Tire Maintenance & Safety

How to rotate tires

Last updated 11/04/2022 - Originally published 11/04/2022
Written by SimpleTire

Rotating tires is an important process of car maintenance and regular rotation ensures that your tires wear evenly. Moreover, this process also ensures balanced traction and steering handling for a longer period. Tire warranties from manufacturers also require drivers to rotate tires on a specific mileage schedule, which is typically between 3,000 and 5,000 miles.

Before we answer the questions such as ‘How often to rotate tires?’ or ‘How to rotate tires at home?’ Let’s first understand why it is important to rotate tires frequently.

Tires experience varying levels of tread wear depending on their wheel position. The front tires experience more tread wear as they have difficult tasks. For example, in a front-wheel drive car such as the 2018 Honda Accord, the tires are responsible for steering, braking, accelerating, and moving up and down. However, in a high-performance rear-wheel-drive car like the 2020 BMW 330i xDrive, the rear tires experience more treads. On the contrary, all-wheel drive (AWD) such as the 2018 Toyota Highlander and four-by-four vehicles cause different tread wear on tires.

Regardless of the mechanics of a motor vehicle, the tire goes through tear-and-wear which reduces the tread depth. As the tread depth decreases, the steering responsiveness and traction decrease making the car performance poorer. Rotating tires is vital to balance out the wear patterns and extend the tire life and mitigate the cost of tire replacement. It also ensures reliable traction and handling during wet weather conditions.

Here is how you can rotate tires depending on your car mechanics.

Front-wheel drive: You can rotate the tires in a forward cross pattern. Insert the left front tire to the left rear position and the right front tire to the right rear position. Insert the left rear tire into the right front and the right rear tire into the left front. Rear-wheel drive & AWD/four-wheel drive: Insert the left rear tire to the right front position and the right rear tire to the left front position. The right front tire goes to the left rear position and the left front tire goes to the right rear position. Rear-wheel drive or AWD/four-wheel drive: The left rear tire is put into the left front position and the right rear tire is put into the right front position. The left front tire goes to the right rear position and the right front tire is put into the left rear position. Fifth wheel rotation: If you own a Jeep Wrangler then you likely have a fifth tire on the back of your ride. While designed as a spare, it’s vital to rotate all five tires at the same time to prevent uneven wear or a blowout. Move the left front tire to the left rear and the left rear to the spare position. From there, move the original fifth tire to the right front, the right front tire to the right rear position, and the right rear tire to the left front.

As tire wear varies according to the car, it is important to understand your vehicle before rotating the tires. For instance, the process of how to rotate tires AWD will be different from the process of how to rotate front wheel drive tires. Let’s understand the process of rotating tires and the answer to the question of how much to rotate tires.

What you will need

If you are looking to rotate your tires by yourself, you will need the right tools. These tools will make your job much easier.

Lug Wrench

A lug wrench is vital to loosen and tighten the nuts that secure the tire to the car. A four-sided wrench is a versatile tool that can be used on a variety of nut sizes and provides a good grip when tightening the nuts.

Car Jack

Most cars have a small car jack packed in the spare tire kit which is intended to be used for quick roadside repairs. However, if you are a DIY enthusiast and perform regular maintenance on your car, you can invest in a hydraulic car jack to provide a reliable lift while securely holding the weight of the car provided.

Jack Stands

It is not advisable to rest the car only on the lip of the hydraulic jack while working on the vehicle. Placing a jack stand under the car will ensure proper stability.

The process

Let’s now understand the process of how to rotate tires on a dually or any other vehicle step-by-step.

Step 1 - Prepare the vehicle

To prepare the vehicle follow these steps.

  • Place the vehicle in park on leveled ground
  • Put on the emergency brake
  • Place a wheel chock under one tire to further prevent it from moving
  • Loosen the lug nut on all the tires without removing them completely

Step 2 - Lift the vehicle

  • Follow the proper placement of a jack according to the vehicle and put it next to the first tire to be rotated
  • Insert the handle into the body of the jack and pump it to raise the jack until it connects with the car frame
  • Raise the car until the tire clears off the ground
  • Remove the tire
  • Continue to raise the car to place a jack stand under the car frame

Step 3 - Rotate the tires

  • Remove the other tires and follow a rotation pattern according to the car mechanics
  • Swap the tires and tighten them slightly using your fingers and a lug wrench
  • Remove the car from the jack stand and lower it back to the ground
  • Tighten the nuts using a wrench following a star pattern (tighten the bolt directly across from the first nut)

Let’s now look at some of the most frequently asked questions about rotating the tires.

How much does it cost to rotate tires?

The price of rotating your tires depends on a variety of factors, such as the vehicle type and store. Expect to pay anywhere from $35 to over $100 for the rotation, and keep in mind that that cost will go up depending on how difficult the rotation is. A fifth wheel rotation for a Jeep Wrangler, for example, will cost more than a four wheel rotation for a 2019 Toyota Camry. Be sure to price compare as well, since some shops might offer a free rotation with another service like an oil change or an alignment.

How long does it take to rotate tires?

A tire rotation could generally take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour. However, the time it will take for you to rotate your tires can vary from 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on your prior experience in rotating tires.

How often do tires need to be rotated?

Ideally, you should rotate your tires every 3,000 to 5,000 miles or once per season. While some drivers only elect to rotate their tires at every oil change, this could be a risky process to follow as synthetic and high-mileage oils have made it easier for drivers to go longer between their changes. By rotating your tires frequently, you can extend the tread life by ensuring even tread wear for all tires.

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