what is the proper way to rotate tires

What Is the Proper Way to Rotate Tires?

Tires should be serviced periodically following the rotation patterns provided in the vehicle's owner's manual or as established by the industry. Using tire rotation as a preventative maintenance will equalize front-to-rear and side-to-side wear rates while enhancing wear quality and pattern noise. 

Any minor 1/32" to 2/32" differences in front-to-rear tread depth between tires that might be encountered immediately after periodic tire rotations at 3,000-5,000 mile intervals won't upset the vehicle's hydroplaning balance and should not preclude rotating tires. For that matter, any differences in wear rates indicate that tire rotations should be done more frequently.

When you rotate your tires, it helps to ensure that they wear evenly and last longer. But did you know that there are certain rules for how to properly rotate your tires? Check it out here.

Even Treadwear and Tire Life

Even if your car is properly aligned, tires still need to be rotated for optimal wear performance. Rotation counteracts the uneven wear characteristics of each wheel position on the vehicle. But, how often should you do it? To maximize tire tread life, follow the recommended rotation schedule in your vehicle owners' manual. If there is no recommendation from the vehicle manufacturer, rotate your tires every 5,000 to 7,000 miles by taking your car to a trusted tire dealer or automotive service centre. 

Maintain Proper Alignment

If your car's wheels are out of alignment, your tires will wear unevenly, which can lead to early tire replacement. Also, a car out of alignment could signal other mechanical problems that may affect tire performance. For the best results, choose a shop that uses accurate computer-assisted machines, and ask for a printout of the adjustment angles to keep with your service records.

Check Your Balance

Tires and wheels that are out of balance don't just cause annoying vibrations. Uneven tread wear may also result, further reducing your ride comfort and leading to earlier tire replacement. But, again, a shop with an electronic spin balancer can help smooth things out.

Front-Wheel Drive and Rear-Wheel Drive Vehicles

Front-wheel drive vehicles place braking, steering and driving forces on the front axle tires. Rear-axle tires receive braking forces primarily, resulting in a much faster wear rate for the front axle tires.

Modified Cross Rotation

The "Modified Cross Pattern" can be performed on any front- or rear-wheel drive vehicle equipped with four non-directional tires (directional tires must be rotated front to rear only). Free rolling axle tires are crossed and installed to the drive axle, while the drive axle tires are brought straight to the free-rolling axle (without crossing). Just remember, "cross to drive".

Directional treads are designed to perform in the direction denoted on the tire sidewall only. Therefore, they must always be rotated front to rear — no matter the vehicle they are installed on — so the direction of the rotation does not change.

Tire rotation can be beneficial in several ways. When done at the recommended times, it can preserve balanced handling and traction and even tire wear. Tire rotation can even provide performance advantages.

Many tire mileage warranties require tire rotation to keep the warranty valid. So when should tires be rotated? We recommend that tires be rotated every 3,000 to 5,000 miles even if they don't show signs of wear. Tire rotation can often be done with oil change intervals while the vehicle is off the ground. This can also be a good time to have your tires rebalanced if the vehicle has developed a vibration. It's also a good time to inspect the tires for any damage, remove stones or debris from the tire treads, check for uneven wear by checking the tire tread depth and, of course, checking your tire pressure.

Tire rotation helps tire wear by allowing each tire to serve in as many of the vehicle's wheel positions as possible. But, remember, tire rotation can't correct wear problems due to worn mechanical parts or incorrect inflation pressures.

While vehicles are typically equipped with four tires, the tires on the front axle usually need to accomplish very different tasks than the tires on the rear axle. The tasks encountered on a front-wheel-drive vehicle are considerably different than those of a rear-wheel-drive vehicle. As a result, tire wear experienced on a performance vehicle will usually be more severe than that of a family sedan. Each wheel position can cause different wear rates and different types of tire wear.

It is an advantage when all four tires wear together because as wear reduces a tire's tread depth, it allows all four tires to respond to the driver's input more quickly, maintains the handling and helps increase the tire's cornering traction.

When your tires wear out together, you can get a new set of tires without being forced to buy pairs. If you replace tires in sets of four, you will maintain the original handling balance. In addition, our suppliers constantly introduce new tires, each of which improves upon their past product's performance. If you replace your tires in sets of four, it allows you to experience today's technology instead of being forced to match yesterday's.

How Often Should You Rotate Tires?

what is the proper way to rotate tires 1

Check your car's owner's manual for the recommended tire rotation schedule. Most manufacturers recommend that you rotate your tires every 5,000 miles. An easy way to remember to rotate your tires is to do it whenever you change the oil on your car.

Tools Needed

Carjack. Using the jack that comes with your car can work, but it isn't recommended for rotating your tires. It's designed to lift your car for a short amount of time, so you can quickly change a tire. The safer route is to use a hydraulic floor jack. A good floor jack will set you back about $100, but your safety is well well worth the investment. A car jack will come in handy for other maintenance jobs as well.

Jack stands. You'll need some jack stands so you can rest the car on top of them while you switch the tires out. You can buy a decent set of jack stands for about $30.

If you don't want to fork over the dough, you can jerry-rig a jack stand with a cinderblock and a two by four. Just place the cinderblock under a wheel and place the two by four on top of the cinderblock to prevent scratching the bottom of your car. Next, lower the car jack, so the car rests on the cinderblock and two by four. Wala! Instant jack stands!

Rotation Pattern: Directional or Non-Directional Tires?

Before we start loosening those lug nuts, we need to know what pattern we will use to rotate our tires. The way you rotate your tires depends on a few factors, the biggest one being whether your car has directional or non-directional tires.

How to Rotate Directional Tires. Directional tires have a "one-way" tread pattern optimized for the direction the tires rotate on the car, so they're specifically made for either the left or right side. The grooves are angled to optimize handling, and they also do a good job of channelling water out from under the tire on wet surfaces, reducing hydroplaning and improving wet traction.

Little arrows or triangles on the sidewall indicate which way the tire is supposed to turn.

To rotate directional tires, switch the front right tire for the back right tire and the front left tire for the back left tire.

How to Rotate Non-directional Tires. The tread pattern on non-directional tires is designed so that the tire can be mounted on the wheel for any direction of rotation. So you can switch which side the tires are on when you rotate them.

To rotate non-directional tires, use the cross pattern. For cars with rear-wheel drive, move the front tires to the opposite sides of the rear: left-front to right-rear and right-front to left-rear. The rear tires are moved straight forward. 

On vehicles with front-wheel drive, do the opposite. Move the rear tires to the opposite sides of the front and move the front tires straight back.

Rotate the Spare In?

Some old car maintenance guides recommend that drivers rotate their spare tire into use to give one of the tires a much-needed break. The problem with this advice is that most modern spare tires aren't designed for extended driving. They're often smaller and feature a lighter-weight construction and shallower tread depth. They're designed to get you to a shop to fix the original tire. That's it.

Some cars still come equipped with full-size matching spare tires. Off-road vehicles and many SUVs usually have them. If you have a car with a matching spare tire, it isn't a bad idea to rotate it into use.

Seasonal Changeovers Provide Opportunities for Tire Rotation

what is the proper way to rotate tires 2

For drivers living in America's Snowbelt that will encounter cold winter weather conditions, seasonal changeovers to their winter tires and back will provide the opportunity for tire rotations. For drivers that run an average of 12,000-15,000 miles per year, pre-and post-winter tire changeovers represent two of their three annual rotations. Then, all they have to do is rotate their summer tires once more in July to complete their annual preventative maintenance.

Studded Winter / Snow Tire Rotation

To achieve the best possible wintertime performance and longest lifetime from a set of studded tires, they should be rotated periodically to share the vehicle's workload equally. Tire rotation will help all four tires maintain equivalent tire wear throughout their life despite the different driving demands experienced on a vehicle's steering and non-steering positions, as well as its driven vs. non-driven axles. The resulting equivalent tread depths will help balance traction levels and handling characteristics and help drivers get more life out of their set of four tires.

Tire Rack recommends rotating studded tires at the beginning of every winter season or every 4,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tire Rotation

Tire rotation means periodically changing the position of each of the tires on your vehicle. You should rotate your tires as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer or every 5,000 miles. For many of you, that will mean when you get your vehicle's oil changed.

Regularly rotating your tires also gives you a good opportunity to visually inspect them for damage, check their air pressure, have them rebalanced if you're noticing any vibration, and check their tread depth.

There are several reasons why tire rotation is an important element of your standard tire care. First, wear is spread evenly across all four tires by routinely rotating your tires, and their tread life is maximized.

That's because each specific position on your vehicle requires a different give from each tire—(for example, tires on the front of a front-wheel-drive vehicle will take a larger proportion of the torque and friction that's needed for turning, accelerating and braking)—and can lead to more, or less, wear on the tire. Second, rotating new tires by 5,000 miles is especially important because deep, fresh tire tread is more susceptible to uneven wear.

Secondly, even treadwear keeps the tread depth on your tires uniform, which can help keep traction and handling consistent across all four tires. This will improve cornering and braking performance and keep your vehicle safer for driving overall.

Finally, if your vehicle has all-wheel-drive, evenly worn tires lower the stresses on the drivetrain, reducing wear on expensive drive components.

The tire rotation pattern that's best for your vehicle will depend on the type of tire you're using, whether your vehicle is front, rear, all, or four-wheel drive, whether your tires are directional or non-directional, whether or not your tires are the same size on the front and rear of your vehicle, and whether you have a full-size spare that can be rotated through as well, unlike a temporary spare.

Let's take a look at tire rotation patterns recommended by the standardizing body of the tire industry.

Scroll to Top