Tire rotation helps to ensure even wear as your tires age and use up their tread (see Need New Tires?). This provides a better ride and prevents you from having to replace tires before their time because one tire wore out too soon.
Most car maintenance manuals have diagrams of how to rotate your tires and these diagrams should be followed in most cases. Here are some important points on how to rotate tires at home.
Directional vs. Non-Directional Tires
Most likely, unless you have high performance tires on your car, you have non-directional tires. The tread on these tires are designed to spin in both directions. If your tires are directional, the tires need to be rotated from front to back only.
You can easily tell which is which depending on if you see an arrow on the tire showing the way the tire should roll/rotate. The main purpose of directional tires is to properly channel water away from the middle of the tire if driving through rain or snow.
If your car has tires on it in two different sizes, then only rotate the tires front to front and back to back (if they are directional, then you’re out of luck as far as rotation goes). For most of us, our non-directional tires will be rotating on a front-wheel drive car. In this case, the front tires should rotate to the back and the back tires should cross over and rotate to the front. If your tires don’t wear evenly using this pattern, try crossing over both the front and back tires as you rotate the back and front tires.
Asymmetrical vs. Symmetrical
Asymmetrical tires have a different tread pattern on the left and right side of the tire tread. They are meant to be mounted with one side always facing the outside. You will see something like “This Side Out” noted on the sidewall. These tires provide various advantages in handling. When rotating, it’s recommended to follow an “X” pattern if possible (left front –> right rear; right front –> left rear). Symmetrical tires have a tire tread pattern that’s identical on both sides.
4 x 4 Vehicles
These vehicles need to use a different pattern when rotating their tires. These vehicles need more stability in the back tires. The standard rotation pattern is back tires to the front, take the front tires and crossover , then put the former front tires on the back of the vehicle. Crossing the back tires rather than the front tires allows the back tires to last longer on these vehicles.
Vehicles With Two Different Tire Sizes
Never inter mix two different tire sizes. Simply switch these tires from left to right (if they have non-directional tire tread); never from front to back. You can severely damage your vehicle by using uneven tire sizes. Don’t mix these up.
The best way to remember to rotate your tires is to always do it with your oil change. Keep a written record of which tires went where; you won’t remember months later. Use a good hydraulic jack to lift your car off the ground while removing your tires. Make sure the vehicle is sitting on jack stands before taking the tires off the car. Check out our homepage to help you select the right type of jack for your vehicle for rotating your tires.
Remember to check the all the lug nuts on the tire to make sure they’ve been tightened to specs before you let the jack down. If you have a full-size spare tire, you can include this tire into the rotation by swapping out either the left front tire for the space each time your rotate the tires. Rubber wears out after several years due to age even if a tire is not used so make sure you inspect your spare on a regular basis.
When you rotate your tires, make it a habit of checking the air pressure in your tires (including the spare). You don’t need any special compressor if you don’t have one. You can get a cheap Central Pneumatic from Harbor Freight for about $60. If you think you’ll use it for more than just blowing up tires, you may want to look into a larger 20-30 gallon model.
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