What do most drivers think of when they hear the term “tire rotation”? Is it just the rotation of the tires as they roll down the street? It’s actually much more than that.
It means rotating each tire’s position on the car every few thousand miles. Tires can be moved in multiple patterns. The benefits of regular tire rotation range from simple cost savings to increased safety on the road.
Tire rotation patterns
Which wheel position each tire should be moved to during rotation will depend on the type of tire and vehicle you own. Before rotating your tires, check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s suggested rotation pattern and mileage interval. Some common rotation patterns are shown below. Get more detailed information about rotational patterns for your type of vehicle and tire here.
Nondirectional same-size-tire rotation patterns
For front-wheel-drive vehicles with nondirectional tires, it is recommended that the tires be moved in a forward cross pattern — the front tires move straight back to the rear, and the rear tires move to the opposite sides of the front axle. Alternatively, an X-pattern can be used by moving the front tires to the opposite rear positions and vice versa.
For rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicles with nondirectional tires, use a rearward cross rotation pattern by moving the rear tires straight up to the front and the front tires to the opposite sides of the rear axle.
Directional tire rotation front to back
For a vehicle with directional tires (tires designed to roll in one direction, with arrows on the sidewall indicating that direction), they can be moved only front to back on the same sides due to the pattern of the tread.
Why tire rotation is important
Rotating your tires as part of routine vehicle maintenance will give you better performance and safety for a longer period of time. Tires will wear unevenly, even if only to a small degree, despite how perfectly your wheels are aligned. This is because front tires carry the most weight, so they’ll wear a bit differently than the rear tires.
With front tires, you’ll typically see more wear on the outside edges of the tread because they lean onto those edges whenever you turn a corner. So regularly moving the tires to other wheel positions on the vehicle allows them all to wear at a more even rate.
Not rotating your tires could result in all four tires needing to be replaced thousands of miles before expected, which could be an unwanted hit to the wallet. Make sure to read the fine print of your tire warranty; many tire manufacturers require regular rotations to keep the warranty valid.
Three tire rotation tips
There are three major things that should happen every time you rotate your tires. The first two can be handled on your own, but the third may require a technician’s assistance (depending on your level of mechanical expertise).
Remove each tire and wheel from the vehicle and move it to a different position, using the same pattern every time (examples for nondirectional same-size tires are shown above).
Check the air pressure in each tire and adjust it as needed. Look at your owner’s manual or on the driver’s side doorjamb for recommended tire inflation specifications.
While the wheels are off the vehicle, have your brakes checked to make sure they’re in good shape.
Tire rotation is vital to your vehicle’s performance and to your safety. It can also prolong the life of your tires, saving you money. Most tire manufacturers recommend rotating your tires every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. A good rule of thumb is to do it every time you get an oil change. You may also find your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended rotation interval in your owner’s manual.