Why and how you should rotate your tyres

rotating car tyres

Rotating your tyres regularly is important whether you own a front-driver, 4X4 or performance car. Here’s why and how you should rotate your tyres.

Most car owners don’t pay their tyres anywhere enough attention. Most might give ‘em the odd kick, if that, but few check the pressures regularly, take a closer look at how they’re wearing or would think twice about taking them off and swapping them to another corner.

Before we get into this, let’s start with the simplest of tyre maintenance techniques. Get yourself a tyre pressure gauge, you can usually get a combo that will have a tyre deflator and gauge. Buy it and leave it in your car and set a reminder in your phone to check your tyre pressures at least once a week.

As far as tread depth is concerned, you want to make sure your tyres are wearing evenly and a visual inspection is often all you need. You’ll quickly spot if the shoulder of one tyre is looking rounder than another. If it is, the pressure could be too low, or you could have an alignment issue. In terms of the depth of the tread, the legal limit is 1.5mm but I can tell you that running 1.5mm of tread would be a mistake. Really, you want to be looking to replace your tyres once they hit around 3mm. But we’ll leave this for another article.

Why should you rotate your tyres?

Rotating your tyres is the simple action of swapping one tyre with another on your vehicle. Most tyre makers will recommend a tyre rotation schedule and while your mechanic can usually do this for you, it’s not a tough job if you want to have a go at it yourself.

The reason you should rotate your tyres regularly is because each one wears at a slightly different rate compared to its mates. And this is because of a whole heap of reasons, from the shape of the roads you drive on, the pressures you’re running, to the type of drivetrain (front- drive, rear- drive or all-wheel drive).

For instance, a front-wheel drive’s front tyres will be doing a lot more work than the rears and so they’ll wear faster which will reduce traction and general handling. By rotating the tyres you’ll be ensuring they’re operating at their best for longer and wearing front to back evenly.

How often should you rotate your tyres?

A good rule of thumb when rotating your tyres is every time you change the oil in your vehicle or at least at every service.

What pattern should you use?

This will depend on what type of vehicle you have. This first set of rotation patterns assumes your vehicle’s tyres are non-directional and the same size.

Forward/Rearward Cross is a common pattern that can be used for most types of vehicles. The front tyres are moved directly back and the rear tyres are moved to the front axle but diagonally opposite. If your vehicle is a rear-wheel drive then you’re moving the front tyres to the back as they should have suffered less than the rear driven wheels – it’s the same as the Forward Cross just in reverse. The rear tyres are moved directly to the front while the front tyres are moved to the back but diagonally opposite their previous position. The X-Pattern is another pattern for front-wheel drive vehicles but is best used for light-commercial vehicles, and it sees all tyres re-positioned diagonally opposite to the spot they were in before.

What about the spare?

If you’ve got a full-size spare then you want to make sure you rotate it around too. Using the Rearward Cross pattern for rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive vehicles, move both rear tyres to the front axle, while the right front tyre is moved to the left rear while the spare tyre is placed on the right-hand side at the back. The old front left tyre becomes the new spare tyre. For front-wheel drives you’ll be using the Forward Cross pattern where the right front tyre is removed becoming the new spare tyre. The old spare tyre moves to the right-hand side at the back. The left tyre on the front moves directly backwards, while the old rear tyres are moved to the front and diagonally opposite.

What do you do with directional tyres?

If you’ve got a high-performance vehicle running directional tyres or the tyres are different sizes front to back, then the pattern is simple. If the tyres are different sizes on the front and rear axle then you’ll need to swap them from side to side only. If you’re running directional tyres then you’ll swap them front to back but they need to stay on the same side.

What equipment do you need?

You should never jack up your car on a hill, so, if you’re planning on rotating your tyres make sure you’ve parked your vehicle on flat level ground and you’ve got plenty of safe space to work in. You’ll need a good quality jack and axle stands. Never ever climb under a vehicle supported only by a jack.

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