Tires – Rotation

What is tire rotation?

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. Manufactures or car owners may prefer a different rotation pattern. 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.

How often should I rotate tires?

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

Why should I rotate my tires?

We recommend tire rotation because it will 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.

Front of the car develop wear pattern peculiar to the front of the car. Rear tires develop wear patterns peculiar to the rear. Front tires 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.  Hopping and skipping caused by toe causes the rear tire to develop a choppy wear pattern. 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 through the front tires on its 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. Front tires wear twice as fast as rear tires on a front wheel drive. 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. we don’t recommend rotating the spare tire in most cases. 

What is tire balancing?

We balance tires by 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. The whole car may shake when an out-of-balance tire gets up to speed. People often report this as the steering wheel shaking, or the rear-view mirror shaking. Some customers have reported their car “feels like a coin operated vibrating bed in a hotel”.

What is the difference between tire balancing and alignment?

Many people think that tire balancing and alignment are 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 we move the tire 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.

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