What Is a Tire Rotation?
Tire rotation involves moving tires from one position on a vehicle to another. A typical tire rotation would move the front tires to the rear, and the tires at the rear of the vehicle to the front.
Often in this procedure, one set of tires also changes sides. For example, the left and right rear tires would change sides when moved to the front of the vehicle, while the front tires would stay on their respective sides when moved to the rear. There are, however, numerous rotation patterns. You should follow the pattern outlined in your owner’s manual.
Why Should You Rotate Your Tires?
Tire rotation is undertaken to ensure that the tires wear evenly. This can extend tire life and save you money. Even tire wear is also important for balanced handling.
For example, failure to rotate tires on a front-wheel-drive vehicle will eventually result in the front tires having significantly less tread than the rear tires. In an emergency, this could make the vehicle more difficult to control, especially if the road is wet.
Some cars with no suspension or alignment problems may also inflict unusual wear patterns on tires that are not rotated, shortening their life. Tread cupping, which can cause high noise levels and vibration, is one such unusual wear pattern that can be eliminated by rotating the tires.
There is one final, important reason for rotating the tires on a regular schedule: the tire manufacturer may require it to keep its warranty in force.
- Improved tire wear
- Improved driving performance
Rotating Tires on a Front-Wheel Drive (FWD) Vehicle
Tires wear differently depending on their location on the vehicle and the vehicle’s drivetrain.
Front-wheel-drive vehicles wear front tires more quickly than rear tires, since the front tires transfer power to the road and steer the vehicle.
In order to correctly rotate the tires of a front-wheel-drive vehicle, you have to move the front tires to the rear and the rear tires to the front. However, when moving the rear tires to the front, they should be placed on opposite sides of the car; you should move your rear right tire to the front left, and the rear left tire to the front right.
Rotating Tires on a Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD) Vehicle
Rear-wheel-drive vehicles provide more balanced wear, since the rear tires deliver power to the pavement while the front tires do the steering. Even with this division of labor, however, the different functions, front and rear, produce different wear patterns that make rotating the tires advisable.
When rotating your tires in a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, you should pretty much do the opposite of what you would do with a front-wheel-drive vehicle. The rear tires should be moved to the front but stay on the same side. Your front tires should be moved toward the rear; you should move your front left tire to the rear right, and the front right tire to the rear left.
Rotating Tires on a All-Wheel Drive (AWD) Vehicle
All-wheel- or four-wheel-drive vehicles may present the strongest case for rotating the tires to keep tread wear even. In many of these vehicles, significant differences in tread depth can place an unnecessary strain on the drivetrain.
For it’s all-wheel-drive vehicles, Subaru recommends that the maximum variation in tread depth be kept to about 2/32 of an inch. Since many crossover all-wheel-drive vehicles are actually in front-wheel-drive mode most of the time, rotating the tires on these vehicles should be done often, since the front tires can be expected to wear more rapidly than the rear tires.
Tread wear variances of more than 2/32 of an inch suggest that the tires should be rotated more frequently.
When rotating the tires of an all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicle, you will follow the same process as if it was a rear-wheel-drive vehicle. The front right will go to the left rear, the front left will go to the right rear, and the two rear tires will move to the front without switching sides.