How Often to Rotate Tires (And How to Do It)
Every year, tire malfunction is a contributing factor to hundreds of motor vehicle traffic fatalities.
Some of these malfunctions are a result of uneven wear and could have been prevented by keeping up with routine tire maintenance. Rotating your tires on a regular basis is one of the best ways to extend their life and avoid a preventable tire-related accident.
Every car owner should know how often to rotate tires for maximum safety. But did you know that it’s something you can take care of yourself?
Keep reading to learn when you should rotate your tires and how to do it at home.
What Is Tire Rotation?
Tire rotation involves moving each tire to a different position on your vehicle. For example, you could transfer the back tires to the front and the front tires to the back.
If you have rear-wheel or 4-wheel drive, sometimes this also includes moving the tires from left to right. But every vehicle recommends a different tire rotation pattern, so it’s best to follow that pattern if you can.
Why Should You Rotate Your Tires?
Tire rotation is important because it ensures that your tires are wearing evenly and that you have balanced handling of your car.
Maybe you have a speed bump right before your driveway, for example. If you’re turning left on that bump every single day into your driveway, it will wear certain parts of your tires more than others.
The way we drive and where we drive can all impact how our tires wear down.
On a front-wheel-drive vehicle, front tires will lose tread faster. If they aren’t rotated, the vehicle will become harder to control, especially when roads are wet.
Some tire makers will also enforce tire rotation to keep your warranty valid.
How Often Should You Rotate Your Tires?
At the very least you should rotate your tires every time you go for an oil change.
A good rule of thumb is to do it every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, though some manufacturers say every 5,000 to 7,000.
It’s important to go by how much you drive rather than a length of time since everyone uses their car to a different extent.
What Do You Need to Rotate Your Tires?
You can rotate your tires by yourself—you just need the right tools.
You’ll need the following things to rotate your tires at home:
- A flat, hard, level work area
- A car jack
- Jack stands
- Wheel chocks, so the car doesn’t roll
- A tire iron so you can fully tighten lug nuts or bolts
- A standard set of hand tools
If you want to save money, or if you just love feeling empowered by taking care of your car, rotating your tires isn’t a bad place to start. Here’s how to do it!
Before You Jack up Your Car
Make sure your car is in park and apply the parking brake. Place your chocks in front of the front and back wheels of the side you aren’t working on so that your car doesn’t roll.
Before you jack it up, loosen the lug nuts a bit. Doing so on the ground will provide a little more resistance so they’ll be easier to remove once your car is up.
If you find the lug nuts are hard to loosen, try putting your foot on the handle of the wrench and kicking it once to crack the lug.
Jack up Your Car
Consult the owner’s manual to see where to place your jack as every car has specific locations for where it must be placed to ensure safety.
You need something to hold the car up while you change the tires out, which is where the jack stands come in.
Just remember to never, EVER get underneath a car that is only supported by a jack. You should always make sure that all parts of your body are clear of the car in case it slips off while you’re working on it. If your car body has too much rust for your jack to support it or you can’t get it to remain stable, take it to the pros for help.
Remove Your Wheels and Refit Them
When the tire you want to remove is in the air, just use your fingers to remove the lug nuts.
If you’re using your spare as the placeholder, get it mounted. 2 lug nuts are sufficient at this point, just tightened enough to keep the wheel seated on the hub, as you won’t be driving on it.
Move on to the next wheel and repeat the process.
When you put the first wheel on for real, reinstall all the lug nuts. Tighten them enough to keep the rim seated on the hub. Then lower your vehicle down to the ground and tighten them even more.
A tire iron or torque wrench is ideal here as you’ll be able to make sure that the lugs are tightened to the specifications you’ll find in your owner’s manual. Don’t over-tighten as this will damage the rims. Aluminum and magnesium rims are both fragile and expensive to replace.
Once all of your tires are in their new positions, you’re almost done! Just check your tire pressure and reset it if need be. Then you’re good to go!
If you love the rush you get from rotating your own tires, here are some more maintenance tasks that you can do yourself.
Knowing How Often to Rotate Tires Could Save Your Life
Knowing how often to rotate tires is vital, especially if you take care of most of your vehicle’s upkeep.
There are hundreds of accidents every year that could be prevented if car owners took better care of their tires.
Remember to do it every time you give your car an oil change, at the very least. And if you don’t have the time or the desire to do it yourself, you can always hire a professional to do it for you!
If you’re ready to schedule your auto service and have your tires rotated, you can do so here.