Tires, unfortunately, don’t last forever no matter how hard you try. Fortunately, though, you can prolong the wear for at least a little while, and doing this can even have positive effects on suspension, braking, and steering wear, in the way of helping them to last longer. This is what tire rotation can do for your car.
Tire rotation is basically switching your tires around in a specific pattern on your car. There are different patterns depending on what kind of car you have, whether it be FWD, RWD, or AWD, and there are lots of confusing diagrams to help you decide which way is best for your car, which if you stare at for long enough will start to make sense.
Over time your alignment can become disjointed, which causes uneven tire wear, and rotating your tires can help alleviate the damage that can do to other components on the car. Braking especially can suffer from uneven tire wear, as the more tread you have on the front tires the better or shorter distance your car will stop. The longer you leave the tires where they are, and the more uneven the wear becomes, the tires will start to produce a rigorous riding experience, specifically you’ll feel stuttering or vibration in the steering and the car will start to feel like it’s going over ridges. The worse the vibration gets, the more damage it could cause on steering and suspension because at that point you’re putting the parts through prolonged abuse it wasn't designed to take.
Tire rotations are recommended every 3-6,000 miles, so depending on what kind of car you should have a plan to rotate your tires at each oil change interval. Have the tire change shop check the balance of the wheels as well, as unbalanced wheels can also cause the detrimental vibrations. If you start to feel vibrations or if your tires look unevenly worn, or if your gas mileage is starting to suffer, have the tires checked. It may be time for a rotation or even a brand new set of tires.
Tire rotations can cost anywhere from $30-40 depending on the shop, and perhaps a little more if you have the wheels balanced as well. Most shops will rotate your tires for free if you have purchased your current set from them. This is something you can do at your house if you are properly equipped, but be aware that at some point you’re going to need your entire car on jack stands, and it is not recommended without a proper mechanics’ shop.
It depends entirely on what kind of car you have, but usually what you’d do with an FWD or RWD car is switch the front tires with the back, and then mount each to the opposite side. For example, you’d take the rear wheels and switch them for the fronts, and then move the driver’s side to the passenger side and vice versa.
If you haven't checked your tires in a while, go look and make sure they're wearing appropriately by seeing if the tread is uniform across the width of the tire. If it’s not, you’ll see one-half of the width with less tread than the other. If you do have uneven wear, it’s a good idea to get new tires and an alignment, thereby preventing any horrific damage that may come.
You don’t necessarily need to buy four new tires, so long as you get two new tires to replace the one that’s worse off and its counterpart on the opposite side of the car because you want each side to wear evenly. In other words, if your passenger side rear tire is unevenly worn, replace that and the rear driver’s side tire as well. Pay attention while you’re driving to how your car feels and behaves, and remember the longer you ignore a problem the worse it’s going to get, and the more money it’ll cost you in the long run.
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