Rotate Tires

Rotating tires requires removing a tire and moving it to another location as suggested by the manufacturer. A tire shop can do this much quicker than the owner.

Rotating tires requires removing a tire and moving it to another location as suggested by the manufacturer. A tire shop can do this much quicker than the owner.

Most tire and car manufacturers recommend that you rotate tires every 7,500 miles. Why? Because tires don’t wear evenly. Even properly inflated tires wear differently in different locations on the car. Front tires get wear from turns that back tires don’t get, The front suspension system may wear the tire’s tread differently from the rear suspension system. To get the most wear out of all tires, consider rotate tires regularly.

There are two types of tire rotations depending on what type of tires are mounted on your car. Original-equipment tires typically are “non-directional” meaning they don’t really care which wheel they’re mounted on. “Directional” tires must stay on the same side of the car as they were originally mounted, back-to-front and front-to-back. How can you tell which type of tire your car has? The side of the tire will have the word ROTATION and arrows indicating the direction the tires are designed to roll. The arrows point toward the front of the car. Directional tires also are referred to as “unidirectional.”

So if directional tires are rotated back-to-front and front-to-back, how are non-directional tires rotated? Back-to-front and front-to-opposite-back. Here’s the process for rotating non-directional tires:

Fix-It Tip

As you rotate tires, check tire pressure to make sure each tire is properly inflated (the recommended tire pressure is stamped on the side of the tire). Look for wear, too. Most modern tiers have wear indicators, colored strips on the tread that are only visible when the tread depth is too shallow for safety. Ask your tire supplier whether your tires have wear indicators and how to read them.

 Steps to rotate tires:

1. Make sure the engine is OFF and that the parking brake is set.

2. Follow the car manufacturer’s instructions for using a jack to lift the front of the car until the tires are not touching the ground, then install stands under the frame. (If you’re also doing an oil change you can rotate tires before removing the jack stands.)

3. Next, lift the rear of the car and securely install stands under the frame. The car is now level and entirely supported by the four stands.

4. Use a tire iron or large socket wrench to loosen the nuts (called lug nuts) on each tire, then carefully remove the tire and lay it in front of the wheel. Lay the lug nuts nearby so they can be reinstalled on the same wheel later.

Stop! You can now perform the other two maintenance tasks in this section while the tires are off and before they are rotated. Once you have inspected the brakes and the suspension, proceed to the next step.

5. Based on the rotation pattern required for the type of tires your car has, move one tire to its new location. Use the tire laying below the wheel as a ramp to help you move the new tire into place.

6. Turn the tire or wheel so the wheel bolts line up with the holes in the wheel rim, then slip the wheel into place. Put one nut on the highest wheel bolt and turn it a few times. Then replace the other nuts by hand. (Note: The side of the nut that is flat goes toward the outside of the wheel and the side that is wedge-shaped goes toward the wheel.)

7. Tighten all nuts on the wheel so that the rim is snug. Once done, grab the front and back edges and wiggle the tire to make sure that it is tightly fastened to the wheel hub.

8. Repeat the process for the other wheels and tires, following the rotation pattern suggested by the manufacturer.

9. Jack up the back of the car, carefully remove the stands, then lower the jack so the tires are on the ground. Repeat with the front end of the car.

That’s the process. From it you also can see how to change a flat tire: jack up the car, install a stand if available (for safety), remove the wheel, replace it with the spare, then remove the stand and the jack.

Fix-It Tip

Some “spare” tires are not intended for use except in an emergency. Your car’s owner’s manual will tell you which type you have and how to use it.