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How Often Should You Rotate Your Tires?

Tires rotate on the road every time you drive your car, so what do people mean when talking about a tire rotation? And how often do you need to rotate your tires? A tire rotation is when the four wheels of a car are removed and moved to a different position.

Getting your tires rotated is a simple job that makes a big difference in how long the tires last. There also is a safety component, so the procedure is essential for all car owners. Continue reading for more information about tire rotation and how often to rotate tires on your vehicle.

Is Tire Rotation Necessary?

Tire rotation is necessary for vehicle maintenance because it helps ensure even tread wear. Your car’s tires wear differently based on their position. Front wheels typically wear faster because of their role in steering, braking, and carrying the engine load. On a front-wheel-drive vehicle, those tires are subject to even more wear. Cars with rear-wheel drive may see faster wear on the tires in the back. Even all-wheel-drive vehicles must have tires rotated regularly.

Follow a rotation schedule to help maximize tire lifespan, safety, and driving comfort. These benefits add up to a better car ownership experience.

How Often Should I Rotate My Tires?

People have different opinions regarding how often to rotate tires on a vehicle. Some tire manufacturers say it should occur every 3,000 miles to avoid uneven tread wear. Other experts say cars can drive up to 8,000 miles between tire rotations. We think 3,000 is a conservative distance, and we believe most drivers should rotate tires every 5,000 miles or six months.

Be sure to comply with any tire warranty requirements. As with any type of auto maintenance, refer to your owner’s manual for its recommendations on when and how to rotate tires, because some vehicles have special situations.

Check for Uneven Tread Wear

Person using gauge to check tire tread

Tires wear differently depending on factors that include the quality and composition of the tire, your driving style, and more. Get into a habit of checking your tread depth when you fill the gas tank, the first day of the month, or another frequent milestone. Pay more attention as you approach the 5,000-mile mark between rotations.

When the tread depth of your front tires is drastically different from that of your rear tires, or vice versa, then it’s time to rotate the tires. If the difference is minor or not even noticeable, you can go a while longer between tire rotations.

You can check your tread depth with a special tool available from an auto parts store. The tread depth gauge is small enough to fit in your glove box, but you could also use a penny. Put the penny upside-down in the middle tread of one tire. Notice how far up President Lincoln’s head in the tire goes, and then visually compare that depth to the rest of your tires.

When in doubt — or if you haven’t been keeping track of how many miles you’ve driven since your last tire rotation — you can get a tire rotation every time you get an oil change. It can save you an extra trip to the shop if you get the two jobs done simultaneously.

What About All-Wheel-Drive Tire Rotation?

All-wheel-drive cars, trucks, and SUVs are becoming more common these days. Some drivers wonder how often to rotate tires on an AWD vehicle or if it is necessary.

The answer is yes. Most AWD systems don’t actually drive all four wheels all the time. Many of these vehicles are “part-time” AWD, which means they favor either front- or rear-wheel drive. When the system detects a need for more traction, it temporarily activates the other wheels as necessary.

Rotating tires on all-wheel-drive vehicles should follow the same tire rotation schedule as other cars to promote an even wear pattern on all four tires, maximizing their tread life.

Tire Rotation Patterns

In earlier years, radial tires required front-to-back rotation with no swapping sides. There are some exceptions, but most cars today follow criss-cross tire rotation patterns.

  • Front-Wheel Drive: Move the front tires to the rear. Move the rear tires to the front, crossing the left rear to the right front and the right rear to the left front.
  • Rear-Wheel Drive: Move the rear tires to the front. Move the front tires to the rear, crossing the left front to the right rear and the right front to the left rear.
  • All-Wheel Drive: As with the pattern for rear-wheel drive, move the rear tires to the front. Move the front tires to the rear, crossing the left front to the right rear and the right front to the left rear.
  • Four-Wheel Drive: Exchange the right front tire with the left rear, and the left front tire with the right rear tire.
  • Uni-Directional: Specialized tires in which the tread only rolls in one direction, they should be exchanged from the left rear to the left front, and the right rear to the right front.

Some vehicles, such as hot rods and supercars, have staggered sets of tires, where the rear tires are larger than the front tires. The vehicle’s owner’s manual provides guidance on how to rotate tires in those cases.

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How much does tire rotation cost?

The cost to rotate tires varies by location. Assuming no repairs are required, you’re paying only for the labor needed to reposition the tires to different axles. Expect to pay about $80 or more for tire rotation, but you should shop around. The retailer who sold the tires to you or your dealership might offer the service to you for free or at a reduced rate.

How often should tires be rotated?

Rotate your tires every 5,000 miles or six months, whichever comes first. Recommendations from tire companies range from 3,000 miles to 8,000 miles between rotations. Check the tire manufacturer’s warranty for guidelines on how often to rotate tires or the vehicle’s owner’s manual.

Do I need to rotate my tires?

Tire rotation is a fundamental part of vehicle maintenance. Rotating tires extends their useful life by preventing uneven tread wear. Keeping tread depth uniform among all tires helps vehicle traction and handling.

Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt is an author specializing in Oversteer content, new car reviews, and finding the best car, truck, and SUV deals each month. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Eric can often be found exploring the north woods on his 1983 Honda Gold Wing when the weather allows it. Father of four, husband of one, and unapologetic minivan enthusiast. Eric mastered driving stick by having a 3-cylinder Chevy... Read More about Eric Brandt

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    • Rear wheel drive cross the front two and move them back move the back straight forward. Front wheel drive do the opposite.

    • Correct nor can you rotate directional only front to back on them. Lots of high end imports and sports cars have different aspect ratio tires on them.

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