Tire rotations extend the life of your tires by years. Distributing the wear tires endure is the goal of tire rotations.

But how do you do a tire rotation? It’s pretty simple. Remove all four tires. Take the tires that are on the rear, and place them on the front. And take the tires that were on the front, and place them on the back.

But the rotation pattern differs for each car. And some cars have different sized tires, so you want to make sure you consult your owners manual for the exact rotational pattern. We’ll go over the different types of rotations, the patterns, and things to look out for when your doing the rotation.

I am a ASE certified technician who has encountered many master techs, each with their own opinions of how a tire rotation should be done. After many years of trial and error, I’ve discovered that the best way to implement a rotation is by consulting the owner’s manual. Each car is unique, so it’s impossible that one pattern works uniformly over all types of tires.

How To Do a Tire Rotation

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DIY Rotations

You may think the fee shops charge for tire rotations are outrageous. So you decide to do the tire rotation on your own.  

If you're doing the rotation at home, and you want to do a standard rotation, you should jack up one side of the vehicle. You can choose either the driver’s side or passengers side to start with. Once you choose a side, place the jack in the middle of the frame.

Start pumping the jack until you see that both tires are “kissing” the ground. Kissing means that the tire is still on the ground, but the majority of the vehicle’s weight is supported by the jack. You don’t want to have the tires fully lifted off the ground just yet. You want to use the leverage of the car to undo the lugnuts.

Lot’s of times, lugnuts are applied with 500 lbs of torque, making them difficult to get off. But you don’t want to loosen the lugs while the vehicle is fully flat, since it can damage your hub.

Jack up the vehicle until the tires are just kissing the ground, and start to loosen all the lug nuts. Don’t take them off just yet. Get the lugnuts loose by applying about a quarter turn to each lug. Once all of the lugnuts are loose on the passenger or driver’s side, start pumping the jack until both tires are off the ground.

Once this is accomplished, place the jack stand under the frame, and let the jack down, causing the vehicle’s weight to be fully resting on the stand. Fully remove all the lugnuts and place them to the side. Now remove the tires.

Depending on your vehicle, removing the tires once the lugs are removed can be an easy task or difficult. If your tires won't come off, it’s pretty industry standard to just beat on them until they break free.

I worked at one shop where the owner would “take the car to Tommy’s karate class”, and kick the tire as hard as he could. While this method was effective, the preferred method is to get a large rubber hammer and smack the tire.

Now, once both tires are removed, move the tire that was on the front of the vehicle to the back. Then move the tire that was on the back to the front. Install the tires, and add the lugnuts hand tight.

Once both tires are on, and the lugs are hand tight, lower the vehicle once again until the tires are kissing the ground. When they are kissing the ground, this is where you’ll want to apply lot’s of torque to the lug nuts.

Make sure to go over each lug many times. It’s very easy to skip over a lug nut when applying torque to all of them. And once the tires are properly installed, remove the stand and jack, and do the same thing on the other side.

Standard Rotations

When you bring your car into a shop such as Pep Boys or Firestone, they may offer to rotate your tires at an extra cost.  You should do the tire rotations, but the majority of shops will do a standard rotation.

First, if your vehicle has wheel locks on the wheels, a mechanic will need the wheel lock key to remove the tires. If you have a wheel lock, but don’t have a key, you’re going to be in for a bad time.

But if you do have the wheel lock, the mechanic will remove all four wheels. After a visual inspection of the vehicle’s suspension, brakes, and exhaust, the mechanic will begin the rotation.

Usually, they’ll take the tires placed on the rear of the vehicle and simply move them to the front. And then they’ll take the tires that were on the back, and place them on the front. This rotational pattern covers most vehicles without causing any issues down the line.

This pattern is standard because you’re not making any tires that were rotating clockwise, start rotating counter clockwise, or vice-versa. Most mechanics can say this rotation will work on almost every single vehicle that has four tires of the same size.

Advanced Rotations

If you take your vehicle to get serviced at the dealership you purchased the car from. Or any dealership that specializes in your specific make and model, some type of advanced rotation will be performed.

The engineers of the vehicle have mapped out the different ways the tires can be rotated to ensure maximum efficiency. While there are many different types of advanced rotations, some are pretty commonplace.

For example, some car manufacturers recommend moving the tires that were on the front of the vehicle straight back, then to take the rear tires, and cross them before they are installed. Meaning, the tire on the passenger’s rear would be on the driver’s front.  

Another common pattern involves taking the two front tires and moving them straight back while the two fronts are criss-crossed. Each vehicle manufacturer recommends different types of rotational patterns.

If you want to do the rotation at home, make sure you consult your owner’s manual for the best type of rotation. If you cannot find your owner’s manual, search the internet for the information. Usually there are forums specific for most cars. You can search the forums or ask and you’ll usually get an answer backed by consensus.

When Not To Rotate Yourself

Some cars have staggered tire sizes. Meaning, the tires in the back are larger than the tires in the front.

This staggered sizing provides handling improvements and a pleasing aesthetic to the car. If your vehicle has these staggered sizes, do not do the rotation yourself.

Putting the rear tires on the front can cause issues, if they even install correctly. If your vehicle is AWD, you should not do the rotations yourself.

The rotations for AWD can get pretty advanced, and if you don’t do it correctly, you can do major damage to your transmission. If you have a vehicle that’s AWD, it’s best to take it to a dealership.

At a dealership, you can be sure all technicians are trained on the best way to rotate your tires on your specific vehicle. If your tires are directional, meaning the tread pattern is built to only go one way, it’s most likely best to have a mechanic do the rotation.

If directional tires are installed incorrectly, you can wear them out quickly and you’ll have lots of extra noise in the cabin. If you do decide to rotate your directional tires, pay close attention that you’re installing them correctly.

Tire rotations are a great way to ensure your tires last as long as possible. They evenly split the wear between all four tires, giving some tires a break after carrying the majority of the load. You can usually do a standard rotation at home if all the conditions are correct. But if there’s any special cases that your vehicle may fall under, it’s best to have a mechanic complete the job.

About THE AUTHOR

Christopher Sparks

Christopher Sparks

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.

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