Time Needed: 20 minutes, Difficulty: Beginner, Cost: $100-300 (with tools for life)
Today is all about rotating those tires that have been on your car a few thousand miles too long. It’s one of those very basic things that everybody has to do, and it can be addressed by you or a tire shop.
Here’s the deal: A tire shop will charge you $30-$50 to rotate tires once, and tires usually need rotation every 10,000 miles of a tire’s typical 40,000-50,000-mile life. Add those costs up, and they amount to more than enough money to buy the tools you need to do the job yourself. Not only will this save you money by replacing future rotations, but those newly-acquired tools will also help you with other DIY jobs that you encounter down the road.
Suffice it to say, rotating your tires at home is the way to go, and we’ve created a helpful guide to pilot you through the process. Let’s begin.
Why You Need To Rotate Your Tires
Tires wear differently based on where they are on the car. Front tires get worn out quickly because, on most cars, they bear the weight of the engine and do all of the steering. Rotating tires just ensures that all tires wear evenly over the life of the tires and helps you save money in the long run. It also keeps you safe, as a car is dependent on a tire working the way it is designed to function. If it wears unevenly, this performance and ability could be degraded and put you in harm’s way.
What’s the Difference Between Directional and Non-Directional Tires, and Why Does It Matter?
Directional tires mean that they are designed to roll in one direction and cannot be flipped around. It’s important to keep directional tires facing the right way to ensure proper handling and wear. They also limit tire rotations to the same side of the car, meaning front to back and back to front, so make sure you know your tire type before you rotate.
Is Rotating Tires Different for Front-Wheel-Drive, Rear-Wheel-Drive, and Four-Wheel-Drive Cars?
Functionally, the tools you need are the same and the task is similar, but the rotation pattern changes depending on the type of vehicle you have. Here’s a quick explainer for tires that are all the same size and are non-directional:
- Front-wheel drive: Front tires move to the rear, rear tires cross to the front.
- Rear-wheel drive: Rear tires move to the front, front tires cross to the back.
- Four-wheel drive: Rear tires move to the front, front tires cross to the back.
The Safety Brief
You’ll need a few key items to keep it groovy and safe in your garage. You should definitely pick up a pack of mechanics gloves and maybe some knee pads to protect yourself while removing the wheels.
The Tools & Parts You Need
At Car Autance, we love to save everyone time with well-organized info. This is no different: Take one trip to the auto parts store or tool store of your choice and grab a set of jack stands, a hydraulic trolley jack, some wheel chocks, a lug nut socket that fits your car, and a basic torque wrench.
The Task: How To Rotate Your Tires
1. Park on a Level Surface
It’s important to start somewhere level so that the car does not roll away or move while lifting it up.
2. Place Wheel Chocks Behind Rear Tires
This is another safety step that will prevent any expensive accidents while lifting the front end.
3. Use a Lug Wrench To Loosen the Wheels Before Lifting
Most cars will have a lug wrench and wheel lock key in their toolkit in the trunk. Do not use the torque wrench to break the lug nuts loose, it will damage it. Don’t be afraid to use your legs on the lug wrench to crack them loose! Don’t remove, just loosen them. You won’t be able to loosen them in the air.
4. Find the Front Jack Point and Lift the Car
Most cars will have a main front jack point under the center of the front of the car to make lifting easier. If that is not the case, you will have to lift each side of the car separately and place jack stands underneath a secure point like a control arm joint or the main jack points. Refer to your owner’s manual.
5. Place Jack Stands Under Front Jack Points
Make sure that the car is safely lifted before attempting to place jack stands underneath it. If the hydraulic jack is slowly losing height or looks like it may slip, stop and try again. Once it is safe, place the jack stands underneath the main jack points on the side of the car, or under a similarly reinforced section of the chassis like a control arm joint.
6. Lower the Front Onto the Front Jack Stands
Slowly, and I mean slowly, lower the car onto the jack stands with the hydraulic jack. Make sure to triple-check that the car will land on the stand safely and let the car drop gently until it settles.
7. Check that the Car is Secure With a Vigorous Shake
Visually inspect the jack stands and then stand up and shake the car around from a secure point. If the car doesn’t move, it should be safe to work with.
8. Find Rear Jack Point and Lift The Car
Do the same thing we did at the front and lift the car from the back. Luckily, it is much easier to lift the back end as a whole with the rear subframe or rear differential being viable jack points.
9. Place Jack Stands Under Rear Jack Points
The factory lift/jack points should suffice for the rear. It is hard to find an alternative lift point out back.
10. Lower the Rear Onto the Rear Jack Stands
Same as before, lower the car slowly onto the stands and make sure everything lands securely. Give the car a shake. After that’s done, keep the hydraulic jack just beneath the height of the jack stands on the side you’re working on. That way, if one of the jack stands fails, the jack will be there to save it.
11. Remove Wheels and Follow the Appropriate Pattern
Get your lug wrench that you used to loosen the lug nuts and use it to fully remove the lug nuts. Keep the lugs somewhere safe and carefully remove the wheel. If the wheel is stuck, give it a kick or use a mallet on the tire to free it from the hub. Remove the pairs you intend to rotate first and swap them so wheels don’t get mixed up. Remember to use the patterns specified above. Furthermore, directional tires need to remain on the same side of the car, and be aware of staggered sizes that could affect pattern and rotation.
12. Inspect Tires for Wear or Damage
Look for any damage by rolling the tire around and inspecting the tread. Look for cuts or bubbles and look for uneven wear. Make sure the tire has even tread across the entire tire. If it doesn’t, it’s likely that there is an alignment or suspension problem. If all looks well, proceed.
13. Hand Thread Lug Nuts and Snug Them
Offer the wheels up to the car and hang them on the studs. If the car doesn’t have studs, hang them on the hub and hand thread one lug bolt to secure the wheel. Thread all lugs on and snug them with the lug wrench by holding the wheel still.
14. Lift Front and Rear Separately and Remove Jack Stands
Reverse everything we just did and raise the car. Remove jack stands. Then lower the car gently onto its tires. Once all four wheels are back on the ground, we move on to tightening the lug nuts.
15. Get Torque Wrench and Tighten Lug Nuts To Factory Specification
Get your torque wrench and set it to the required torque setting, which will be found in your owner’s manual. Tighten all lugs to that setting in a star pattern, always going across to another lug. Congratulations, you’ve rotated your wheels!
FAQs About Rotating Tires
Based on keyword research and Google data, we’ve selected popular questions about the topic of rotating tires at home. We answer those inquiries below.
Q. What if I have a spare tire on my four-wheel-drive vehicle?
A. In this case, the pattern is slightly different. The spare tire goes to the rear right wheel. The rear right wheel goes to the front right corner. The front right wheel goes to the rear left corner. The rear left wheel goes to the front left corner. The front left wheel goes into the spare holder.
Q. What if my wheels are staggered fitment?
A. Well, you can only rotate wheels on the same axle if they are staggered, and you won’t be able to swap them front to back.
Q. Do you really need to rotate your tires?
A. Yes, you do. It’s highly recommended because tires are expensive and rotating them to double their lifespans makes sense. Sure, you can keep replacing pairs of tires, but regular rotations keep wear even and safe.
Q. What if I have directional tires?
A. In that case, you can only swap the tires front-to-back and not side-to-side.
The Video Tutorial About Rotating Tires
Not everyone is a text-based learner, so we linked a video! This one is a supremely simple how-to that will show you the basics of what you need to do and visualize some good information.
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