What Exactly Is a Tire Rotation?Tire rotation is the periodic repositioning of each of your vehicle’s tires in specific patterns based on tire type and vehicle, serving as an important part of tire upkeep and safety. For this service, one of the most common movement patterns is to move the front tires to the rear of the vehicle and the rear tires to the front. However, sometimes the driver’s side tires are moved to the passenger side, and the tires on the passenger side are moved to the driver’s side. And on some vehicles, it is best to rotate tires in a combination of these two movements. Thus, moving the tires in an “x” pattern.
Why Is It So Important to Periodically Rotate Tires?The two main goals of a tire rotation are to help your vehicle’s tires wear more evenly and to catch any tire damage that is sustained while driving. There are several reasons why these two aims are so important. Because the engine is located in the front of most of the vehicles on the road today, most of the vehicle’s weight is centered on the front axle. This extra weight at the front, compared with the rear of the vehicle, causes the front tires to wear faster than the rear tires. Braking and steering also put more stress on the front tires compared with the rear tires. Tires also suffer additional wear when turning. Versus the inside or middle of the tire, the outside of the tire receives more wear when you are turning the vehicle. This is because most of the pressure will be on the outside of the tread. Also, because here in the U.S. we drive on the right side of the road, the vehicle’s left front tire will usually wear faster than the right front tire. This is because the left front tire travels further around most turns. (This, of course, would be the opposite in places that drive on the left.) Your vehicle’s tires can also suffer uneven wear due to mechanical problems, especially with the tire alignment or suspension. Common problems can include anything from issues with the lower or upper control arms to bad ball joints. Uneven wear caused by the above problems can create an unstable driving surface, which could lead to unsafe driving conditions like:
- Excess heat buildup.
- Poor traction on rain, ice, and snow.
- Increased risk of punctures and blowouts while driving.
What Happens During a Tire Rotation Service?During a tire service, the mechanic will take off each tire/wheel assembly on your vehicle and rotate it from one position on the vehicle to another. The exact pattern that the tires will be moved in depends on the tire type, whether your vehicle is rear- (RWD) or front-wheel drive (FWD), and what exactly was done at your vehicle’s last tire rotation. If you have two new tires and two worn tires, the better tires will be put on the rear of the vehicle to prevent the risk of fishtailing. This is the case regardless of whether the vehicle is RWD, FWD, or all-wheel drive (AWD). When your vehicle is in the shop to have its tires rotated, the mechanic will also thoroughly look over the tires for any other problems that could negatively impact tire performance or safety. The mechanic will:
- Examine each tire’s tread wear.
- Check for any foreign objects or damage.
- Check the air pressure in each tire and adjust as needed.
- Tighten any wheel lug nuts that are loose.
How Often Should a Tire Rotation Be Completed?The deeper tread on new tires is more susceptible to uneven wear. That is why it is best to have new tires rotated promptly at the 5,000-mile mark. When your vehicle’s tires have passed the 5,000-mile mark, determining if you need a tire rotation will really depend on the type of vehicle you have, what the vehicle and tire manufacturers recommend, and how you drive. But generally speaking, you should have a tire rotation done anywhere between every 3,000 and 7,000 miles. If you drive a RWD or a FWD vehicle, the usual recommendation is to have a tire rotation between every 5,000 and 7,000 miles. If you drive aggressively or in challenging conditions, opt for the lower end of this range. Alternatively, if you drive an AWD vehicle, each tire will wear at more varying rates, so you should have them checked more frequently. For these vehicles, you’ll want to rotate the tires every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Again, stick to the lower end of this range if you drive in rough conditions. For the most definitive answer, take a look at your vehicle owner’s manual for the exact recommendation. A good routine to follow is to have a tire rotation and inspection done during your vehicle’s oil/filter change service appointment.
The Benefits of Routine Tire RotationsTire rotation is one of the easiest ways you can help protect your vehicle’s tires and maximize the performance of not only the tires but your vehicle as a whole. Some of the benefits of maintaining a schedule of routine tire rotations include the following:
Tire Rotations Maximize the Lifespan of Your Vehicle’s Tire TreadOne of the most important benefits of regular tire rotations is that they will help you evenly distribute tread wear, helping you get the full life out of your vehicle’s tires. For example, a regular tire rotation will prevent the tread from “cupping.” Tire cupping is an uneven wear pattern that looks like someone scooped out part of the tread with an ice cream scoop every three to four inches around the entire tire. This is an issue that will become more serious the longer it is ignored. Not only will it wear down your vehicle’s tires much more quickly, but tire cupping can also affect your steering and braking ability, increasing your risk of having an accident.
Tire Rotations Enhance Your Vehicle’s Overall Driving PerformanceWhen you consistently have tire rotations done, you will definitely feel a difference in the way your vehicle drives. You’ll enjoy a smooth ride with optimal steering, braking, and tire grip on the road. Good tread grip means better handling and more responsiveness. Plus, you won’t experience as much vibration or excess road noise. When the wear on your vehicle’s tires is evenly balanced, the tires can perform at their best. This will be especially helpful if you live in an environment that has seasons of heavy rainfall or snow and rainfall and you need optimal traction.
Tire Rotations Help Ensure the Safety of Your VehicleHelping to make sure that your vehicle’s tires are wearing evenly also helps make your vehicle much safer to drive. Poor tread wear patterns can significantly decrease vehicle handling and put you at a greater risk of an accident. Routine tire rotations will also give your mechanic the opportunity to catch any problems early before they turn into something bigger, for example, overly damaged tires before they blow out.
Tire Rotations Improve Fuel EfficiencyRegular tire rotations can help you maximize your vehicle’s gas mileage. Unevenly worn tires put greater strain on your vehicle’s engine, leading to decreased fuel efficiency. This is because unevenly worn tires force the engine to work harder to generate the amount of power needed. So, keeping up with a routine tire rotation service can help increase your vehicle’s traction and stability and keep your vehicle’s tires performing at their best, as well as help reduce the risk that you are spending more than you should at the pump.
Tire Rotations Reduce Excess Stress on Other Vehicle ComponentsRoutine tire rotation not only slows down the wear on your vehicle’s tires but also decreases the wear on the brake system, suspension components, and drive train (for AWD vehicles). For example, a tire rotation helps ensure that your vehicle has more balanced suspension components. This reduces the stress put on the shocks, springs, struts, etc.
Tire Rotations Save You Money on Other Maintenance CostsReplacing related components due to uneven tire tread is much more expensive than the cost of a tire rotation. So, investing your time and money in a routine tire rotation service will actually help save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars further down the road. New tires, rims, brakes, or suspension parts are not cheap. As mentioned above, visiting your local shop to rotate your vehicle’s tires every so often will allow any small issues to be caught early. The quicker something can be caught, the less it will cost to fix.
Tire Rotations Protect Your Tire WarrantyIn many cases, the tire manufacturer requires you to keep up with a regular interval of tire rotation service in order to keep the warranty on the tires valid. It is very important to check if this applies to your vehicle’s tires. Protecting your warranty can save you quite a bit of money if you ever experience a tire blowout or anything similar.
Determining the Best Tire Rotation Pattern for Your VehicleThe best tire rotation pattern for your vehicle is dependent on a variety of factors, including:
- The type of tire on your vehicle.
- If your vehicle is RWD, FWD, AWD, or four-wheel drive (4WD).
- Whether your vehicle’s tires are non-directional or directional.
- Whether your vehicle’s tires are the same size on the front and rear of the vehicle.
- Whether you also have a full-size spare that can be included in the rotation.
For Tires That Are Uniform in Size and Non-Directional
Rearward Cross (RWD, AWD, and 4WD Vehicles)
Forward Cross (FWD Vehicles)
X-Pattern (FWD Trucks and Sedans)
For Tires That Are Uniform in Size and Non-Directional, Including a Full-Sized SpareIn order to ensure that all of your vehicle’s tires have more even tread wear, the full-size spare tire should be included in the rotation along with the other four tires. This is especially important for AWD or 4WD vehicles, where even a small difference in tire wear can put excess strain on your vehicle’s drivetrain.
Rearward Cross (RWD and 4WD Vehicles)
Forward Cross (FWD Vehicles)
For Directional and High-Performance Tires
Front-to-Back (Directional Tires)
Side-to-Side (Different-Sized Performance Tires on the Front and Rear Axles)
Six-Tire Rotation (Dually Trucks)