The Complete Guide To Tire Rotations (Yes, You Need Them)

by | May 23, 2020

In a perfect world you would never need to get your tires rotated. Your tires would wear evenly, and you’d replace all 4 tires at once. No big deal.

But considering how 2020 has gone so far, I think it’s fair to say that this is nowhere near a perfect world.

As tires are used it is normal for them to wear as the rubber meets the road, and they may wear unevenly for several reasons. And you can ignore that uneven wear for a little bit, and it probably will not come to bite you in the butt.

But that does not mean you should let it go. Letting your tires wear unevenly is going to cost you some cash, possibly hundreds of dollars if you must replace all 4 tires.

But if I have not convinced you yet, give me 5 minutes of your time. I think you will walk out understanding why tire rotations are necessary.

What Is A Tire Rotation?

A tire rotation is exactly what it sounds like. Your tires are switched from one position to another to make sure your tires wear evenly. Even tire wear extends the life of your tires, so it’s well worth doing! Your tires can wear unevenly from regular driving. A tire rotation seeks to correct this by switching the position of your tires to stop uneven tire wear.

Generally speaking this happens when you take the load bearing front tires and replace them with the less worn rear tires as opposed to swapping tires in a pattern.

There are 3 key things that happen during a tire rotation.

First, each tire and wheel is removed from your vehicle and moved to its new position. Secondly, air pressure is checked and corrected if needed to ensure that your tires aren’t over or under inflated. Finally, it’s common for your brakes to also be checked as a mechanic can easily see them with the tire off.

There are a number of common reasons why you’ll need a tire rotation including every day driving.

Regular Driving And Mechanical Problems Both Wear Your Tires Unevenly

Today’s modern cars have the engine in the front, which puts more weight on the front axle. This extra weight causes the front tires to wear faster than the rear tires. The front tires also take more stress then the rear tires while braking and steering.

Turning also causes additional wear, because one turn is tighter than the other. In the US, where we drive on the right side of the road, the left front tire wears faster than the right front tire because the left front tire travels further around turns.

In countries where people drive on the left side, the wear is the exact opposite.

Your tires can also wear unevenly because of mechanical problems, especially with your suspension or your alignment. Common problems can include anything from bad ball joints to issues with your upper or lower control arms.

Okay That’s Great, But What’s The Point Of A Tire Rotation?

The point of a tire rotation is to keep your tires wearing evenly and to inspect them for damage sustained while driving.

So far, if tires seem boring to you, I don’t blame you. Tires aren’t sexy like your engine or cool to look at like your interior.

But, as I’m about to show you, keeping your tires maintained is vitally important. Your tires are quite literally what keeps you on road.

The whole point of getting a tire rotation isn’t just to extend the life of your tires as I mentioned previously. It’s to check your tires and your wheel rims for damage, especially if you live in an area like Michigan or Massachusetts, both of which are notorious for potholes.

Now that winter is almost over, it’s a good time to check the inside and the outside of your tires for damage, especially from potholes. That includes your rims, which can be bent from going through deep potholes.

When you get a tire rotation you can check for damage like this. Furthermore, there are 2 common problems you can check for when you get a tire rotation: blistering and cupping.

Tire cupping is especially common with older vehicles that have suspension issues. When your tire cups, the tread wears unevenly. While this isn’t an issue at first, the longer you ignore it the more serious it becomes. Tire cupping can affect your ride, steering, and braking ability which puts you at an increased risk of an accident. In addition, your tires will wear much quicker than usual.

On the other hand, a blistered sidewall (which is a bulge in the side of your tire) can also result from driving through a deep pothole. Sometimes this can show up as a visible bubble in the side of your tire, which is extremely dangerous and can lead to a blowout.

Even without a blowout, a blistered sidewall can cause air to leak out of your tire, which will lead to a flat if left untreated.

The worst part about this whole thing is your sidewall can be damaged without you even knowing it. Everything from curbs to railroad tracks to road debris can damage the sidewall. While you’re driving it can be hard to notice, which may lead to the damage being left untreated.

Without having a tire rotation performed, you’re leaving yourself at risk for uneven wear at best, and at worst a flat tire or a potentially catastrophic blowout.  

But that’s the downside if you decide to ignore your tire rotation. By now though, I know you’re on board, so let’s talk about the benefits of getting regular tire rotations.

There Are A Number Of Benefits To Getting Your Tires Rotated

1: Increased Tire Life

I’ve already talked about this multiple times so I’ll keep it brief. The average set of tires can last anywhere between 60,000 to 75,000 miles, although that’s an average. High performance tires typically wear out faster of regular car tires.

Getting frequent tire rotations can help you get the full life out of your tires.

2: Lower Maintenance Costs

4 new tires will set you back somewhere around $600 dollars – although you can certainly get them cheaper. Getting a tire rotation every so often will decrease how often you have to get new tires which can save you hundreds of dollars.

Getting regular tire rotations will also help you catch problems early, especially with your rim and brakes. The quicker you catch something going wrong, the less it costs to fix.

3: Safety

Keeping the wear even on your tires helps keep your car gripping the road optimally, which makes for safer driver. Poor wear patterns can decrease your handling and can put you at a greater risk of accidents.

A tire rotation can also catch any blistered sidewalls or cupped tires before they blow out. Really, the biggest benefit from a tire rotation is the ability it gives your mechanic to catch any problems early before they magnify into something much bigger.

4: Increased Fuel Economy

When your tires wear unevenly, your fuel economy will suffer. Your engine will have to work harder to generate the same amount of power to compensate for bleeding power through the tires.

Besides that, if your tires have a blister or are cupped, they may be leaking. Catching and patching the leak can help you increase your fuel efficiency as well. It’s widely recognized that fixing underinflated tires can increase your fuel economy by up to 3%. Over the life of your car, that can add up.

5: Better Driving Experience

When you get your tires rotated your car will grip the road better. Better grip meaning better handling and a more responsive driving experience for you.

6: Keep Your Warranty Valid

As a car warranty company, think we’d miss out on a opportunity to remind you to honor your part of the warranty? Nope!

Many tire manufacturers require you to rotate your tires at a regular interval in order to keep your tire warranty valid. If nothing else has convinced you so far, this should! Keeping your tires under warranty can save you boatloads of cash if you ever have a blowout or anything similar.

How Long Can You Go Without a Tire Rotation?

Ideally you don’t want to go any longer than 10,000 miles without having your tires rotated. Each manufacturer will have its own schedule which you’ll want to adhere to. A good rule of thumb is to have your tire rotation done at the same time you have an oil change, as generally speaking, these are the same interval.

There is one notable exception to this however, but only if you own a BMW.

BMW does not recommend rotating your tires. BMWs come with directional tires, which are only supposed to be front to back. Theoretically, you should do this ever 3,000 miles or so to maximize the benefits – even though you won’t notice a significant difference with BMW’s high-performance tires.

So, How Often Do You Need A Tire Rotation?

The best way to determine if you need a tire rotation really depends on how you drive, as well as the type of vehicle you’re driving. As a general estimate, you’ll want to get a tire rotation somewhere every 3,000-7,000 miles or so, depending on the conditions.

For the most accurate estimate, check your owner’s manual for the exact figures. It will be in the services table towards the end.

If you’re driving a front wheel drive (FWD) or rear wheel drive (RWD) vehicle, you’ll want to get a tire rotation between every 5,000-7,000 miles. Stick to the lower end if you drive aggressively in challenging conditions.

On the other hand, if you have all wheel drive (AWD), each tire will wear at different speeds and as a result you’ll want to get them checked more often. For AWD vehicles getting a tire rotation every 3,000- 5,000 miles is worth it. Again, stick to the low end of the estimate if you drive in challenging conditions.

Can You Rotate Tires Too Often?

No. You can rotate your tires as often as you would like, with one caveat: cost. As we will explore in a second, tire rotations generally are not free. Unless you are performing it yourself, you’re not going to save any money rotating your tires more frequently than the recommended rotation time of anywhere between 3,000 to 7,000 miles.

We often get asked “when should you NOT rotate your tires?” and the answer is simple: if you have enough tread on your tires and there’s no uneven wear, don’t rotate your tires. There’s no reason to, and you’re going to spend money you don’t need to spend.

How Much Does A Tire Rotation Cost?

The average cost of a tire rotation is $36 dollars according to our internal data. You should expect it to cost somewhere between $25 on the low end with one particular outlier costing $98.

The good news is, there’s a chance you can pay $0 for your tire rotation. Stay tuned and I’ll tell you how.

Here Are 3 Easy Ways To Get Free Tire Rotations

We all like free, right? So as promised, here are 3 easy ways to not pay a dime for your tire rotations.

1: If You Bought Your Tires From A Tire Shop – They May Rotate Your Tires For Free

Many tire shops including large shops like Sullivan Tire and Firestone will rotate your tires for free if you bring your car to the shop where you got the tires.

2: Ask Your Mechanic Nicely – Some Give Free Tire Rotations

One of my favorite things about my local mechanic is he loves to perform complimentary services, and tire rotations are one of those. If you’re having work done on your car where your tires have to be removed (such as front and rear brakes or suspension work) ask your mechanic if he or she can rotate the tires for you.

Most mechanics will do this without hesitate, and some may even do it without you having to ask.

3: Get A Vehicle Service Contract With Us

All of our vehicle service contracts include free oil changes and tire rotations! Remember, we like free too, so it feels good to pass the savings on.

We’ll talk more about this at the end if you’re interested.

And you should be, because we can save you thousands of dollars and give you bulletproof peace of mind in these troubled times. More on that later.

How Long Does A Tire Rotation Take?

Rotating your tires takes about 30 minutes on average. This consists of:

  1. Removing the tire and rim
  2. Inspecting the tire and rim for damage
  3. Switching the tires as needed

Luckily, you won’t have to wait long for your tire rotation in most cases. Skilled mechanics can get the job done in as little as 15 minutes.

What Happens If You Don’t Rotate Your Tires?

So here we are. I’ve already shown you all the benefits of rotating your tires, and even shown you 3 ways where you can get them done for free.

If you’re still not convinced, let me try one more argument.

Tires are effing expensive, and not rotating them regularly is going to ruin them before they reach their expected life. If you keep driving on a tire with uneven wear you’re going to see deep tread damage on your tire.

This could be on the inside edge, outside edge, on the sidewalls, or it may show up as lumpy, chopped tread.

Whatever the wear pattern happens to be doesn’t matter, because you lose no matter what. Once the wear pattern is there, no amount of rotating is going to cause your tire to wear in correctly. That means you’ll be shelling out cash to buy a new tire when you could have had them rotated for free.

Tires are like your teeth. You can’t brush away a cavity, and you sure as hell can’t out rotate a destroyed tire.

Unevenly worn tires can pull your car while you’re driving, which is especially dangerous. They also are noisy and reduce your traction on turns.

Driving (especially commuting) already sucks enough – so why would you want to make it worse?

I sure wouldn’t.

Especially when tire rotations can and should be performed with other services.

What Other Services Can Be Performed With A Tire Rotation?

Tire Rotation + Balance

Balancing your tires increases their safety and efficiency much like a tire rotation does. When you balance your tires, you attach small weights to the rim to make sure all 4 tires weigh the same. Most manufacturers recommend balancing your tires around every 7,000 miles or so, which just so happens to be right around when you should rotate your tires anyway.

This is an easy 2 for 1.

Brake Repair + Tire Rotation

To get to your brakes your mechanic will have to remove your wheels anyway, so if you plan on getting your brakes done, see if you can fit in a tire rotation as well.

Suspension Repair + Tire Rotation

If you’re having work done on your front and rear suspension, your mechanic will have to remove the wheels, which makes it an ideal time to have a tire rotation done.

What’s The Difference Between A Tire Rotation & A Wheel Alignment?

When you rotate your tires all you do is swap tires from front to back in order to help them wear more evenly.

A wheel alignment on the other hand is a little bit different. A wheel alignment is meant to correct your car when it’s not driving in a straight line.

For example, if you’re driving on the highway and you notice your car is constantly pulling to the left, you’re in need of a vehicle alignment. Whereas if you took a look at your tires and you notice that the front tires have less tread than the rear tires, you need a tire rotation.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the 2 is that tire rotations have to be done between every 3,000-7,000 miles.

A wheel alignment on the other hand only needs to be done when you start noticing that your car isn’t driving in a straight line.

It’s also a lot harder to perform a wheel alignment yourself then a tire rotation, which with a few tools you can do at home because…

Yes, You Can Do A Tire Rotation At Home (With A Few Tools And Some Elbow Grease)

Doing a tire rotation at home may seem intimidating, but it’s actually not that difficult if you have the right tools and a little bit of elbow grease.

You’ll need:

  • A good car jack.I HIGHLY recommend the B6350 from Blackhawk. I use it to fix my own cars and it’s been as close to bulletproof as you can get. https://amzn.to/2LazFgz If you’re going to do your own repairs at home you need to invest in a good lift. I know it can be tempting to opt into a cheaper option, but if the jack fails (and many lower quality jacks do) you could be looking at several thousand dollars in repairs or even worse – severe injury.
  • 2 pairs of jack stands. These Torin stands are the ones I’ve used for the last 5 years. No complaints. https://amzn.to/35GVSwo
  • 1 tire iron. You may be able to use the wrench in your spare kit, but if your lug nuts are on tight, speaking from experience, you’re going to have a very difficult time taking them off.
  • WD40 (Optional): If your lugnuts are on too tight you’ll want to get some WD40 in there to loosen them. Use the silicon spray, it’s a godsend. https://amzn.to/2Wh29M1

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Start by engaging the parking brake so your car doesn’t go anywhere.
  2. Loosen all the lug nuts on your wheels. Don’t take them off completely yet. Loosening them ahead of time will make your life much easier once your car is on the jack stands.
  3. Lift up one wheel with the jack and then place the jack underneath. Repeat with each wheel until all 4 stands are in place (video instruction below).
  4. Remove the tires and then swap the front tires with the rear tires.
  5. Once the tires are swapped, hand tighten the lug nuts.
  6. Lower the car from the jack stands.
  7. Once the car is back on the ground, use your tire iron to tighten down the lug nuts. You should work the nuts in a star pattern, where you work the nuts diagonally from one to another in a star pattern. This will ensure more tightening. Uneven tightening can warp the brake rotor if you really overdo it.

Don’t Forget Your Spare!

If you have a full sized spare, you can rotate it in too! Just make sure you replace the spare!

Have I Convinced You To Get Your Tires Rotated Yet?

Tire rotations are often overlooked and frequently ignored. But that does not make them any less important. Now that you know how important they are, I think it’s fair to say you know why we include them for free with any one of our vehicle service contracts.

But our vehicle service contracts do a whole heck of a lot more than just giving you free oil changes and tire rotations.

A vehicle service contract with Protect My Car really means peace of mind. Right now in these difficult economic times, the last thing you need is your car breaking down. Imagine if your engine decides to finally crap out. That could set you back over $3,000 dollars.

But, if you have a vehicle service contract with us you’ll only pay $100 dollars. But, it doesn’t just cover your engine. It also covers:

  • Transmission
  • Drive Axles
  • Suspension
  • Electrical Systems
  • Navigation
  • Brake Components
  • Air Conditioning and Heating
  • And much more!

Imagine having that type of peace of mind. The peace of mind that Protect My Car will have your back when the repair bills come piling up.

Beyond just helping you pay for repairs, Protect My Car does so much more. All plans now come with:

  • 24/7 roadside assistance whenever you need a helping hand.
  • Free locksmith services and gas so you are never left stranded.
  • A rental car if your repair takes longer than 4 hours so you don’t have to put your life on hold.
  • Meals and hotels because we know your car never seems to break down close to home
  • Over $150 in rewards cash a month
  • And so much more!

So stop stressing about your car ending up in the repair shop. Get a quote from one of our certified vehicle protection specialists and your car will also be eligible for free changes and tire rotations, but only if you get a quote now! Don’t miss out, we’re only able to offer this deal for a limited time!

Get A Free Quote

Disclaimer: By submitting this form I am giving Protect My Car consent to contact me by email and/or telephone which may include artificial or pre-recorded calls and/or text messages, delivered via automated technology at the telephone number(s) provided above even if I am on a corporate, state or national Do Not Call Registry. I understand that consent is not a condition of purchase. For sms messaging text stop to stop. Msg and data rates may apply. Max 10 messages per month. The Protect My Car privacy policy governs our data collection policy. Protect My Car does not offer or sell Vehicle Service Contracts in AK, CA, HI, MO, OK, or WA.