The Importance of Tire Rotation

Posted on: December 26, 2016

With winter setting in and road surfaces becoming icy, it’s important to stay safe on the road. A big part of this is making sure your tires are in top condition. You should be regularly checking your tire pressure levels and monitoring them for wear and damage. Overly worn or under-inflated tires are hazardous to drive on, so invest in some top-quality tires to avoid falling victim to the bad weather conditions.

Close up of car rimsAnother essential part of good vehicle maintenance is tire rotation. This means swapping or rotating the position of the four tires on your vehicle. Rotating your tires is easy to do and can really help improve the lifespan of your tires, help you get better gas mileage, reduce unnecessary vibrations, and generally give you a smoother, more comfortable ride.

Why Is Tire Rotation Important?

The tires on your vehicle don’t all perform the same role. For example, on most vehicles, the front tires do most of the steering, while the rear tires just follow the front. There can also be differences in braking and weight distribution on your vehicle, which will put an uneven strain on the tires depending on their position. Cars with a front engine will place greater strain on the front tires, as this is the heaviest part of the car.

TireOther factors like poor wheel alignment and unbalanced tires can also contribute to tires in different positions feeling the strain more quickly than others by causing tires to drag. A worn out suspension can also adversely affect weight distribution on the vehicle, increasing wear when braking.

All of this means tires will wear unevenly. Front tires will wear more quickly on the edges due to doing most of the turning, whereas rear tires wear more evenly. This uneven wear can lead to replacing tires early.

Rotating the position of your tires stops individual tires wearing more than others. Removing these irregular wearing patterns shares the load between all four tires and dramatically increases the lifespan of your tires.

How Often to Rotate Tires

When do you know it’s time to switch tire positions? If you regularly inspect your tires and keep their air pressure topped up (which you should!) then you’ll start to notice if your front tires are looking a bit more worn on the edges. This will give you a good indication of when the tires need rotating.

Uneven tire wear also produces increased road noise when driving and may also lead to vibrations felt in the steering wheel and other parts of the car. If you experience any of these problems, it’s probably time to rotate your tires.

Even if you can’t spot any obvious signs of wear, it is good practice to swap your tires around regularly. Opinion varies on exactly how often it needs to be done. Your tire manufacturer and car manual will give you a specific recommendation for your model but a rule of thumb would be around every 5,000 miles or at least twice per year. This works out roughly the same as rotating your tires at every other oil change, so get into the habit of rotating the tires as part of your general vehicle maintenance schedule.

Obviously, if you do a lot of driving or regularly carry very heavy loads, you are likely to need to rotate tires more often to keep them from being replaced.

Rotation Pattern

How exactly should you rotate your tires? If your tires are all the same, it probably doesn’t matter too much. Take all four wheels off your vehicle and swap the front and rear tires, swap the sides, or even swap diagonally. Just make sure you make a note of which tires have been where so you can keep track of where to put them next time.

close up of car turningIf you have asymmetrical or unidirectional tires, then rotation is slightly more complex. Unidirectional tires are designed to only turn in one direction so need to stay on the same side of the vehicle when rotating. Swap them from front to back, and you’ll be fine. Unidirectional tires are easily identified, as most makes are marked with arrows in the sidewall to indicate the correct orientation.

While most tires have tread patterns that are the same all the way around the surface, you may find some with patterns that change across the tire face. These asymmetrical tires offer some advantages in that different parts of the tread are optimized for different road conditions. As with unidirectional tires, asymmetrical patterns do not perform well if swapped to the other side of the vehicle, so only rotate from front to back.

One final tip is to include the spare tire (if you have one) in your rotation sequence, as this will spread the wear over five tires instead of four.