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Tires – Rotation

How often should tires be rotated?

Most mechanics recommend tire rotation somewhere between every 5,000 miles and 7,500 mile.

What is tire rotation?

Tire rotation is simply changing the position of the tires on the car. For example, taking the front tires and putting them on the rear, then taking the rear tires and putting them on the front. Tires can be rotated in other patterns though. Usually tire manufacturers will publish their preferred method, which may not be the same as what your vehicle manufacturer recommends, both of which may be different from the rotation pattern your mechanic wants to use. The truth is it doesn’t make a lot of difference which way you rotate the tires, so long as each tire spends equal time on the front of the car and the rear of the car. Some older and cheaper tires do not do well when rotated side to side, so if in doubt, it’s a safe bet to just rotate front to rear without crossing side to side.

Why should I rotate my tires?

Tires should be rotated to increase the life of the tire, prevent irregular wear, and to allow all four tires to wear out at the same time so they can be replaced with a matching set.

Tires in the front of the car develop wear pattern peculiar to the front of the car and tires in rear develop wear patterns peculiar to the rear. Tires in the front tend to wear on the inside edge. This is caused by scrubbing on the inside of the tire as the suspension compresses when going over bumps, and by the front wheels’ tendency to increase toe-out at freeway speeds. The rear tires tend to develop a choppy wear pattern, which is caused by the skipping and hopping rear toe-in or toe-out can cause. Rotating the tires helps minimize each of these types of wear by minimizing the amount of time the tire spends in each position.

Tires that are on the front of a front wheel drive car wear twice as fast as tires on the rear of a car. This happens because — the engine’s power goes though the front tires on it’s way to the ground, the front brakes (and therefore the front tires) do most of the braking, and the front tires shoulder more of the cornering load. If you left the tires in the same position, the fronts would wear out when the rears were only 1/2 worn. You would then need to buy two front tires, and you might not be able to match to your rear tires. Since tires have differing handling and traction characteristics, it’s best (but not essential) to have them match.

Should I rotate my spare tire in?

Most cars these days have a “space-saver” spare — a spare tire that is smaller than the rest of the tires so it fits neatly in the trunk. Even cars that have a full size spare often use a tire that is not rated for freeway speeds, or a rim that does not match the other four. Most of the time the spare should not be rotated in.

What is tire balancing?

Tire balancing means adding lead weights to a rim to cancel out any heavy areas of the tire. If the tire has a heavy spot, it will cause a vibration when it spins fast, kind of like a washing machine with an unbalanced load when the spin cycle starts. When the wheel starts to vibrate, the vibration can be felt in the rest of the car as well. People often report this as the steering wheel shaking, or the rear view mirror shaking, or in severe cases it has been described as, “like a coin operated vibrating bed in a hotel”.

What is the difference between tire balancing and alignment?

Tire balancing and alignment are often thought to be the same thing, but are actually completely different. Tire balancing means adding lead weights to a rim to cancel out any heavy areas of the tire. Wheel alignment is adjusting the wheels to point straight ahead (toe), not to lean to either side (camber), and to maintain stability (caster).

When should I balance my tires?

We recommend balancing the two tires leaving the rear of the car to go to the front with every rotation. There are two reasons for this: 1) A rear tire that is out of balance may not cause any noticeable symptom (vibration or shaking on the freeway). However, if the tire is moved to the front during the rotation, it may cause a very noticeable symptom. And 2) Balancing all four tires with every rotation might be “over servicing”. In other words, balancing all four tires every 5,000 to 7,500 miles probably would not give you any appreciable benefit over balancing the tires every 10,000 to 15,000 miles, but it would cost twice as much.