Everything You Need to Know About Rotating Your TiresMar 10th, 2017
Rotating your tires isn’t just about prolonging the life of your tires, it’s also largely about the performance of your tires and making sure you have tread in the right places should a less-than-ideal situation arise. Knowing when and how often to rotate your tires is key to maintaining a good level of road safety, performance, and saving money.
In short, tire rotation is the recurring practice of moving the wheels on your vehicle from one wheel well to another to ensure even tread wear. Having your tires wear evenly is important in extending the life of a set of tires.
We’ve compiled everything you need to know about when and how to rotate your rubber properly.
How Often Should You Rotate?
Most tire manufacturers recommend that you rotate your tires once every 5,000-8,000 kilometres. In Canada, this can easily be translated to a seasonal change, meaning when you put your winter tires on, have them rotated to a different position than the previous season, and likewise for summer tires. This can easily be done by marking the inside of the tire with tire chalk so you can recall the last place each tire has been installed ensuring even wear based on seasonal use.
A typical rotation pattern is completed by moving the front tires to the back – and backs to the front – while crossing sides. Uni-directional tires can only be moved from the front to back on the same side to preserve the directional properties and performance of their tread – they can be moved from side to side when they are remounted. As a general rule – and especially when rotating snow tires – the tires with the most tread should be left on the drive tires to ensure the most grip. You can also consider rotating a full set of tires that includes a spare, meaning your rotation pattern will involve some creative movement to ensure every tire gets its chance to shine.
Causes of Uneven Wear
A tire that is over-inflated will show typical signs of wear in the centre width of the tire rather than on the edge, as the tire will bulge in the centre, causing the edges to receive less pavement contact over time. Alternatively, under-inflation will cause the edges of the tire to wear more quickly when the tire is flat closer to the sidewalls. Either circumstance increases the likelihood of tire replacement, and in extreme cases – tire blowouts.
To combat inflation issues, be sure to properly inflate your tires at the beginning of each season when they are changed, and be sure to top them up with air a few times each year. This can be done by reading the recommended pressure per square inch measurement (PSI) on the tire wall.
Turning your vehicle will also inevitably cause tires to wear over time. As you turn, the outside of the tire is worn out disproportionately when compared to the interior of the tire as weight and friction take their toll. For example, right hand turns at stop lights and stop signs in North America are tighter than left hand turns, so the left front tire typically wears faster than the interior tire on the drivers front right for the simple fact that the front left tire will travel a greater distance.
As well, dry-steering is when you turn your tires when the vehicle in not in motion. This is typically done in parking lots when you must navigate your vehicle out of a tight spot without hitting another. There’s also the possibility of bumping and rubbing the sidewalls of the right hand tires when parallel parking.
Steering systems that are out of alignment can also cause tires to wear disproportionately. Misalignment means that the tire and wheel is out of line with the vehicle’s other tires and the axle, The driver will usually try to compensate for a pulling feeling by over-steering in the opposite direction, essentially dragging the tire along for the ride on a path that doesn’t cooperate with the properties of the tread.
In a front-wheel drive vehicle, drive tires should be rotated to the rear and the rear tires should cross sides up front from left to right. Alternatively, in a rear-wheel, 4WD or AWD vehicle, the rear drive tires should come forward and the fronts should be rotated in the back from left to right.
With a 5-tire spare configuration, a simple way to rotate each season is to sub-out the driver’s front tire as the spare, operating in a circle – during each rotation, the spare tire becomes the rear right tire. Hauling vehicles with ‘dually’ rear-ends can be rotated by allowing tires to stick to their respective sides, rotating in two separate circular rotations over time. The interior rear tire will become the front tire.