If you’re like most drivers, you probably don’t think about rotating your tires until it’s time for your next oil change. But is that enough? How often should you rotate your tires, anyway? Fortunately, rotating your tires is easy enough that most car owners can do it themselves if they’re overdue.
What is tire rotation?
Tire rotation is the process of moving a vehicle’s tires from one position on the car to another. The purpose of rotating tires is to ensure that they wear evenly, prolonging the life of the tires and improving the vehicle’s handling.
There are several ways to rotate tires, but the most common method is to switch the front and rear tires. This ensures that each tire will experience all four positions—front left, front right, back left and rear right—throughout its life. Other methods involve switching two adjacent tires or rotating them in an “x” pattern.
How often should you rotate your tires?
A good rule of thumb is to rotate your tires every 7,500 miles. However, rotation frequency may depend on factors such as the make and model of your car, how much you drive and even the weather.
If you live in a particularly harsh climate or do a lot of off-roading, you may need to rotate your tires more often. Consult your car’s owner’s manual or speak with a trusted mechanic for more specific guidance.
Types of tire rotation
For most owners, it depends on your drivetrain. But regardless of whether you have front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, rotating tires is important because the tires associated with the drive axle work harder than the others.
If you don’t swap them out, these tires will develop uneven wear patterns and require early replacement. If you’re not sure which is suitable for your vehicle, consult your owner’s manual or a mechanic.
FWD tire rotation
Front-wheel drive (FWD) is the most common drivetrain today, making it the most common rotation pattern. To rotate tires on a FWD car, move the front tires to the rear, keeping them on the same side of the car. Move the rear tires to the front, swapping sides.
Optionally, you can rotate the tires in an “X” pattern. The front right tire moves to the left rear, and the left front goes to the right rear.
It’s not uncommon for some performance-tire setups to have directional treads, meaning they are made for the right or left side only. In this case, you should only switch the right front to the right rear and the left front to the left rear.
RWD/4WD tire rotation
The four- and rear-wheel drive (RWD) tire rotation pattern reverses the FWD rotation. For RWD, move the rear tires to the front, keeping them on the same side of the car. Move the front tires to the rear, swapping sides.
In some cases, rear-wheel drive vehicles have larger rear tires, called staggered tires. If your car has this setup, then you’ll move the tires from one side to the other and not from the rear to the front.
If all tires are unidirectional and staggered, they cannot be rotated.
AWD tire rotation
All-wheel drive (AWD) vehicle owners can either follow the same pattern as RWD vehicles, or use the “X” pattern.