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Tire Rotation Basics: Patterns, Frequency & Cost

Toco Joe from Toco Warranty driving in a vehicle with highlighted tires showing how tire rotation is important for every vehicle

Learn about the importance of tire rotation and how to make it a part of your regular car maintenance schedule.

If you care about safety and saving money, regular tire maintenance and rotation should be high on your to-do list. Proper tire rotation and inflation can extend the life of your tires, lead to better fuel economy and improve the safety and handling of your car.

Unfortunately, tire rotation is an often-overlooked part of a regular car maintenance schedule - which is odd, considering that your tires are the only parts of the car that actually touch the road (hopefully).

While it may not be as easy to remember as getting your oil changed or checking your fluid levels, being vigilant about rotating your tires can have significant benefits down the road (pun intended). Luckily, rotating your tires is one of the easiest maintenance tasks to perform.

Why Rotate Your Tires

As you drive, your tires tend to wear out unevenly. Since your front tires lean when you take a corner, the outside edges usually wear out quicker than the edges of your back tires. Over time this can lead to significant differences in the amount of wear they receive.

By rotating your tires on a regular basis, you help to evenly distribute the wear and tear between all four tires rather than just the front two. This can extend the life of your tires significantly, which means you won't have to buy new tires as often.

Safety

There are close to 11,000 tire-related vehicle crashes in the U.S. each year. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, many of those accidents could have been prevented with proper tire maintenance (which includes regular tire rotations). When tires are underinflated or the tread has worn down, the likelihood of a crash increases significantly.

When getting your tires rotated, your technician will likely take a look at your tread depth and inflation pressure as well as inspect your tires for potential problems.

Fuel Efficiency

Uneven tire wear can lead to lower performance, which can reduce fuel efficiency by up to 3 percent. That extra 3 percent can add up quickly when it comes to filling up at the pump. By improving your fuel economy, proper tire rotation and inflation can also lower the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted.

Handling

If your tires are unevenly worn out, sudden turns and stops can become more unpredictable. When tires are rotated and balanced properly, it can mean more balanced handling and traction, which is especially important when driving in slick, cold-weather conditions.

How Often to Rotate Tires

A good rule of thumb would be to rotate tires every 5,000 to 8,000 miles. But since every vehicle is different, make sure to check your owner’s manual for specific recommendations on how often you should be rotating your tires. In some cases, such as when your front and rear tires are different sizes, you may not be able to rotate your tires at all.

Tire Rotation Patterns

If you’re going to rotate your tires yourself, or just want to understand how tires get rotated to minimize wear, you’ll want to identify the proper tire rotation pattern for your vehicle. The pattern you choose will depend on a number of factors, including your car’s drivetrain type, wheel sizes and even the amount of tires on your vehicle.

Here are some of the most common tire rotation patterns.

FWD, AWD, RWD and 4X4 Tire Rotation Patterns

If your car has non-directional tires that are all the same size, you should use one of the following rotation patterns.

Toco Joe from Toco Warranty Corp. Corp. explaining how to rotate your tires for 4-wheel drive and rear drive vehicles.

Front-to-Rear and Side-to-Side Patterns

For cars that have directional tires or non-directional tires of different sizes, the following patterns are advised.

Toco Joe from Toco Warranty showing tire rotation patterns for 4-wheel drive and rear drive vehicles.

5 Tire Rotation Pattern

If your car has a spare wheel that matches the other four wheels on your car (and isn’t just for temporary use), then you can consider adding your spare tire into the rotation. The following patterns are designed for this type of rotation.

Toco Joe from Toco Warranty showing tire rotation patterns for 4-wheel drive and rear drive vehicles.

Where to Get Your Tires Rotated

If you aren’t inclined or equipped to rotate your tires yourself, you can always have it done by a trained tire technician. Most auto repair, service and maintenance facilities offer tire rotation, either as a standalone service or bundled with another regular maintenance item such as an oil change or tire balancing.

If you take your vehicle to a dealership for regular maintenance, tire rotation and alignment are likely to be part of your normal service, although you should always make sure to verify if it’s included.

Some tire shops will offer free tire rotation for customers who bought their tires there, so if you’re on your second set of tires you might want to check with where you bought them to see if they offer that service.

How Much Does Tire Rotation Cost

As mentioned above, the cost of rotating your tires can vary widely depending on where you’re having the service done and whether or not it’s being bundled with another service. In general, you shouldn’t expect to pay more than $50 for tire rotation, although you can probably find a lower price if you shop around.

Conclusion

Like a good pair of shoes, a well cared-for set of tires can give you the stability and comfort you need to keep going. From saving money to increasing safety to helping the environment, the benefits of having your tires rotated and maintained well are many.

Whether you decide to rotate your tires yourself or have it done at a local service shop, the key is to try and make it a regular part of your overall car maintenance schedule. Because when the rubber hits the road, you want the peace of mind that comes from knowing your tires are ready to roll.

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