Most car owners are not knowledgeable about the important maintenance steps necessary to keep their cars in optimum driving condition. Unfortunately, missing important inspections and these maintenance procedures means problems in your car become worse and more expensive to repair, not to mention dangerous to the owner and the passengers.
One of the most ignored (or unknown) steps to keeping your car in tip-top shape is tire rotation. This means moving the tires from one place to another, like transferring the front tires to the back, and the rears to the front. At times, the tires should also be rotated, like the left and right back tires will switch sides when you move them to the front but the front tires will not.
There are quite a number of rotation patterns available, but you can refer to the one described in the manual of your car. It should normally be done after 5,000-7,500 miles, the recommendation for your car model should also be stated in the manual.
Importance Of Tire Rotation
Keeping track of your tire rotation schedule can be a challenge especially due to the busyness of modern life. Moreover, it is easy to skip because it is not an obvious maintenance step that will otherwise compromise your driving experience and safety. As opposed to a leak or a rattling sound that will bother anyone, rotating tires is one step many forget to do.
However, there are tons of reasons why you should do it. First of all, rotating tires will keep your car safe and optimize the handling of the vehicle. The condition of your tires plays a huge role in the safety of an automobile. This is why tire maintenance and rotation are vital in keeping your car stable and easy to handle and maneuver.
Second, rotating tires will ensure that the tires wear out evenly and will make them last longer. When you are driving a lot, you will notice a lot of wear on your tires but because of several factors, they will not wear out equally. For example, the front tires of a front-wheel drive car take more load than the back ones. Switching their places will help equalize the wear. Actually, when they are not maintained and rotated properly, you will lose thousands of miles off their lifespan, wasting money in the process. Worst case scenario, tread life will be quickly reduced by half.
Third, even tires are necessary for balanced handling. This means, if the front tires are more worn out and have less tread than the rear ones, it might make your car more difficult to control in wet conditions. Rotating your tires will also prevent other problems with your vehicle, like tread cupping which leads to loud noise and vibrations.
Last but not the least, manufacturers require that tires are rotated in order to keep the warranty valid. Rotating them is vital to achieving their full life. The warranties of your tires were set with these tire rotations in mind. This means, if you skip this step and you notice some premature wear because of it, the manufacturer will most likely make the warranty void. You will end up having to pay for replacement tires all on your own. Unfortunately, when you have used rear tires and worn-out front ones, you will most likely end up having to replace all of them because mixing new with used ones do not make sense. You will then end up having to buy 4 new tires.
How Often Should You Rotate Your Tires?
Tire wear varies based on the type and usage of the car. Moreover, a front-wheel drive’s tires will experience a different kind of force compared to a rear-wheel drive. This means identifying the kind of car you have will dictate how often you should rotate it and which wheels to do so.
As mentioned earlier, you should schedule a tire rotation after 5,000 to 7,500 miles, but if you drive a lot or have a lot of cargo, then you should have your garage check on the status of your tires earlier. They can advise you as well whether the tire treads are worn out or uneven and a rotation or new tires are necessary. The manual of your car should also provide a guide on how often you need to have it done.
Here is a guide to understanding how tires should be rotated based on the kind of vehicle you have.
- Front-Wheel Drive
In this kind of car, the front tires wear out much more quickly than the rear ones because the front ones are responsible for steering and power transfer to the road.
When rotating your tires, you need to switch the rear and front ones. However, the rear ones should also change sides, meaning the left rear tire goes to the right front side and the right rear one transfers to the left front side.
- Rear-Wheel Drive
These vehicles display more balanced wear on the tires because the rear tires deliver the power but the front tires are the ones responsible for steering. Despite a division of labor, there are still different wear patterns observed in such cars, which is why tire rotation is still advisable.
Tire rotation on this kind of cars is the opposite of that of a front-wheel-drive car. The rear tires move to the front but do not rotate sides. On the other hand, the front tires move back, but the sides need to be switched. This means, the front left tire goes to the rear right, and the front right one transfers to the rear left.
- All-Wheel Drive
AWD (all-wheel drive) or four-wheel drive autos need tire rotation the most. In such vehicles, there is a huge difference in the tread depth on the 4 wheels, putting an additional but unnecessary strain on the car’s drivetrain.
Depending on the manufacturer, the variations in tread depth should be monitored and should not go over a recommended amount. However, many owners of AWDs use front-wheel drive mode the most, which means the front tires wear out more quickly than back ones. Tire rotation is recommended to be done regularly, especially if the tread depth variation exceeds the threshold amount.
For rotating the tires of a four-wheel drive or AWD, you just need to follow the same process as with a rear-wheel drive.
Where Should You Have Your Tires Rotated?
This process is not that complicated and can be easily done on your own, especially if you have knowledge in changing tires. All you need is a work area, a jack, wheel chocks to prevent the car from rolling, jack stands, a torque wrench to ensure the lug nuts and bolts are properly tightened, and a regular hand tool set. You will need muscle power as well and to remain safe at all times, never go under a car that is only lifted up by a jack.
When rotating your tires, take the chance to check on the condition of the tires. First, see if there is some damage to the treads or sidewalls, both the inner and outer ones.
Another check you should do is the date of the wheels. Tires do deteriorate after a specific amount of time and they become very unsafe. Safety experts and automobile manufacturers suggest that tires older than 6 years, even if they are only standby ones, should be retired (pardon the pun). However, some state that they are OK until 10 years. You can check the age of the tires by looking at the DOT code. The last four digits stand for the week and the year, for example, 1517 means it was produced during the 15th week of the year 2017.
Second, you need to check on the air pressure of tires during a tire rotation. Some cars require that the front and rear tires have a different pressure. This means you will need to adjust the air pressure after rotating. To get an accurate reading, use a quality tire pressure gauge when the tires are still cold.
Third, you should always install the tires properly in order to drive correctly and safely. This means, when you are tightening the lug nuts, you should always use a torque wrench. This assures you that wheels are correctly mounted on the car especially before you go out on the road. When you do not tighten enough, they might become loose and you might literally lose a wheel while driving down the road. On the other hand, too tight increases the risk of possible brake rotor warping. This will end up in vibration while braking and you will require a longer stopping distance.
Your tires are the parts of your car that are actually moving you along the road while keeping your vehicle planted. This constant friction with the tarmac will naturally lead to a lot of wear. This means a tire rotation will prevent the uneven wear on your 4 wheels and allow you to use them much longer. They are also important for driving safety so even though you have never heard of your family and friends doing this regularly, you should definitely keep this in mind for your own vehicle.
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