Rotating tires is the flossing of car ownership: Good to do, far too seldom done. Here’s how, and why
Rotating tires means moving them around to different corners of the car every few thousand miles. How many thousand is down to you, your car’s owner’s manual and your tire shop’s advice.
Why rotate tires?
The reason you move tires around you car is that tires wear differently depending where they’re mounted:
- Outside front tire edges get more cornering wear, but rear outside edges suffer from this as well.
- Front tires get scrubbed on the pavement more due to steering rotation.
- Rear tires have an easier life in many cars because they carry less weight.
- Driven tires are subjected to twisting force that the non-driven tires aren’t.
- And there’s a theory that we tend to (or should) make more right turns than left.
Put another way, think about the front tires on a common front wheel drive car: They have to handle driving the car forward, steering it, traction for up to 70% of braking, and do all that with a heavy engine sitting atop them.
Rotation spreads those ills evenly across all four tires over time so that you replace tires perhaps thousands miles less often. Here’s how to do it.
How to rotate tires
Just loosen the lug nuts or bolts that hold each wheel on and then get the car off the ground, which will require a good jack, not the widowmaker that came with the car. You’ll also need four jack stands to hold up the car as you’re going to remove all the wheels at once.
Now, where to move each tire: Consult your owners manual or follow the standard industry wisdom laid out by the Tire Industry Association:
Front wheel drive cars: The front tires go straight back to the rear and the rear tires cross sides as they move to the front.
Rear wheel drive cars: The front tires cross to the other side of the car as they move to the back while the rear tires move straight to the front.
All wheel drive cars: Right front and left rear tires swap positions, while the left front and right rear tires do the same in a sort of “double X” pattern.
Rotating tires is tedious if you aren’t the weekend wrench type, so figure out a way to make it part of another maintenance you take your car in for. I don’t think the tire rotation interval has to be as precise as an oil change or timing belt replacement, which makes fitting it in with another service much easier.