Well timed tire rotations ensure your car's tires and suspension last as long as possible. Tire rotations are key to your car’s health.
How often should you rotate your tires? The rule of thumb is about every 8,000 miles. This length of time can be measured in terms of every other oil change.
But tire rotations aren’t only beneficial for tire life. Rotations increase the life of not only your tires, but also your suspension. We’ll cover how rotations benefit your suspension, how they benefit your tires, and how rotations improve the overall ‘health’ of your vehicle.
When working in a shop, I discovered tire rotations are the leading service items that customers skip. The cost, usually around $15, isn’t considered important, but it truly is. Countless times, I’ve rotated the tires and discovered more issues that would be expensive down the line. As well, cars that always get a rotation are easier to work on with less rust.
Tire rotations are important to ensure a long life for your tires. A tire rotation evenly splits the load each tire takes. The front end of a car is usually around 80% heavier than the rear. And most tires are recommended to be inflated evenly across all four.
The same pressures across all four tires guarantee the front tires will wear quicker than the rear. That’s because the front end tires take the most abuse since they are under a heavier load.
Also, the front tires are the steering tires. They are subject to more dynamic forces than the rear, since they can operate at different angles. The rear tires usually only have one direction, which is straight.
If you neglect your tires, and forget to rotate them, or choose to pass on a rotation, your front tires wear much quicker than the back.
What usually happens is the customer doesn’t rotate the tires, and winds up having to buy two new tires because the tread on the front tires become so low.
The new tires are placed on the rear, and the rear tires are moved up front. Purchasing new tires quicker than usual can be remedied by rotating your tires every second oil change.
Rotating your tires also can make your suspension last longer. There are a number of reasons why rotating your tires will make the suspension last longer.
One reason is because having the tires off every other oil change offers your mechanic an opportunity to inspect items the tire usually covers. On lots of cars, it's impossible to see the state of brake rotors and pads when the tires are on.
When you get a tire rotation, your brakes and rotors are clearly visible when the mechanic removes the tires. As well, mostly all of your rubber suspension parts such as tie rods, ball joints, and spring bushings are clearly visible with the tires off.
When the tires are off, it's easier to access grease fittings. When a car is properly lubed by adding grease to the fittings, the suspension will last years longer than if never lubed.
Tire health is also beneficial to your suspension since the rubber of the tire transmits all action to the suspension parts. Meaning, when your tire hits a bump, your suspension is what takes the impact.
And if your tires are in poor shape, such as suffering from cupping, or has visible cords, a constant strain will be added to your suspension. When a tire isn’t rotated and the state of the tire becomes poor, that poor state will transfer to the suspension, since the suspension has to do extra work.
For example, if you have a front wheel drive Ford Fiesta, and have never done tire rotations on it, the tires up front will become destroyed. Small front-wheel drive cars are prone to drivers accelerating quickly since the vehicle is so light.
When the vehicle takes off, extra damage is done to the tread. And if the tires aren’t rotated, the tread becomes thin and uneven, causing a phenomenon known as cupping. Cupping causes the tire tread to become deformed in a way that causes extra vibrations.
Those extra vibrations are transmitted to the suspension parts adding more wear and tear, causing the customer to spend more money on repairs. Suspension work isn’t cheap either!
The hub is a part of your car that allows your tires to rotate smoothly. The bearing inside the hub is what provides the illusion of a seamless rotation, when in reality it's the bearing working correctly.
If there’s an issue with the hub, you’ll hear a loud growling noise that increases in noise with higher speeds. The hub is a very expensive part on some cars ranging anywhere from $100-$300 dollars for the part alone.
This piece is vital to the performance of your car because without it, your axle would be spinning against metal. What a tire rotation does is offer you mechanic an opportunity to clean the hub up.
They use a wire brush or a power tool with a sanding like material attached to remove the inevitable rust that builds up on the hub. One shop I worked for mandated that every car that came in for an oil change had all four tires removed, and the hubs cleaned.
This extra labor saved everybody money down the line, since issues were pre-emptively dealt with by rotating the tires. When rust builds up between your hub and tire, the tire can get stuck on the hub, causing the mechanic to bring out the biggest hammer in his tool box, and beat on the tire until it pops off in a chaotic manner.
And when the mechanic gets the tire off, if he doesn’t clean the hubs before rotating, he’s setting himself up for the same scenario three months later. When a mechanic rotates your tires, ask them to clean the hub.
Some do it for free. At least the mechanic should be able to apply some grease to the hub before installing the tire again. As well, rust can build up on some wheels and start to spread causing a major visual issue.
The cracking that occurs when rust from the hub isn’t dealt with looks like small paint chips scattered all over your tire. If your mechanic takes a wire brush and cleans the hubs every time a rotation is done, the cracking won’t be an issue.
Overall Vehicle Health
Rotating your tires consistently is paramount to your vehicle's health. It’s such a simple task, but can provide you and your mechanic with insights into the condition of your car.
If you get the oil changed, and don’t bother with the rotation, you’re missing many opportunities to save money down the line.
Say you went to the doctor every month, and got bloodwork, but never bothered to check your cholesterol. You went to the lab, you’re already there, you might as well check the cholesterol while you’re at it.
This logic can be applied to tire rotations. The mechanic already has it up in the air, they are right there, they might as well do it. Doing a simple tire rotation, like checking cholesterol, can save you pain down the line. Better to nip the issue in the bud before it becomes a crisis.
When you take your car to a mechanic and they offer to rotate the tires, it’s better to do it than not.
If you choose to rotate the tires, ask your mechanic to peek at the brakes, inspect the suspension, and clean the hubs. Tire rotations might not seem important because you don’t immediately notice any difference when you drive off.
But for the long haul, consistent tire rotations add years of life to your vehicle and tires.
The suspension, tires, and brakes will thank you tremendously when the tires are off and everything is given a chance to breathe.
About THE AUTHOR
Christopher Sparks has been servicing vehicles since 2012. After completing the automotive studies program at Camden County College, he was awarded an Associates's Degree in Applied Science. His first job was a lube-tech at Jiffy Lube, and is currently an independent B-Technician servicing vehicles for the United States Postal Service. Christopher is ASE certified and loves rebuilding engines.Read more about Christopher Sparks