Have you ever wondered why your tires prematurely or unevenly wear out? Several roadways can become dangerous places, mainly if your tires are in bad shape.
Picture yourself driving your car over a patch of ice during winter, and to avoid hitting another vehicle, you hit the brakes.
Without your tires being in a safe condition, do you imagine what damage you can cause, let alone the loss you will incur? You want the most reliable tires, and an excellent way to begin is through tire rotation.
Unsafe tires can be caused by factors like hostile terrain, how you drive, total mileage over time, and how often you maintain them.
Regular rotation of tires ensures that all the wheels have the same tread as opposed to having only two worn out tires, especially the front tires.
Because of the weight of the engine, steering of the vehicle and braking, which shifts the burden to the front, the head wheels can wear out fast.
Rotating them guarantees good life, equal pressure, and perfect balance. Your safety also heightens in the process. But how often should you rotate your tires? Here is everything you need to know, including how to carry out this maintenance tip.
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What Is A Tire Rotation?
When I talk about the rotation of tires, I don’t mean spinning them in their axle. I’m talking about detaching them from one position to another. That is, switching the front tires with the back, left to the right and possibly diagonally if you want to.
Why rotate tires? The maintenance tip is beneficial in a variety of ways. Done regularly or at recommended times, it helps you have more control of the vehicle and preserve traction as well as eliminating uneven tire wear. The rotation allows each tire to serve in all the four positions of wheels as much as possible.
However, you should keep in mind that switching of tires from one place to another will not rectify wear issues that result from mechanical parts or inappropriate inflation pressures.
As pointed out earlier, the front tires are subjected to the accomplishment of various tasks than the wheels on the rear axle. Thus, they prematurely die faster than the back wheels.
This wear will eventually be more severe than that of a family car if what you have is a performance vehicle. The different positions have varying degrees of wheel damage.
It is essential for all the tires to wear evenly. This way, they will minimize the tread’s depth. Moreover, they will be highly and equally responsive to your input or the driver’s action, apart from maintaining the wheels cornering traction and handling.
Allowing your wheels to wear out at the same time means you can purchase a new set of tires without anyone forcing you to buy them individually or in pairs.
A new set of four tires helps you maintain the initial maneuvering balance. The process of rotating tires is simple, and you shouldn’t wait for them to succumb to wear and tear before you think about it. Switch them regularly.
Pro tip: Ensure that your tires are rotated every 6-8 months.
What’s A Tire Rotation Pattern?
The rotation of tires has changed over the last few decades. Initially, vehicles had same wheels on the four axles. The spare was always a full-size tire that matched the performance wheels.
Everything has changed…
We have space-saving tires, mounted tires on steel wheels, different offsets, varied sizes of the front and rear tires, among others. As a result, the art of switching has changed with new tire rotation patterns being used.
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The process can be simple and complicated at the same time. Depending on several factors, you will have to choose a specific tire rotation pattern. The factors include:
• Whether your car’s wheels are directional or non-directional. Directional types come with a tread pattern constructed to follow a particular direction only.
• The kind of wheel drive, whether front-wheel, all-wheel, 4-wheel or rear-wheel drive.
• The availability of a mini-spare or a full-size spare wheel type.
• The availability of staggered fitment wheels, that is, varied sizes and or offsets on the rear and the front.
For the non-directional tires with the same size and offset both on the front and the back, there are three types of patterns you can use. If your car is front wheeled, you can choose the forward cross method or the x-pattern.
If you have a 4-wheel drive car or a rear-wheel, you can decide to rotate them in a rearward manner. Apart from the three patterns, the tires can also be switched in a front to back manner or side to side.
The front to back switching is particularly the case for directional tires. Side to side rotations is ideal for non-directional, differently sized tires, both at the back and the front.
What is Tire Rotation and Balance?
Rotating and balancing your vehicle’s wheels is vital to ensure safety. Done correctly, the car won’t skid, slip or experience premature wearing of treads. In short, it extends your tires’ life until you get a new set.
Smooth rides are achieved through perfect balancing. At equilibrium, the wheels will reach high speeds without vibrations that are a potential threat. The cause of the fluctuations is normally unbalanced wheels.
The vibrations of the front wheel are felt through the steering wheel while the ones originating from the back are felt through the seat. Here’s a little secret you didn’t know; some tires, even when they are new, are not impeccably round.
The weight itself isn’t evenly distributed throughout the wheel. In some spots, they are heavier than others. The two problems are the leading cause of the frustrating vibrations many often experience. Out of balance, tires will lead to suspension damage. So, you shouldn’t only worry about discomfort.
Whenever you rotate your tires or mount new ones, spin-balance them to test for possible vibrations. You can eliminate the vibrations by spinning the tire on the balancing wheel to ensure that the heavy spots are correctly aligned. The heavy places can be counteracted by hanging or attaching small lead weights on the rim of the wheel.
Luckily, many sellers or dealers of tires usually include a free rotation and balancing for life. But for your knowledge and emergency situations, you should not neglect to balance your tires after doing a rotation or whenever you get a new tire. It is worth a consideration if you don’t want to do a replacement of the front or the back tires before a stipulated mileage.
Pro tip: Balance your wheels every 3,000 to 6,000 miles – or at least whenever you do a rotational routine.
How To Rotate Tires:
Majority of vehicles nowadays come with four standard wheels and tires as well as a donut, a dinky compact spare. A donut is a space-saving tire but isn’t wheels.
They are emergency tools that will get you safely where you are going before getting to fix your damaged tire. Similarly, the wheel is also an excellent choice to hold a place during the rotation process.
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How to rotate tires follow the specific patterns highlighted in the pattern section. Here is a detailed look at the various types of patterns:
Same Size Tires, Non-Directional
If your vehicle tires are non-directional and all the four wheels are of the same dimensions, you have three rotational patterns you can use.
1. Four-Wheel Drive
The tires can be rotated in a cross forward manner. What this means is that the front right wheel is switched with the rear left wheel, and the left front tire is rotated with the right rear. Also, switch the back wheels with the front in a corresponding manner.
2. 4-Wheel Drive, AWD or Rear-Wheel Drive
The commonly used pattern for these types of vehicles is the rearward cross. The switching involves moving the left rear goes to the front right, and the right-back goes to the front left. The same is done for the front wheels, again in a cross position.
Alternatively, you can do a direct switch. The left front is switched with the left rear and the right rear with the right front.
Different-Size, Directional Tires, Varied Offsets
When your vehicle comes with mixed-sized directional wheels and tires with wheels that have different offsets both at the front and the back, you will have to do lots of unmounting and remounting as well as balancing to achieve rotation. Other patterns you can use include:
1. Same-size directional tires
The front tires are switched with the rear tires in corresponding positions. Left goes to the left and the right to the right.
2. Different-size directional tires with different-size wheels
Dismount and remount the tires appropriately on the direction of the wheel rotation.
3. Non-directional tires and wheels with mixed sizes
Do a side to side switch. Switch the front wheels, left to the right and right to the left. Do the same with the rear wheels.
4. Five Tire Rotation
With a full-size, non-directional spare tire and same size wheel similar to your four wheels and tires, you should consider the following rotation patterns. This is mainly if your vehicle is a four-wheel drive or all-wheel.
Because the spare tire replaces a wheel that has a different wear, it may exert unequal pressure on the drive train as a result of varying tread depths.
Front-Wheel Drive – Switch the front left with the back’s left. Take the rear left tire and rotate it with the right front. The right-back tire goes to the front left and the spare to the right rear. The remaining, which is the front right, goes to the spare.
4-Wheel Drive or Rear-Wheel Drive – Rotate the back left with the left front, the spare tire with the right rear, the front left goes to the spare, and the right rear switched with the right front. The right front tire is changed with the back left tire.
The main point is to ensure that the wear of the five tires is distributed equally over the course of their life. The diagram below shows the possible patterns.
What You Will Need to Follow the Tutorial
Now that you know the patterns to consider for your vehicle, here is what you will need to rotate the wheels.
• Spare Tire
This is optional especially for side to side switching or front to back rotation. But, if you want to make a five rotational tire pattern for a four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle, it is mandatory.
Cars usually come with a spare tire. The manufacturer’s manual will show you how to access and where it is located. Use the donut tire for emergency purposes only.
• Car Jack
You have two options for a jack to use. You can use the jack that came with your car or a hydraulic floor jack.
Your car jack might not be the best option as it is designed only to lift the vehicle just long enough for a particular time.
Usually, this works fast if you want a quick change of tire such as in puncture situations. A hydraulic floor jack is the best choice as it delivers the lift you desire. You should ensure that you have the best lifting tools.
• Jack Stands
After lifting the car with a floor jack, you will require the jack stands to make sure that the vehicle rests with stability on top of them. Remember, different jack stand fits only a couple of vehicle types. You should ensure that you have the right kind of stands ideal for the weight of your car before switching the wheels.
Alternatively, you can use cinderblocks in place of the jack stands by jerry-rigging one with a cinderblock and a two by four. Just put the cinderblock under a wheel, place the two by four on top of it to ensure the bottom of your car is safe from scratches.
Lower the jack slowly so that it rests safely on the two. Other tools you will need include a socket and a torque wrench, or simply a lug nut wrench.
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Tire Rotation: Step By Step Guide
Step 1: Find a Good Parking Spot
Make sure that you park your vehicle on a level ground where it can rest with stability for several hours. Ensure that the car is in gear or first gear, for manual transmission, set the parking brake and block or choke the wheels.
This, you can do using two blocks of wood or two bricks. Place them in position at the front and the back. Put the chokes at the downhill sides, depending on how the car is parked. This way, you can keep it from rolling if something terrible happens.
After that, you can go round the vehicle and mark the tires with letters to denote their new positions. Following the typical procedure for rotating tires, you would rest the car RF tire LR, RR tire RF, LR tire LF and LF tire RR, or you can follow your specific procedure for your vehicle or a particular tire configuration.
Step 2: Loosen the Lug Nuts
This next step requires a socket or a lug nut wrench. Using the tool, loosen the lug nuts both at the front and rear wheels. If you have trouble relaxing the nuts, spray them with some penetrating oil and let them rest for at least 15 minutes to half an hour. After that, they will be quick to make them loose.
The idea is to do this while the car is on the ground to save time from fighting with the wheels once the car is jacked up. Loosening them on the ground is more natural as the car’s body weight doesn’t allow for the wheels to spin as opposed to when it is lifted.
Step 3: Jack Up the Car
Carefully raise the jack into position. Begin with the ends WITHOUT the chocks. This ensures that the vehicle doesn’t get unstable and rolls away once it is lifted high enough.
The correct position to jack up the car is by placing the lifting tool at the cross member. This is located under the oil pan. It is easy to identify as it runs most of the width of the vehicle.
Jack precisely on it or part of the frame. Do this slowly and lift the car up. Continue lifting the car and when the wheel is about an inch of the ground, stop. Scissor jacks aren’t the best option for this, and your vehicle might be heavy. For this reason, you shouldn’t place any part of your body under the vehicle at all times.
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Step 4: Place the Jack Stands
Once the car is lifted to the appropriate position, place your jack stands appropriately under the control arm of each wheel. The arm is located inside the tire, and it has an attached string, a strut or shock absorber.
After positioning them appropriately, lower the jack slowly. Always ensure that the tires are off the ground and that the car is stable. Unless you have many stands, you will have to spend more time lifting or raising your car several times during the rotation process.
Step 5: Removing the Tires
After placing the stands, break loose all the lug nuts with a ratchet attached to a socket. Some lug nuts are asymmetrical, therefore, take note of the direction they face before removing them.
It is mandatory. Nuts come either with or without a hubcap covering, which is typically pried off with a breaker bar. You can use the hubcap to store the removed nuts temporarily. A breaker bar can be used to get the nuts started.
Once all the nuts have been removed with both hands, grip the tire firmly and pull it off gently. It may still be a little firm, so a little bit jiggling is necessary. This part can be pulled off in a sitting down position. Remove the front tires first then the rear.
Step 6: Rotating the Tires
There are different ways you can swap the tires. As discussed earlier, depending on whether your car is a four-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, rear-wheel or front-wheel drive, you will follow a specific pattern that is appropriate.
Also, before swapping them, you should note whether your tire is directional or non-directional. To make this easy, you can roll the tires after removing them to the appropriate mounting position.
Now, the same way you removed or unmounted the tire, lift the new tire with both hands and fix it into the wheel hub. Wobble it severally back and forth and ensure it fits well. Take the lug nuts and screw them using your hand as far as you can get. Repeat this process for all the wheels in all their new positions.
This is also an excellent point to do some inspection of the condition of the brake pads as well as the rotors while the wheels are off and doing the necessary maintenance before mounting the alternate tires.
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Step 7: Lower the Car
With your jack, raise every point up off the jack stands. Do this until it is safe to remove the stand, then lower the car back down. Please remember to do this only after you have tightened the nuts with your hands to maintain alignment.
Now you can tighten the lug nuts using a torque wrench to the proper specification and the appropriate nut sequence. You can confirm with the manufacturer’s manual the amount of torque reading required.
Do not use an impact wrench for this task. It might lead to uneven torques and cause warping of the rotors. However, you may use them to get them started before using the torque wrench.
The best way to do the lug nuts tightening is diagonal, as shown below. This means tightening them in a star pattern for even tightening. Repeat the same for each tire until you are done with all the four of them. Replace the hubcaps back on the wheels.
Step 8: Check the Pressure
After following all the steps, check the pressure in the tires and add some more air if necessary. The owner’s manual contains the appropriate reading for the tire.
Other tires usually come with a Tire & Loading sticker on the driver’s door jamb. There you have it! You can now proudly say you have successfully rotated your tires.
How Often Should You Rotate Your Tires?
• What is a Tire Rotation and Balance?
Now that you already know what balancing and the rotation of tires are about, the next question is how long it should take for you to perform the procedure?
If you seek the advice of different mechanics, each one of them might give you a different answer on the appropriate time to rotate your tires. The best bet you have is to consult the vehicle’s manufacturer manual.
Different manufacturers have different recommendations on when you should perform the procedure. Some of them indicate that the tires should be rotated when one is changing the oil.
This is something you probably do once in a year, but in most scenarios, it is after six months or after hitting 7,500 miles. Others have extended the oil change to intervals of 10000 miles.
BMW, for instance, allows up to a total of 15000 miles before changing the oil. This, according to them, is the right time to perform the tire switching. But it is too long a time to wait to perform the maintenance.
However, for most people, the general estimated time is after the car has covered roughly between 3000 and 6000 miles. That is approximately 5000 and 10000 kilometers. Unless you don’t drive a lot in a year, you should at least rotate them after six months.
• Benefits of Rotating and Balancing the Tires
Extended tread life – performing a rotational and balancing routine ensures that your car tires will wear out evenly. Temperature, terrain, and how you drive affects the pattern wear.
Increased car performance – ignored for too long, the stability of the tires, comfortable riding, and the performance of the vehicle is substantially compromised.
The new tread is ideal for the tires that perform most tasks. The new treads are suitable for traction and friction that offers more control of the vehicle.
Increased gas mileage – the amount of work it takes for the car to drive is enhanced by rotating the tires regularly.
When the tires are allowed to wear out evenly, the amount of gas used to propel the vehicle is reduced. Reduced gas equates to increased or possibly better mileage.
Save money – Rotating the tires by yourself saves money, so is ensuring that the tires wear out evenly.
Similarly, less gas means fewer expenses. Keeping the tires well maintained ensures that there will be fewer chances of slipping or skidding off the road, causing accidents.
How Much Does the Rotation of Tires Cost?
Pinning a price on the cost of balancing, rotation of tires and alignment is a bit tricky. Different dealers have varied prices. However, on average, balancing costs $40.
This has a range of $15 and $75, depending on the location visited and the type of warranty offered. Always watch out for coupons available if you seek this service. It can get lower than that.
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Learning how to balance and rotate your tires is necessary if you own a car. Imagine how much you can save.
Sure, you might have spent some of the tools, but it doesn’t compare to how much you could eventually pay for several rotational procedures.
If you are like me and are looking to ensure your tires have the same tread, or that they wear out at the same time, this maintenance tip is worth your time. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoyed the guide. Feel free to share your thoughts on the topic.