Tires rotate on the road every time they’re driven, so what do people mean when they talk about a tire rotation? And how often should you rotate your tires? A tire rotation is when the four wheels of a car are removed and moved to a different position. This simple job makes a big difference in how long the tires last and even has a safety benefit, which makes it an absolute must for all car owners. If you’re curious about how often you should rotate your tires and why, then you’re in the right place.
Is Tire Rotation Necessary?
Yes, tire rotation is a necessary part of vehicle maintenance. Your tires wear differently based on which wheels are driven by the engine and transmission, which could be just the front wheels, just the rear wheels, or some variation of all four, depending on your vehicle. No matter which wheels are driven, rotating the tires regularly maximizes comfort, safety, and how long your tires last. All of these benefits add up to a better car ownership experience, which is part of why it’s so important to get it done regularly.
How Often Should You Rotate Your Tires?
How often you should rotate your tires depends on whom you ask. Some experts will tell you it should be done as often as every 3,000 miles, while others say you can go up to 8,000 miles between tire rotations. We think 3,000 is pretty conservative, and for most drivers tires should be rotated every 5,000-8,000 miles. Regardless of miles, it’s a good idea to rotate your tires at least once every six months.
So, which recommendation is right? Tires wear a little differently depending on the tire itself, your driving style and a few other factors. It’s a good idea to check your tread depth at around 5,000 miles, or more often if you really want to play it safe. If 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 little tool you can pick up at any auto parts store that fits in your glovebox, or you could use a penny. Put the penny in the middle tread of your tire upside-down, see how far up President Lincoln’s head the tire goes, and 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 — it’s a good idea to 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 at the same time.
What About All-Wheel Drive?
All-wheel-drive has become very common, and it makes drivers wonder if it’s still necessary to rotate your tires if your car or SUV has AWD. The answer is yes, because most AWD systems don’t actually drive all four wheels all the time. Most of them are "part-time" AWD, which means they favor either front- or rear-wheel drive until the system detects a need for more traction and temporarily turns on the other wheels as needed. The same practices used for rotating tires on a 2-wheel-drive car should be used on an all-wheel-drive vehicle to ensure an even wear pattern on all four tires, maximizing their tread life.