A How-To Guide to Tire Rotation

February 17, 2012

Tire rotation is an easy do-it-yourself operation that will greatly extend the life of your tires.

Tire Rotation

Adjusting your tire rotation frequency to every 6000 miles will help you get the most out of your tires, which can save you money. The next time your tires are due for a tire rotation, rotate them yourself to save money on service. Learn more about rotating your tires and how you can do it at home with a few tools.

  • A floor jack
  • 4 jack stands
  • A 4-way lug wrench

Lift and Support Your Vehicle
Park your car or truck on level ground and engage the parking brake. Tire rotations are best performed on a solid surface, such as concrete or asphalt. Before lifting your vehicle, use the 4-way lug wrench to slightly loosen each lug nut. It is not safe to do this when the vehicle is supported. Use the floor jack to lift the entire front of your vehicle by the factory jacking point. The jacking point is usually marked underneath the front of the engine bay. If you have trouble finding your front jacking point, check your owner's manual for clarification.

Place a jack stand on each side of the vehicle in the front. Use the support ridge for jack stands, usually marked by a small indention about 6 to 8 inches behind each front wheel. Once you have set the stands up, repeat the process to lift and support the rear of the vehicle.

Rotate the Tires
Since you have slightly loosened the lug nuts, they will come off easily with the vehicle supported. Follow the specific guidelines for tire rotation as presented in your owner's manual. In addition, many tires have the rotation pattern listed on the tire's sidewall.

Replace the Lug Nuts and Lower the Car
Once you have rotated the tires to the manufacturer's specifications, tighten the lug nuts loosely while the vehicle is supported. Do not try to completely tighten the lug nuts while the vehicle is supported, it will increase the risk of the vehicle falling. Use the floor jack to support the vehicle, and then remove the jack stands. Carefully lower the front and rear.

Tighten the Lug Nuts
Once the vehicle is lowered, you can use the 4-way lug wrench to fully tighten the lug nuts. Get the lug nuts as tight as you can without stripping them.

Tire rotation at home is only recommended for vehicle owners accustom to working on cars. Because of safety issues, the procedure is not recommended for everyone. If you have limited experience or mechanical ability, take your vehicle to a service professional for tire rotation. Keep service records of your tire rotation frequency to help you keep track of your rotations. Keeping records may also help you get more for the vehicle when you get ready to sell it.

The Benefits of Tire Rotation

Doing this routine maintenance on your vehicle will help you in several ways.

  • Wear is distributed evenly.When tires are rotated, each section of the tire gets wear naturally according to how it is situated on the vehicle. This helps tires last a lot longer by avoiding some specific wear patterns occurring when the tire is left in the same location over a long period of time
  • It satisfies your tire warranty or certificate.Proper tire rotation is part of the requirement for a lot of tire warranties. That means if something happens to your tires, and you want to get compensated according to the agreement, the shop will check to see if you rotate your tires periodically. You don't want lack of basic maintenance to void your warranty, especially when tire rotation is so simple and easy to do
  • It keeps tires "unstuck". Another benefit of tire rotation is something you might not hear about often. Rotating tires periodically helps make sure your wheel is not stuck to its housing. Over time, when a wheel is left up against its connecting parts, that wheel can rust onto them, making it almost impossible for the common car owner to take the wheel off. This condition is then discovered when you need to take off a flat and put on the spare. When a wheel is rusted on tight, the best thing to do is call AAA or another car service with advanced tools for popping the wheel off. Otherwise, you can spend hours in futile tapping and prying.

Related Questions and Answers

Can Tire Lug Nuts Get Stripped?

Tire lug nuts are easily stripped if you don't start them right. Since they are soft metal to begin with, once they are stripped, it is fairly easy for them to rust together, making an immovable unit that will break off if you apply too much pressure. Techs with air guns are usually very guilty of this. The best way to prevent this is to carefully start each lug nut by hand and turn it down until it is hand tight, then finish tightening. If you have a unit that is rusted together, try using some WD-40 to get them apart, because there's nothing worse than trying to tap and die a tire and lug nut. You might as well throw away the wheel and buy a new one.

Is a Tire Lug Wrench Required to Remove a Tire?

Actually, no you do not need a tire lug wrench. All you need is a ratchet and drive with the proper extension and you will find that you are quickly and easily changing your tire's lug nuts. The proper size is about 5/16s to 7/16s, so you must make sure you have those heads in your lug nut kit. And, to ensure that you have properly changed the lug nut, make sure you have a set of deep socket lug wrenches, as they will make it much easier to change your tire. Using the standard lug wrench - little more than a piece of metal with an angle - usually results in more standing and jumping on the lug nuts than anything else, because they were probably tightened by an air gun. A lug wrench will keep this from happening.

What are Signs of a Bad Car Tire Rotation?

You can tell if your car tire rotation is poor or not. When car tire rotation is done incorrectly, it shows up as a series of crosshatches and cupping. If your car's tire is improperly rotated, you will also note that tread on the outside or inside of the tire is wearing at a higher rate than the other side of the tire. You might also have signs of both problems - worn tread and crosshatches - so you just have to take a close look at the tire. Do this by having a second person watch your tire as you drive on a level parking lot.