You probably already know that vehicle and tire manufacturers recommend that you rotate tires regularly. Have you ever wondered why? As it turns out, tire rotation can actually extend the life of your tires and greatly increase your safety on the road.
What Does Tire Rotation Do for Tires?
It may be surprising to learn that there is a difference in tread wear that occurs on the front and rear tires. The front tires are used in steering, while the rear tires remain relatively stationary in terms of lateral movement. Steering creates a scrubbing effect, putting more stress on the front tires than on the rear tires. In the case of front-wheel-drive vehicles, there is additional stress from the drive axle which means even faster tread wear on the front tires.
When you regularly rotate tires, it not only adds to the service life of your tires, it will improve your vehicle performance and safety. During tire rotation service, a your technician will check the tread depth of all four tires, check the inflation pressure, and visually inspect the tires for any issues and potential problems.
Does the Pattern Used to Rotate Tires Matter?
When technicians perform tire rotation service, they rotate tires following a specified rotation pattern. The pattern matters because the tires on the front axle need to accomplish very different things than the tires on the rear axle. Conditions encountered on a front-wheel drive vehicle are considerably different than those of a rear-wheel drive vehicle. Tire wear effects on a performance vehicle are typically more severe than what you would see on a family sedan. Each individual wheel position can create different wear rates and different types of tire wear.
The typically suggested rule for tire rotation is to cross the free rolling axle. This means that on a front-wheel drive vehicle, the front tires should be rotated straight back to the rear and the rear tires should be crossed to the front. In the case of a rear-wheel drive vehicle the opposite applies. Front tires are crossed to the back while the rear tires are rotated straight to the front. A “double x” pattern is used with four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles, so the right front and left rear tires switch positions, as do the left front and right rear.
Tire rotation service should be scheduled per the recommendations specified in your owner’s manual. Performed at the scheduled times, tire rotation will preserve balanced handling and traction, and promote even tread wear. Not only can tire rotation result in performance advantages, many tire mileage warranties require rotation to keep the warranty valid.
Tires are a substantial investment. It pays to take care of them. Properly inflated tires that are serviced on a regular basis with proper tire rotation can be expected to deliver optimal tread life, as well as excellent performance and value.