Tire Rotation: It’s Preventive Care for Your Tires

Why should you care about tire rotation? It’s one of the easiest ways to extend the life of your tires and get the most miles out of them. Unlike daily flossing, it’s a chore you only need to complete a few times a year.

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What’s Tire Rotation?

Rotating tires means moving them to different positions on your vehicle to promote even tread wear on all four tires.

No matter how you drive, front and rear tires can wear at different rates. Tires that are mounted on the power axle (the front two wheels on a front-wheel drive, for instance) wear more quickly than the “free rolling” tires on the other axle. (Axles being the heavy-duty bars that connect two wheels.)

Tire rotations even out wear so you get the most tread life from every tire. Regular rotations are especially important if you’ve got an all-wheel drive, because any significant difference in tread depth between tires means you’re looking at buying four new tires — or you’re risking big repair bills.

How Often Should You Get a Tire Rotation?

A good rule of thumb is every 5,000 miles or at least every six months. If you have an aggressive driving style, you’ve hit potholes or debris, or you don’t keep tires inflated properly, you should do it more often. All those are big factors in uneven tire wear.

It’s key to catch irregular wear early. Going too long between rotations may result in a wear pattern that can’t be remedied, no matter where the tire is moved on the vehicle. In that case, your tires could wear out prematurely.

Remembering to schedule rotations is easy if you’re swapping winter and all-season tires twice a year. Your tire store should be mounting your tires in the positions that are best for smoothing out tread wear whenever you make the seasonal changeover.

Dashboard with odometer

If you only have one set of tires here are some ways to get on a timetable with rotations.

  • Watch your odometer and get your vehicle in every 5,000 miles.
  • Put a reminder on your calendar for service at least twice a year.
  • Sync rotations with the change of the clock from daylight savings to standard time and back.
  • Check with your tire store; some will email you a service reminder when you’re due.

Tire Rotation Patterns

The standard tire rotation is front-to-rear, but there are multiple patterns that could work for your vehicle to promote longest tire life.

Tire rotation patterns

  • Rear tires move to front on same side of vehicle
  • Used when wear is normal, and also when tires have directional tread (are designed to roll in one direction)
Forward cross
  • For front-wheel drive vehicles
  • Front tires move straight back to the rear
  • Rear tires cross to opposite sides on front
  • Used when rear tires show uneven wear
X pattern
  • For all types of vehicles
  • Front tires shift to opposite rear positions
  • Rear tires cross to opposite front positions
  • Used when there’s uneven wear
Rearward cross
  • For all-wheel, rear-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicles
  • Rear tires move straight up to front
  • Front tires cross to opposite rear positions
  • Used when there’s uneven front-tire wear
  • For staggered (differently sized) wheels
  • Front two tires are moved to opposite sides on front axle
  • Rear two tires are moved to opposite sides on back axle

Here are the factors tire technicians look at for proper positioning of tires during a rotation.

  • What kind of drive is your vehicle (front-, rear-, all-, four-wheel)?
  • Do the tires show uneven wear? Where?
  • Do they have directional tread?
  • Are there any custom wheel-tire setup considerations, like staggered wheels (different wheel sizes on front and back)? Any offset concerns?

You should also check your owner’s manual for any recommendations your vehicle manufacturer makes. Don’t hesitate to discuss them with your tire dealer.

After the Rotation

Be aware that you may notice a stiffer or slightly noisier ride after a rotation. This is due to the tread wear pattern evening out. But if your ride quality is truly uncomfortable or the issues don’t go away quickly, get your vehicle back to have it looked at. It could be that the irregular wear has gone on too long and tires need to be replaced.

Regular Tire Rotations Will Save You Money

Rotations are simple preventive maintenance that will extend your tires’ tread life. Getting them done on time may also help head off other problems. Irregular tire wear detected during a rotation can be a red flag for poor alignment. Misalignment impacts how your car handles, reduces fuel efficiency and needs to be corrected promptly.

To maximize the value you get from your investment in your tires, don’t delay tire rotations.

Did you know Les Schwab Tire Stores rotate tires bought from us for free, for the life of the tires? And we provide free rotation reminders by email, no obligation. Just ask at your local store.