

Here is a tire rotation diagram showing how the tires are moved for both front and rear wheel drive cars:

Tire rotation diagram of non-directional tires rotation.
Tire rotation diagram of non-directional tires rotation.
Credit: Autozik.com

Do You Need To Balance Your Tires Every Time You Rotate Them?

You do not need to balance your tires after you rotate them. Tire balancing is not dependent on where the tire is located on your car. The important thing to understand about tire rotation is that the tires are moved to allow for even tread wear.

What Happens If You Don’t Get Your Tires Rotated?

Rotating your tires is a very cost-effective way to ensure that your car tires are safe for any road conditions. You do not have to rotate your tires but the benefits are well worth the small effort.

Just by taking this simple step you will significantly reduce the chances of a serious tire event on the road. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and with tires, this is very true.

How Often Should You Rotate New Tires?

If you have your car serviced regularly, you can simply include it with an oil change. The rule of thumb is to rotate tires about every 5000 miles. Combining tire rotation with an oil change is an easy way to ensure that the tires are rotated regularly.

Another advantage of having tires rotated by a professional is that they can alert you to any problems they find. This early warning may help you avoid a serious tire event on the road.

A video about how to rotate tires properly:

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