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Signs You Need A Tire Rotation

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Tire related issues are one of the leading causes of car accidents in the United States. About 35% of accidents that are caused by mechanical failure are related to tires according to the National Highway and Safety Administration (NHTSA)

This statistic is pretty wild, but really highlights how important it is to properly maintain your vehicle, specifically your tires. Keeping your vehicle in tip top shape could save your life and the life of passengers and other drivers on the road.

Tire rotation is just one part of maintaining tires in addition to proper inflation, replacement when tread wears too thin and wheel alignment.

What Is Tire Rotation?

Tire rotation is the maintenance item that involves your tires being periodically moved to different positions on the vehicle. So for example the front tires would be moved to the rear of the vehicle and vice versa. The exact timeframe on when tires should be rotated is of varying opinion, but every 5,000 miles is a good rule of thumb. Many individuals choose to do this when they get their oil changed.

When you regularly rotate your tires it gives you the opportunity to thoroughly inspect them for any punctures or other types of damage. It is also a great time to check your air pressure and have them balanced as well as check the tread depth and decide if it would be better to replace the tires or if they are still safe.

Warning Signs Your Tires Need to Be Rotated

The signs that you need a tire rotation includes

  • Tires wearing unevenly
  • Your vehicle is vibrating more than usual
  • Your tires are losing pressure more quickly than they should

Tires Wearing Unevenly

Tires wearing unevenly means that one tire gets more worn down than the others. Usually it is the front tire, especially on the right side that this happens to because we drive on the right hand side of the road. Many people think of a tire wearing on just one side and this isn’t the case from failing to rotate your tires. Tires that need an alignment will wear out in one spot, tires that are not rotated will have one or two wear out prematurely.

If you notice that one of your tires has significantly more tread than another, it is a sign that you need to get the tires rotated.

Vehicle Vibrating

When your tires are uneven your drive will be less smooth. You’ll likely only ever feel the difference at higher speeds (45+ miles per hour), but this is a sign that your tires may need a rotation. Usually a vehicle vibrating comes from unbalanced tires or a suspension that has seen better days. Vibrations while driving usually means you are facing some form of tire issue though. Get them balanced, aligned and rotated.

Tires Deflating Irregularly

One tire losing air more quickly than the rest of the tires on your vehicle it likely means that this tire is bearing more of the weight and pressure of the vehicle. The tires may need to be rotated or balanced, so be sure to get the car to a mechanic or tire technician for a closer look.

Why Tires Need to Be Rotated Regularly

Your vehicle does not sit evenly. One or two of your tires will take on more pressure than others creating a different rate of wear and tear between your four. Eventually you may have to replace 1 or 2 before the rest. You can avoid this by following a healthy tire rotation schedule recommended by your vehicle manufacturer!

Weight distribution will vary from left to right and front to back of the car. This is because the front of the car where the engine sits for the majority of cars is heavier than the rear of the vehicle and it’s usually empty trunk space. We also drive on the right side of the road and drive up ramps on the right side more frequently putting added pressure to the right side tires.

If you want to save as much money as possible, rotating your tires when recommended by your manufacturer is a great practice! Not only will you end up saving money on tires that you didn’t replace prematurely, you’ll also get much better gas mileage!

How Often Tires Need to Be Rotated

Every car will vary and some manufacturers say it is unnecessary altogether. The widely practiced rule is between every 5,000 and 8,000 miles so usually around 1x per 6 months. If you want to know how often your tires should be rotated, follow the guidelines in the owner’s manual for your car.

Tire Rotation Is Affordable

Tire rotation won’t cost you an arm and a leg. On average you will spend about $60 to have your tires rotated, depending on who you go to and where you live. The reasonable range is between $30 and $120, but in some cases you can find coupons to get your rotation at a discount. These prices generally come with a discount.

What Happens If I Don’t Rotate My Tires?

If you fail to rotate your tires they may end up wearing out prematurely in one particular area where they are met with the most pressure.

You Can Rotate Your Tires At Home

If you have the necessary equipment and feel comfortable taking safety precautions to keep yourself safe, you can absolutely rotate your tires on your own at home

If your tires need to be rotated, you can follow these steps to get them swapped:

  1. Park the car on an even surface and set the parking brake.
  2. Block the tires on the opposite side of where you want to start. This will prevent the car from moving while you’re rotating the tires.
  3. Loosen the lug nuts prior to putting the car on a stand or car jack. They can be tricky to get off and you don’t want to be putting too much pressure on your car while it is lifted.
  4. Use a car jack and get jack stands for every wheel, if you find it necessary. This is recommended especially if you have a jack that came with your vehicle. You should also leave the jack under the car for an added safety precaution.
  5. Test the car by pressing on it to see if it moves at all. The vehicle should move less than it would if it were on solid ground.
  6. Remove lug nuts with a lug wrench and put them somewhere where they won’t get lost.
  7. Remove the front and rear wheels, and swap their positions using the guides on rotation patterns below.
  8. While you have the tires off, inspect them thoroughly and check to ensure the tread is at the proper levels
  9. If everything is alright, mount the wheels and thread the lug nuts tight. Then use a torque wrench to tighten them further, according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Try to put the lug nuts diagonally from one another to achieve better results.
  10. Repeat steps on opposite sides of the vehicle.

Rotation Patterns

The Tire and Rim Association recommends that drivers use the following patterns in these scenarios:

Tire rotation patterns
  • For non-directional tires of the same size and offset:
    • Forward cross.
      The front tires move back on the same sides, while the rears go to the opposite sides to the front. Use this pattern if you have a front-drive vehicle.
    • X-pattern.
      The fronts move to the opposite sides on the rear axle, while the rears move to the opposite sides on the front axle. This pattern is also for front-drive vehicles.
    • Rearward cross.
      Here, the front tires go to the opposite sides on the rear, while the rear tires move straight to the front positions. This pattern is for 4-wheel drive and rear-drive vehicles.
  • Directional high-performance staggered/non-staggered tires need to be rotated in one of the two additional figures:
front to back and side to side
  • Front-to-back.
    For directional tires of the same size, exchange the places on the front and rear tires of the same side.
    • Side-to-side.
      For non-directional tires of different sizes, rotation has to be side-to-side, so the rears remain on the rear axle, and the front on the front. Note if you have directional tires of a different size, you should dismount them and remount on the opposite side.
  • For vehicles with a full-sized and fully-functional non-directional spare, tires need to be rotated in one of the following ways:
    • Forward cross.
      The rear tires go to the opposite places at the front, while the left front goes to the rear left side, and the spare goes to the rear right side. The right front tire becomes a spare. This pattern is for front-wheel drive vehicles.
    • For 4-wheel or rear-wheel drive: rearward cross.
      This pattern has the left rear tire on the left front, and the right front tire on the left rear. The spare goes to the right rear place and the right rear takes the right front position. As a result, the left front tire remains as a spare. This pattern works for 4-wheel and rear-wheel drive cars.

Do You Need To Rotate Your Spare Tire?

When you rotate your tires it is usually a very good idea to rotate in the spare. This is only the case if you have a full sized spare that is the same tire as your other 4. Don’t go driving around with one tire that is smaller or larger than the others.

Spares may have a “T” as a part of their sidewall code, meaning they are for temporary use only. These tires are not meant for full time use they are simply made for emergencies and short term use. Temporary tires (hence the T) are usually much smaller and much lighter than a standard tire. If you do have a full sized spare you should rotate it in with the rest of your tires to

The tires will last longer, as you will have additional 40,000 or so miles in the back of your car as a spare.

Five Tire Rotation

The spare tire should be rotated in as well. If your vehicle has a full-size, non-directional spare tire (one that isn’t branded “for temporary use”) and a wheel that’s the same size as your four main tires and wheels, you may want to consider the following rotation patterns to keep all five tires evenly worn.

Rotation with a spare tire

Is Tire Rotation Necessary?

BMW will tell you no, other car manufacturers encourage it. The answer here is that it is debatable, but is a good practice to make habit of. Some people don’t believe the practice is necessary, however studies have found that tires wear more evenly when frequently rotated.

Do Radial Tires Need to Be Rotated?

All tires need to be rotated, whether they are radial, bias-ply or bias belt. Most tires sold on the market today are radial.

The Difference Between Tire Rotation and Balancing

Balancing a tire doesn’t require it to be removed and replaced on the vehicle. Tire balancing deals with weight distribution of the wheel itself where as tire rotation is moving the tires on the vehicle to ensure even wear.

Both practices are important for keeping even tread on your tires which leads to increased tire lifespan and vehicle safety

Do Tires Need Balancing After Rotation?

It is a good practice to have the tires fully serviced when you bring them in to be rotated, however a tire doesn’t require balancing after rotation unless the tire was removed from the rim. Tire balance can be thrown off by road conditions being less than ideal or hitting road debris. It is a good idea to check the balance every 6- 12 months.

What You Need To Know About Rotating Trailer Tires

The tires on a trailer should be rotated amongst themselves, just don’t go crazy and switch them with the ones on your vehicle. You can follow an X pattern of rotation for trailer tires.

After Tires Are Rotated, Are They Aligned?

Tire alignment, like tire balancing really has nothing to do with tire rotation. While you have your car in being inspected it isn’t a bad practice to have them all done at the same time. They will all help to ensure your car is safe and your tires are wearing evenly.

How Often Do Truck Tires Need to Be Rotated?

Truck tires are like any other tire, they need to be rotated regularly and according to the owner’s manual. The mileage count will vary from brand to brand, but the answer is typically between 5,000 and 8,000 miles. In some cases tire rotation is deemed appropriate at 3,000 and 10,000 miles.

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