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When Should I Rotate My Tires?

Have you gotten around to rotating your tires lately? If not, we’re here to explain why it should be a top priority.

Your tires play a vital role in keeping you safe on the road. Much of today’s advanced safety technology relies on your tires to be effective. Think of it like this: If you’re trying to change lanes on the highway, and you’re alerted to a vehicle in your blind spot, you may have to quickly pull back into your own lane. You’ll want your tires to be at their best for that kind of maneuver.

Why Should I Rotate My Tires?

Because tires are softer than pavement, they naturally wear down any time you’re driving. But different tires wear at different rates depending on where they are on your vehicle. Front tires undergo more stress during turns. This leads to more tread loss for the front tires than for the ones at the rear. Additionally, the tires on your vehicle’s driving wheels also wear quicker. Those are the front wheels for most cars, but the same principle holds true for rear-wheel-drive vehicles. Most vehicles with all-wheel drive are affected as well. Because they don’t send a constant, equal amount of power to all four wheels at all times, each of the tires wears a bit differently.

In any case, unless you do something to even out the wear patterns, you end up with some tires that are in significantly worse condition than others. Not only does that impact driving safety; it takes a toll on handling and fuel efficiency.

When Should I Rotate My Tires?

Most experts advise rotating your tires every 5,000 to 8,000 miles. That’s a pretty wide range, however. Your best source for information about a specific vehicle is the owner’s manual. It takes into account the obvious differences between, for example, a subcompact car and a full-size pickup.

Consider the 2018 Nissan Versa and the 2018 Ford F-150. For Nissan’s small sedan, the company recommends rotating the tires every 5,000 miles. But Ford suggests having it done every time you change the oil in the F-150. And because the F-150 is equipped with an oil-life monitor, which indicates the need for a change based on actual driving conditions, that can come anytime between 3,000 to 10,000 miles.

How Should I Rotate My Tires?

Another key piece of information you can get from your owner’s manual is the tire-rotation pattern. In most vehicles, you want each tire to take a turn at each position. You have to move the tires in a specific sequence, too, so that they wear as equally as possible. This usually involves moving a wheel from the driving axle to the non-driving axle on the same side of the vehicle. The second tire, which started on a non-driving axle, then switches sides and moves to the driving axle. You repeat the process for the other side.

Let’s use the Ford F-150 and Nissan Versa as our examples again. For the rear-wheel-drive F-150, the left rear wheel moves to the left front position. The left front wheel moves to the rear axle on the right side. That wheel, from the rear driving axle, is repositioned onto the right-side front spot, which also is a non-driving position. Finally, the original right front wheel is moved to the other side of the truck at the rear position, where we started. (Ford recommends using the same pattern if the F-150 is configured with all-wheel drive.)

In a front-wheel-drive car, things go in the opposite direction. When we start with the left-side driving wheel for one of these vehicles, we’re obviously talking about the front axle. That wheel rotates to the left rear position, to spend some time on a non-driving axle. The left rear crosses over to the right front, for the opposite reason. To complete the pattern, the right front wheel drops back to the right rear spot, and that last wheel is moved to the left front.

As for the Versa, that car throws a slight twist in the situation. It’s a front-wheel-drive car, but it also has “directional” tires. These can only be mounted with their treads going in one direction. As a result, Nissan recommends rotating the Versa’s wheels on a front-to-back pattern without switch them from one side to the other. Directional tires have rotation arrows printed on their sidewalls to make them easy to identify and position.

Can I Rotate My Tires Myself?

In theory, rotating your tires is one of the easier auto maintenance tasks. All you need are a jack to lift the vehicle, jack stands to keep it off the ground and a lug wrench for the wheel nuts. A way to mark the tires so you can keep track of which one goes where also can be helpful. The toughest part will probably be loosening the lug nuts. Investing in an air-powered impact wrench can be a good idea if you do plan on tackling the job yourself on a regular basis.

Krome, C. (2018). When Should I Rotate My Tires?. Retrieved from https://www.carfax.com/blog/when-should-i-rotate-my-tires


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