Tyre rotation is a simple way to prolong the life of your tyres, saving you money and keeping you safer on the road. It can be easily combined with other routine tyre maintenance, like alignment and balancing.
When you rotate tyres, you change the position of each tyre on the vehicle to spread out wear evenly across all tyres. Any tyre service shop can quickly do this simple operation for you.
This section covers the main tyre rotation patterns. The best pattern for your vehicle will depend on its drive train, which determines which tyres receive power from the engine and move the vehicle forward. Your vehicle manual will also specify which pattern is right for your specific model.
The first three patterns described below are for tyres that are non-directional and of uniform size, meaning that any given tyre-and-wheel unit can be placed in any position on the vehicle. Most tyres are of this type.
Directional or differently sized performance tyres require different approaches, which are explained in the last two patterns.
In this rotation pattern, the rear tyres are moved straight to the front, while the front tyres are moved to the back but change sides of the vehicle. This is the recommended pattern for four-wheel-drive, all-wheel drive and rear-wheel-drive vehicles.
With this pattern, all tyres change position from front to back and side to side, meaning each moves diagonally across the vehicle. This pattern is recommended for front-wheel-drive vehicles (like saloons).
In the forward cross pattern, the two front tyres are moved straight back and the two rear tyres are moved forward but switch sides. This is another pattern for front-wheel drive vehicles.
The front-to-rear pattern is for directional tyres, which rotate in one direction only. This means that they can’t be switched from one side of the vehicle to another because doing so requires flipping them around and making them rotate in the opposite direction. This pattern involves interchanging the front and rear tyres without switching sides, so that the correct rotation direction is maintained.
This rotation pattern is for vehicles where the front set of tyres is of a different size than the back set, usually for performance or aesthetic reasons. It is never a good idea to have wheel-tyre units with different diameters on the same axle, so these tyres cannot move diagonally across the vehicle. To maintain the aesthetic or performance characteristics while still evening out tread wear, these tyres are rotated from one side to the other only.
The key reason for rotating your tyres is to make sure that the tread on all of them wears down at the same rate. Different tyres lose tread depth more quickly depending on where they are on a vehicle. Even on AWD vehicles, the front wheels will most likely lose tyre tread depth more quickly than the back wheels, because the front wheels undergo a disproportionate amount of the force of steering, braking and acceleration (in most drive train configurations).
Front tyres can also wear out more quickly due to wheel alignment problems. The root cause of misalignment should be addressed separately, but a tyre rotation can mitigate the severity of the problem.
Additionally, any wheel that gets more power delivered to it than another (whether the rear tyres on a RWD or the front tyres on FWD) will suffer more torque and wear differently. If one or more tyres wears out more quickly than others, the day when you have to shell out the cash to buy an entire new set of tyres will arrive more quickly.
Uneven tread wear due to lack of rotation can also be a safety issue. Tyres with even wear will take corners and brake better, giving you better control over the vehicle, whereas unevenly worn tyres will have poorer performance, which could mean the difference between getting in an accident or staying safe.
Under normal driving conditions, tyres should be rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles. If you have experienced alignment issues, balance problems or other tyre damage, it is best to also rotate your tyres when you fix this issue.
Both rotation and balancing are processes meant to preserve the life of your tyre in general, and its tread in particular. As described in this article, the difference is that rotation involves changing each wheel’s position on the vehicle to spread out wear evenly, whereas tyre balancing entails checking the tyre for imbalances in weight or diameter and correcting them by adding weights to the rim.
Both are routine services provided by mechanics and tyre service shops, but tyre balancing requires specialised machinery that can pinpoint small discrepancies around the circumference of a tyre. Balance issues cause distinctive, patchy wear on the tyre, which will not be fixed by rotation.
If you don’t rotate your tyres, they’ll wear unevenly, which means that you’ll have to replace them much sooner than if you had rotated them. This wear will also decrease the tyre’s performance and ultimately your safety, as it will have less traction in snow, be more prone to Aquaplaning and could blow out or be punctured more easily.
Tyres with unequal tread depths also put strain on drive train components, which are designed based on the premise that all tyres will be the exact same diameter. Drive train components are generally very expensive, so you’ll want to avoid this type of problem. Regular tyre rotation is one of several steps you can take to minimise your risk of experiencing tyre damage or mechanical failures.
*Always consult vehicle manufactures handbook as every vehicle has different requirements
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