How Often Should You Rotate Tires?

Don’t wait; rotate!

How to Rotate Your Tires
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So you want to know how often you need to rotate your tires? Good on you for getting proactive about your vehicle’s health and safety, we wish others were as attentive. Tire rotation is crucial to maintaining the tires’ performance capabilities and, best of all, saving you some cash. 

A car’s tire is under a constant state of degradation, and as such, you want to maintain an even wear. Weight, aggressive driving, uneven roads, and weather all play a factor into wear and tear on a tire. This cannot be stopped, but it can be managed by rotating your tires from one corner of your car to the other. This helps even out the wear and maintain a solid contact patch between the tire and the pavement, which helps provide better grip. 

Owners should rotate their tires based on the provided instructions found in the vehicle’s instruction and owner’s manual, or those that came with the tires themselves. Not to fret, we’re here to help. So let’s get to this and allow The Drive’s crack information team explain how and how often you need to rotate your tires.

Ready?

Tire Rotation Basics

Estimated Time Needed: Less than an hour

Skill Level: Beginner

Vehicle System: Tires

What Is Rotating a Tire?

Rotating a tire is the act of removing one wheel and swapping it for another one of your car’s wheels. When rotating tires, your tires are relocated in a specific pattern, depending on the type of vehicle and type of tires. In short, you are rotating the tires around the vehicle, but not in a circle.

Tire Rotation Safety

Working on your car can be dangerous and messy, so here’s exactly what you’ll need to ensure you don’t die, lose a finger, burn your skin, or grate your eyeball.d

Be sure to use jack stands when rotating tires.
Deposit Photos

Tires have been removed from a car.

Everything You’ll Need To Rotate Your Tires

Rotating tires is a fairly simple procedure that could technically be done with a vehicle’s standard scissor jack and spare tire. But we want you to get this done as safely and quickly as possible. Use the tools below for protection and convenience. 

Tool List 

Organizing your tools and gear so everything is easily reachable will save precious minutes waiting for your handy-dandy child or four-legged helper to bring you the sandpaper or blowtorch. (You won't need a blowtorch for this job. Please don’t have your kid hand you a blowtorch—Ed.)

You’ll also need a flat workspace, such as a garage floor, driveway, or street parking. Check your local laws to make sure you’re not violating any codes when using the street because we aren’t getting your ride out of hock.

How To Rotate Tires 

Once the workspace is ready, it’s time to get to the action, but it’s important to understand that not all tires and cars are the same. Tires can be split into directional and non-directional, and each type of vehicle requires different rotational patterns. Allow us to explain.

Non-Directional Tires

Non-directional tires can be used on either side of the vehicle, but it is important to follow a predetermined rotational pattern that is dependent on the vehicle’s drivetrain type. 

Let’s do this!

On FWD cars, the front tires move back, and on RWD cars, the rear tires move forward.
Tony Markovich

The required patterns for rotating tires on FWD, RWD, and 4WD cars.

Front-Wheel Drive

Required Pattern: Both front tires slide to the rear. Rear tires move to the front and cross sides.

  1. Put the vehicle in park and place wheel chocks behind wheels for an added layer of security.
  2. On the front driver’s side, jack the car up and lower onto a jack stand. (If this is foreign to you, visit The Drive’s How To Lift a Car)
  3. Remove the wheel’s lug nuts with wrench or impact wrench.
  4. Remove the wheel.
  5. On the front passenger’s side, jack the car up, then lower onto a jack stand.
  6. Remove the second wheel.
  7. On the rear passenger’s side, jack the car up and remove the wheel.
  8. Take the rear passenger’s side wheel and put it on the front driver’s side.
  9. Grab the front passenger’s side wheel and put it on the rear passenger’s side. 
  10. Hand-tighten the lug nuts.
  11. Drop the rear passenger’s side corner and jack up the driver’s side passenger corner. 
  12. Take the front driver’s side wheel and put it on the rear driver’s side.
  13. Grab the rear driver’s side wheel and put it on the front passenger’s side.
  14. Hand-tighten the lug nuts.
  15. Jack up the front of the car, remove the jack stands, and lower the car. 
  16. Using a torque wrench, tighten all lug nuts to manufacturer specification.

Rear-Wheel Drive/All-Wheel Drive:

Required Pattern: Both rear tires move forward to the front without crisscrossing. Front tires move to the rear and crisscross sides.

  1. Put the vehicle in park and place wheel chocks under wheels for an added layer of security.
  2. On the front driver’s side, jack the car up and lower onto a jack stand. 
  3. Drop that corner onto a jack stand.
  4. On the rear passenger’s side, jack the car up, and rest on jack stand.
  5. Remove the lug nuts with an impact wrench or wrench and remove wheel.
  6. On the front passenger’s side, jack the car up, and rest on jack stand.
  7. Remove the lug nuts with an impact wrench or wrench and remove wheel.
  8. Take the front passenger’s side wheel and put it on the rear driver’s side.
  9. Grab the rear passenger’s side wheel and put it on the front passenger’s side. 
  10. Hand-tighten the lug nuts.
  11. Drop the front passenger’s side corner and jack up the front driver’s side. 
  12. Take the rear driver’s side wheel and put it on the front driver’s side.
  13. Grab the front driver’s side wheel and put it on the rear passenger’s side.
  14. Hand-tighten the lug nuts.
  15. Jack up the car, remove jack stands, and lower the car to the ground. 
  16. Using a torque wrench, tighten all lug nuts to manufacturer specification.
Directional tires are design to roll in only one specific direction.
Tony Markovich

The required patterns for rotating directional and staggered tires.

Staggered Tires

Required Pattern: Swap front tires left-to-right and right-to-left. Swap rear tires left-to-right and right-to-left.

  1. Place wheel chocks behind wheels for an added layer of security.
  2. On the rear driver’s side, jack the car up, insert a jack stand, and remove the lug nuts and wheel.
  3. On the rear passenger’s side, jack the car up, insert a jack stand, and remove the lug nuts and wheel.
  4. Move the rear passenger’s side wheel to the rear driver’s side.
  5. Move the rear driver’s side wheel to the rear passenger’s side.
  6. Hand-tighten the lug nuts, remove the jack stand, and release the car to the ground.
  7. Tighten the rear lug nuts to a manufacturer-specified number using a torque wrench.
  8. Repeat the steps for the front wheels.

Directional Tires

With directional tires, the tires remain on the same side of the vehicle and are moved straight forward or straight back to swap places with the front or rear tires. 

  1. Utilize the steps for rotating staggered tires above. However, rather than swapping the wheels side-to-side, switch each wheel front-to-back and back-to-front only.
  2. Follow the instructions above. 

Get Help With Rotating Tires From a Mechanic On JustAnswer

The Drive recognizes that while our How-To guides are detailed and easily followed, a rusty bolt, an engine component not in the correct position, or oil leaking everywhere can derail a project. That’s why we’ve partnered with JustAnswer, which connects you to certified mechanics around the globe, to get you through even the toughest jobs. So if you have a question or are stuck, click here and talk to a mechanic near you.

Pro Tips for Rotating Tires

Over the years, The Drive’s editors have made friends with professionals across the industry. That’s why we reached out to one of our friends who is a Service Manager at a nationwide tire and automotive repair chain to give us his pro tips for how to inspect and rotate tires. Here are his suggestions:

  • “Get a dead blow hammer. Especially with aluminum, the wheels like to get stuck on the hat of the rotor. It can happen due to corrosion over time or sometimes just the way the wheel sits on the hub, but it will not come off without a good bit of force. You need a dead blow hammer rather than a regular hammer or sledge hammer because you need to hit the wheel itself and you don’t want to bend or crack the metal.”
  • “Be sure to use a torque wrench and tighten the lug nuts to the manufacturer torque and in the proper star pattern. Don’t just tighten until you can’t anymore. When you over torque them, you stretch the threads on the studs and weaken them, making them more likely to break. In our experience, three out of four wheel-offs are caused by over torqued lug nuts.”
  • “Buy a $0.50 thread gauge and check your tires for irregular tread wear. If the tread is uneven, it is a sign of a lack of rotation or improper alignment.”
  • “While the wheels are off, inspect your brake rotors, brake lines, brake pads, and suspension parts.”
  • “Don’t be the guy who comes in for an inspection and the wheels are installed inside out.”
  • “Swallow your pride. If you don’t know what you’re doing, the $25 we charge is going to be a lot less than what it’s going to cost to fix whatever you screwed up.
A heavy duty jack is crucial for rotating tires.
Deposit Photos

A jack is used to lift a car.

How Much Does It Cost To Rotate Your Tires?

When done consistently, rotating your tires will actually save money, not cost extra. Rotating your own tires costs nothing but a little time and effort, and in some instances, tire retailers and service centers offer free rotation for the life of the tires when purchased from that retailer. 

If you are unable to rotate your own tires, service centers will typically charge roughly $20-50.

Life Hacks To Rotate Your Tires

Not everybody has an upgraded garage with premium tools such as a lift, a heavy duty jack, or an impact wrench, but that’s not a problem. Follow The Drive’s tire rotation life hacks to make the job just a bit easier and safer.

  • Attach a piece of conduit to a handle for extra leverage leverage. This technique can be used to ease the effort of jacking the car up or loosening the lug nuts.
  • Use tire chalk or some other way to label your tires. Life does not go according to plan, and it’s easy to lose track of the order or where the tires originally came from.

Find the Right Tires With Tire Rack

Listen, we know how hard it can be to pick the right tire. Between the word-jumble that are tire specifications, as well as the tire manufacturer's names for tires that never just say what they are, it can be a pain and you might end up with the wrong shoes for your ride. That's why we've partnered up with our friends at Tire Rack. They'll take the headache out of tire shopping. All you have to do is click here

Featured Tire Products

Michelin Defender LTX M/S All-Season Tire

Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 Winter Tire

Pittsburgh 1.5-Ton Aluminum Racing Jack

Got a question? Got a pro tip? Send us a note: guidesandgear@thedrive.com