Cars need ongoing maintenance. Part of the upkeep of your vehicle involves an oil change and tire rotation at regular intervals. Understanding what tire rotation does, how it's done, and why it matters can help you take the best possible care of your vehicle, extending its life on the road and making it safer to drive.
What Is Tire Rotation?
Tire rotation is the process of moving tires from one position on your car to another. Typically, during a tire rotation, the front tires are moved to the back of the car and the back tires are put on the front. The tires might also swap sides, with the tires on the right moving to the left side of the vehicle and those on the left moving to the right side.
Tire Rotation Patterns
Several tire rotation patterns exist, and the pattern that’s most appropriate for your car depends on the type of vehicle you have and the type of tires you use. Your vehicle can be front-wheel drive, all-wheel-drive, or rear-wheel drive, and your tires may be directional or nondirectional. Directional tires are meant to be turned in one direction based on their tread pattern, while nondirectional tires can be turned in any direction. Your tires can also be staggered, meaning they are different sizes in the front and back.
Three types of tire rotation patterns can be used for nondirectional tires that are the same size on the front and back of the car. If your vehicle is front-wheel drive, the front tires will move to the back on the same side. The back tires will move to the front, but they will switch sides. The left rear tire will move to the right front and the right rear tire will move to the left front.
Another tire rotation option for front-wheel drive vehicles with same-size, nondirectional tires is to have the front tires move to the opposite sides on the rear and the rear tires move to the opposite sides on the front.
If you drive a four-wheel-drive or rear-wheel drive car or truck with same-size, nondirectional tires, the typical tire rotation pattern brings the rear wheels to the front on the same side, while the front tires move to the opposite sides on the rear of the vehicle.
The rotational patterns are different for directional tires. Since they’re meant to turn in one direction, they need to stay on the same side of the vehicle. A directional tire on the right front of the car can move to the right rear while a directional tire on the left front of the car can move to the left rear.
If your car's tires are different sizes in the front and back, they typically need to stay in either the front or rear of the vehicle. During tire rotation, a nondirectional rear tire that's different in size from the front tire will move to the opposite side of the car, trading places with the other tire.
Directional tires that are different sizes in the front and back can also swap sides during tire rotation, but the tires will need to be taken off the wheels, then remounted before they move to their new spots.
Another thing that can affect the tire rotation pattern is whether your car has a full-sized spare tire or not. If it does have a full-sized spare, you might want to work the spare into the rotation pattern so that all your vehicle's tires wear evenly.
Why Rotate Your Tires?
There are several reasons why rotating your tires is a smart idea. Moving the tires from one location to another helps them to wear evenly. The amount of pressure and friction a tire experiences varies based on where it’s located on a vehicle. If a car has front-wheel drive, the tires in the front experience the greatest amount of friction. Tires on the back of rear-wheel drive vehicles wear more quickly than those on the front.
Rotating the tires for even wear also helps to improve the handling of your car and extend the life of your tires. If you never move the tire from the front right side position of your car, its tread will become worn out. The lack of tread can make the tire, and the car, more prone to slipping in wet conditions. A tire that gets more wear and tear than its companions is also going to wear out more quickly and need replacement sooner.
Another reason to rotate your tires is that not doing so might void the warranty you get from the manufacturer.
When to Rotate Your Tires
Although when you rotate your tires can vary based on how much you drive and the drivetrain in your vehicle, a general rule of thumb to follow is to rotate your tires every 6 months or 5,000 to 8,000 miles. Luckily for many drivers, oil changes are also recommended at this interval, meaning it's easy to combine the two maintenance tasks.
Oil Change and Tire Rotation Cost
Although you do need to pay for vehicle maintenance, the good news is that most maintenance tasks, such as an oil change and tire rotation, end up saving you money in the long run by helping you avoid breakdown and significant damage to your vehicle. It's also possible to get a discount on tire and oil change tasks. For example, if you schedule an oil change at Tire Outlet, tire rotation is included at no extra charge.
Can You Skip Tire Rotation?
Skipping tire rotation is risky and often not worth it. When you don't rotate your car's tires on the recommended schedule, they’re more likely to fail or otherwise affect the handling of your vehicle. Your best bet is to play it safe and rotate your tires on the schedule recommended by the manufacturer.
When it's time to rotate your car's tires or for a car tire change, Tire Outlet has you covered. We perform all automotive repair services, including oil changes and tire rotations. We also sell new tires and offer a price match guarantee, so you'll never overpay. To learn more, visit one of our locations today or schedule an appointment online.