Rotating your vehicle’s tires is one of the simplest ways to keep your four-wheeled pride and joy in peak condition. Tires are vital to every aspect of daily driving, and tire rotation keeps them wearing evenly so they last longer. Let’s take a look at what tire rotation involves, why it’s important, how much it costs, and how to rotate tires yourself.
What Is Tire Rotation?
Tire rotation is a common car maintenance procedure wherein each tire is moved to a different position on the vehicle to help them wear evenly and last longer.
Tires may be moved from the front of the car to the back, from one side to the other, or from opposite corners.
Why Is Tire Rotation Important?
Tire rotation is essential because car tires wear unevenly. For example, in a front-wheel-drive (FWD) vehicle, the front tires must steer, brake, and accelerate. That’s a lot of work, meaning they generally wear at a higher rate than the rear tires.
What happens if you don’t rotate your tires?
If you don’t rotate your tires, they will wear unevenly. Uneven tire wear affects how your car handles, accelerates, and brakes.
Skipping tire rotation usually leads to a set of tires not lasting as long, which means you’ll replace your tires more often over the life of the vehicle, costing you more money.
In a worst-case scenario, an overly worn tire may rupture, which can be dangerous if it happens while you are driving.
How Much Does Tire Rotation Cost?
Budget anywhere from $50 to $100 for a tire rotation – although prices will vary depending on the dealership or repair shop. The cost is entirely based on hourly labor rates, not part prices because you won’t need new parts in a typical tire rotation.
Tire rotation is relatively inexpensive since existing parts are being moved around your vehicle – nothing is replaced or repaired. In most cases, all that needs doing is to move the tires front to back or side to side.
Tire rotation is so common that it’s usually included in a package with other tire maintenance services, such as wheel alignment and balancing, as well as general car maintenance services like oil changes.
How Often Should Tires Be Rotated?
Tire rotation should be done every 5,000 miles or once every 6 months, whichever comes first. The intervals can sometimes stretch slightly higher to perhaps 8,000 miles. Check your owner’s manual to see which tire rotation schedule the automaker recommends.
Remember, it doesn’t matter if your vehicle is front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive; tire rotation must be part of your car’s routine maintenance schedule.
Tire Rotation Patterns
No matter where your car or truck sends its power, the tires must be regularly rotated. Tire rotation varies depending on the drive layout:
- FWD: This is one of the easiest tire rotation jobs. The front tires go to the rear and stay on the same side of the vehicle.
- RWD: Only slightly more involved than a FWD tire rotation, the rear tires move directly to the same side at the front, and each front tire goes to the opposite corner at the rear of the vehicle.
- AWD: In an AWD tire rotation, the front left tire swaps with the right rear, while the front right tire swaps with the left rear.
- Directional: Here’s where things get a little tricky. Some vehicles ride on what’s known as directional tires. This means the tread pattern is designed to rotate in only one direction. With directional tires, the front and rear tires swap places and stay on the same side of the vehicle.
- Directional and Staggered: If the car in question has directional tires and staggered wheels (meaning the front and rear wheels are different sizes), the only tire rotation option is to dismount the tires from the wheels themselves, then move the tires from one side of the car to the other and remount them.
DIY: Can You Rotate Your Own Tires?
Absolutely, as long as you don’t mind a little brake dust on your hands. It helps to have access to a lift. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck using a jack to lift each corner of the car. For more involved tire rotations, like those requiring taking tires off of wheel rims, you’ll need a trusted mechanic’s resources – and skills –.
How to rotate your tires
- First, ensure you have the right tools for the job, including tools to properly remove each wheel and secure the lug nuts back into place.
- Inspect the tires to make sure there aren’t any glaring and obvious flaws. Excessive wear, cuts in the sidewall, or extremely uneven tread wear could mean replacement tires are needed, or a problem might be lurking in the suspension.
- If everything looks in order, follow the FWD/RWD/AWD guide provided above, and you’ll be ready for many more miles of safe and happy driving.
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