When to Rotate Your Car’s Tires (and When Not to)

When you’re driving down the road and feel some unusual bumps in the road, are you sure it’s the road and not your tires? When should you rotate your tires? That is a question that many car owners ask themselves.

Typically, you should rotate your tires every 5000–8000 miles (8000–13000 km). You may also reposition your tires as recommended by the manufacturer, if you haul heavy loads, or do off-road driving. However, there’s no need to swap the tires if you just rotated or replaced them.

The rest of this article discusses when to reposition your vehicle’s tires, how to check if it is necessary to do that, and when not to do so. Read on for insights into these and a step-by-step guide on how to rotate your car’s tires.  

Tire rotations enable you to use the tires for a longer time.

When to Rotate Your Tires

Generally, all tires lose grip over time. That’s because the tread wears down and eventually gets so thin that it no longer grips the ground well enough to keep you safe when driving at higher speeds.

As a result, tire rotations are necessary every six months or after covering about 6700 miles (10782.6 km), whichever comes first. This evens out the wear on all four tires to keep them in safe driving condition.

You may wonder, “why six months?”

This recommendation is based on the recent data from the Federal Highway Administration, which shows that American drivers cover an average of 13476 miles (21687.52 km) annually.

Therefore, it takes about six months for a driver to cover slightly above 6500miles (10460.74 km), which is the median of the recommended 5000 to 8000 miles (8046.72 – 12874.75 km).

How to Check if Your Tires Need Repositioning

The best way to know when to rotate your tires or not is by reading the manual that came with your car. That said, here is a shortlist of what you should do to tell if it’s necessary to reposition your vehicle’s tires:

  • If you are unsure whether or not to rotate them, read the manufacturer’s instructions. You can also check your car’s manual.
  • If you’ve been driving in off-road conditions (e.g., on dirt, gravel, or snow), your car’s manual may recommend that you rotate the tires more often than usual for safety reasons.
  • If you are rotating your tires every other oil change, rotate them simultaneously as your next oil change.
  • If you’ve had four new tires installed on an axle and are unsure when to rotate them next, contact the manufacturer or a professional service for help.

Caveat: If you have a front-wheel-drive vehicle and one of its front wheels or tire is bald or damaged in any way, then don’t reposition. Instead, you should replace all four tires.

Replacing all four tires will prevent uneven wear that can put undue pressure on suspension parts, such as ball joints and tie rods, leading to failure. It’ll also improve ride quality. It may be necessary to consult your owner’s manual for instructions on removing the old tire.

When Not to Rotate Your Tires

The only time you shouldn’t rotate your tires is if they have just been repositioned.

For example, if the rear driver side tire was replaced, and then soon after the rear passenger side went flat, it would be a good idea to replace the latter before rotating again with either of those two remaining in total.

If you try to rotate tires after a tire has gone flat, you might damage the valve, causing it to leak air.

Why Do You Need to Rotate Your Tires?

You need to rotate your tires to even wear on them, increase their lifespan, improve their performance, and make driving safe. Besides, rotating your tires keeps other components like differentials, suspension, and wheel bearings in good condition.

Let’s discuss each of these aspects in detail:

Repositioning Tires Increases Their Lifespan

Tire rotations enable you to use the tires for a longer time, as this post by Bridgestone Tires highlights. Arguably, you wouldn’t want to buy new tires due to wear and tear every few months. Therefore, it would help to rotate your tires to make them durable.

Repositioning Tires Improves Their Performance

Tire rotation synchronizes the wear on each tire, so there are no differences in grip and handling between them when it comes to driving. The method also reduces uneven tread wear, which is responsible for vibrations that make your steering wheel shake.

Repositioning Tires Makes Driving Safer

If you don’t rotate tires, they may wear out unevenly, causing inconsistency in their grip on road surfaces. This can be dangerous for the driver and passengers. Rotating your tires prepares them for any weather conditions you might encounter on the road, such as rain, snow, or high humidity, which can cause flat tires and blowouts.

Repositioning Tires Keeps Other Parts in Good Condition

Rotating tires repositions them to keep the wear on different parts of a tire more evenly spread. This reduces uneven pressure that causes premature wearing to parts like the axle, differential, suspension, and wheel bearings.

Here’s a 4-minute video that explains the importance of rotating your car’s tires:

How to Reposition Car Tires

1. Move the Car to a Level Ground

Start by making sure the car is on a level surface.

After that, check whether there are any screw points on the underside of your vehicle that can secure your jacks – these would be at the front and rear axles, where suspension joins with its lower arm.

2. Adjust Your Vehicle Height (if Necessary)

If you need to adjust the height of your vehicle for optimum repositioning, it’s best to use ramps rather than try to get underneath while balancing yourself on concrete or asphalt, which may not offer enough support.

Besides, I recommend that you place the ramps at a 45-degree angle and make sure they are stable so the vehicle won’t slide off of them when you drive up.

If you’re in the market for a quality ramp, I recommend this Trailer-Aid Tandem Tire Changing Ramp from Amazon. It holds up to 15,000 lbs (6,800 kgs) and provides a lift of up to 4.5 in (11.4 cm). Besides, it’s made of a lightweight and sturdy polymer for portability without compromising durability.

3. Loosen Tire Lugs One-by-One

Starting with the rear tire, loosen each lug nut by hand or an air wrench before moving on to the next one. Then raise your car’s wheel off from the ground by about 6 in (15.24 cm) so that it is no longer touching stone surfaces such as asphalt. This prevents any damage from being done while removing it, which can happen if there is direct contact between the axle and pavement.

Have someone else hold onto both ends of your jack stands to keep them steady for safety purposes even though they’ll be elevated higher than normal.

4. Remove the Wheel Carefully and Place It on a Flat Surface

Be careful not to damage your brake rotor that lies behind each wheel.

Lay one of your jack stands so that it supports the car’s weight as you remove the wheel by loosening its lug nuts again with an air wrench or hand. Keep in mind that this can be quite heavy, so ask for help if necessary.

Next, lay down another stand at least 8 in (20.32 cm) from where you removed the first; do this for all four wheels.

5. Rotate the Tires

The last step is rotating your tires. This last step will vary depending on whether your car is a front-drive, rear-drive, or all-wheel-drive vehicle.

Here are the steps to follow in each case:

  • Tire repositioning for a front-drive vehicle: To reposition tires on front-drive vehicles, swap the front tires to their respective rear position. Conversely, move each rear tire to its opposite front wheel (left rear tire to the right front wheel and right rear tire to the left front wheel). This is known as the forward cross.
  • Tire repositioning on a rear-drive vehicle: To reposition tires on rear-drive vehicles, swap the front and back tire positions. However, in this case, swap the rear tires to their corresponding front corner. After that, move each front tire to its opposite rear wheel (left front tire to the right rear wheel and the right front tire to the left rear wheel). This is known as the rearward cross.
  • Tire repositioning for an all-wheel-drive vehicle: In this case, swap the front left tire with the rear right tire. Similarly, interchange the front right tire with the rear left tire. This is known as the X-pattern.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Happens if You Never Rotate Your Tires?

If you never rotate your tires, they might wear down unevenly. This uneven pressure causes premature wearing to parts like the axle, differential, suspension, and wheel bearings. Ultimately, this reduces your tires’ durability and degrades their performance.

Are Tires Balanced When Rotated?

Tires are not balanced after you rotate them. Tire balancing involves spreading the weight of a car’s wheel. In contrast, rotation is simply swapping the positions of different tires.

Tip: It’s advisable to balance your tires when you take them for repositioning to cut costs.

Conclusion

Your tires are crucial parts of your vehicle. They help you drive and keep you safe by providing traction, stability, and control in all types of driving conditions. That’s why it’s essential to know how often you should rotate or replace the tires for maximum performance.

To recap, you should rotate your vehicle’s tires about every 5000 to 8000 miles (8000–13000 km).

If the manufacturer recommends a different interval for particular driving conditions, or if you have just swapped or replaced one of the tires, then it isn’t necessary to change their positions at this time.

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