Tire Rotation: A Complete Guide + FAQs

Anyone who owns a car should be well aware that they need to rotate their tires periodically. Even though this is such an important part of taking care of any vehicle, so many people do not know how to rotate their tires, why they should rotate their tires, or even what rotating tires means.

Tires should be rotated on your vehicle every 7,500 miles. This keeps the tires from balding on just one side. Tires can bald at different rates and the vehicle that you drive may affect your tire’s balding rates.

While you now know that rotating your tires is an essential part of taking care of a car, you should learn how, when, and why you should rotate your tires. Keep reading to understand every aspect of this task!

Is It Necessary To Rotate Your Tires?

Before we talk about the details of rotating your tires, like when and how to do it, we should talk about the reason for rotating your tires.

When you understand why something needs to be done, you will have more passion for getting it done and you will understand what it does for you to do the task, no matter if it is rotating tires or some completely different task.

Tire rotation is often part of your bill when you get your oil changed. It is a procedure done by the mechanics, usually without prompting. Sometimes this can be frustrating, and it makes people wonder if it is even a necessary task.

Getting your tires rotated is a necessary task for a few different reasons, the main reason being to make your tires last longer!

When you are driving on roads, rough surfaces, and through various weather conditions, the tread on your tires will wear down. While this is natural, not all of the tires wear down at the same rate.

The rate at which they wear down is largely dependent on which axle it is on. The front tires typically take more of the brunt of friction, so they wear down faster. If you make sharp right turns but soft left turns, then the right-side tires will wear down rather quickly.

Tire rotation helps reduce the uneven wear on your tires so that they are all ready to be replaced at the exact same time. A tire rotation will move tires from back to front, front to back, right to left, or left to right.

This is to ensure that each tire spends some time taking the brunt of the work.

What Happens If You Don’t Rotate Your Tires?

If you don’t rotate your tires, you can put yourself at risk for tire-related accidents.

These accidents can be sliding on ice, hydroplaning, heat buildup, and an increased risk of blowing out your tires.

About one-quarter of all tire-related accidents are because of one or more tires having inadequate tread depth.

How Much Longer Do Tires Last If You Rotate Them?

Safety is not the only reason to rotate your tires, but you will also have to buy tires less often.

It is not clear how much more life you will get out of your tires, but you will only need to go purchase new tires half as often as you will buy 4 new tires after a long time instead of 2 new tires after a short time.

How Often Should You Rotate Your Tires

Now that you know the major reasons why you should rotate your tires, we can talk about when you should rotate your tires. There is no one event that requires you to rotate your tires, but rather it is more like a schedule as they need rotating at intervals.

One general rule that some people go by is to rotate your tires every 6 months. This is not always the most accurate method of knowing when to rotate your tires because people get a different amount of use out of their tires at intervals of 6 months.

This amount of time is generally when people use their tires for a significant enough amount of miles to need rotating. The 6-month gauge of time between tire rotation is a general estimation based on the more accurate way.

To more accurately rotate your tires at the right time, you should have a rotation every 6,000 to 8,000 miles. For people that use their cars an average amount on paved streets, this will end up being about every 6 months.

For people that use their cars much more frequently, much less frequently, or on unpaved roads, they should keep a closer watch on how many miles they have gone since the last tire rotation.

While these are general time frames for when you should rotate your tires, every car is different. You should check your owner’s manual for how many miles you should drive between tire rotations.

Some vehicles need a rotation much sooner and some don’t need a rotation until 10,000 miles.

Can You Rotate Your Tires Too Much?

Fortunately, you can not really go wrong with rotating your tires before the general time to rotate them. Rotating your tires “too often” is not really an issue as long as you rotate them on a schedule.

The worst that will come from it is you have to do extra, more frequent labor or you have to pay more often for mechanics to do it.

Unfortunately, there is a point where it is too late to rotate your tires. You want to rotate them on a pretty strict schedule. This will make sure that you don’t wear down two tires more than the other two tires.

If you wait too long for a rotation and don’t rotate again at the same long interval, you will have one pair of tires worn too thin and it will be really difficult to get the other two to wear down to the same point.

This results in a rougher ride and a higher risk of being in a tire-related accident.

How to Rotate Your Own Tires

Now that you know all about when and why you should rotate your tires, we can finally get into how to rotate your tires.

While a lot of people assume that because rotating tires is something that mechanics often do and that they can’t do it themselves, that is simply not true.

Rotating your tires is a fairly simple process and anyone can learn how to do it. Rotating your tires is not that difficult of a task and we will walk you through all of the details you need to know about rotating your tires from home.

The first thing to make sure of before you even start is that you have all of the right tools to do the job.

You will need:

  • A jack to lift your car off of the ground so you can take the tire off of the axle without the car crashing to the floor. You will need to have all four tires off of the ground to rotate them.
  • A lug wrench (or torque wrench) to get all of the lug-nuts off of the tires. This way you will be able to get the tires off of the axles so you can switch them around.
  • Four safety stands to hold the car completely off of the ground the entire time you are rotating the tires. It is essential that you have four or you will not be able to safely rotate the tires.

Now that you’ve made sure that you have all of the required tools to rotate your tires, you can begin the process.

The first step to rotating your tires is to lift your car so that all four tires are off of the ground and your car is safely supported by the safety stands.

To do this, use your jack, whether it is a hydraulic jack or a scissor jack, to lift up the front of the car. When you have lifted the car to where you can fit two of your safety stands underneath. Crank the safety stands up to where they meet the car and then slowly lower the jack.

Do the same procedure on the back of the car and place the other two safety stands at the proper areas in the back. Now that your car is off the ground, give it a shake so that if anything is not secure, it will fall on the tires and not the undercarriage.

Now that you have lifted your car safely off the ground, you need to remove all of the tires. Use your lug wrench to take all of the lug nuts off of each tire. Remove the tire from the axle and place it on the ground next to the spot that it was at.

Make sure that you know which tire each set of lug-nuts belongs to. When removing the lug-nuts, take them off in a star pattern instead of in a circle to put less pressure on each of them and the axle.

Moving the tires to the correct spots is where the process can vary. Different transmissions require different rotation patterns and you should check your owner’s manual to know what kind of rotation your car is meant to have.

There are 4 types of tire rotation patterns and it is essential that you do the correct rotation!

1. Rear-wheel drive Rotation Pattern

When rotating tires on a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, the two back tires go straight to the front with the rear left now becoming front left and rear right becoming front right.

The two front tires should cross over to the opposite sides and put at the rear so front left becomes rear right and front right becomes rear left.

2. FWD Tire Rotation Patterns

With a front-wheel-drive vehicle, you will move the front two tires directly to the rear axles without crossing them. Left is still left and right is still right.

For the two rear tires, you will move them to the opposite front axle. Left will become right and right will become left.

3. Directional Tire Rotation Patterns

Directional tires‘ rotation pattern is much simpler to remember than rear or front wheel drive. The front two tires move to the back two axles and the rear tires move to the front axles.

There is no crossing involved, so the lefts and rights stay on the same sides; left is still left and right is still right.

4. AWD Tire Rotation Patterns

Finally, when you have an all-wheel-drive or four-wheel drive vehicle, you will simply cross the tires and move them to the opposite axles.

The front left tire goes to the rear right, and the front right tire goes to the rear left. The rear left tire goes to the front right axle and the rear right tire goes to the front left axle.

When you figure out which rotation you are supposed to do, it is necessary that you always do that rotation to get the benefits of rotating your tires.

Alternatively, you could have it done by a mechanic when you get an oil change or as its own job. This way, you will not have to buy the tools or take the time to do the work.

It is much simpler than doing it yourself and cheaper depending on how often you have it done and the price of your local mechanic.

Tip: Make sure to take a look at my article on tire wear for AWD vehicles for additional info!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do You Need An Alignment After Each Tire Rotation?

No, you do not. A tire rotation does not change the alignment of the tires like replacing them does.

Is It Okay To Rotate Tires Every 10,000 Miles?

Depending on the model of the car and the environment in which you drive it this should be fine. However, you should probably consult with a professional or check your manual for more specific information.

How much does it cost to rotate tires?

It costs about $10 to $20 per rotation, which makes the overall price $40 to $80 for the full rotation.

How long does it take to rotate tires?

It takes about an hour to rotate tires. If you are doing it yourself for the first time, it will take 90 minutes to 2 hours.

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