Getting the most out of your vehicle’s tires means rotating them once or twice a year or every six- to eight-thousand miles, depending on whether you have a more performance driven vehicle.  That’s a fact of vehicle ownership everyone should know and take to heart to save your money and extend the life of their equipment. But if you’re doing your own rotations, the methodology of how you exchange your tires vastly impacts how close they come to what mileage they’re rated to travel before needing replacements.  Carefully reading how your vehicle is wearing on your tires and taking into account which drivetrain your car has will affect where you exchange your tires, as front- or rear-wheel drive vehicles wear more on their driving tires due to the extra duty and throttle they experience.

Most Basic

Easiest for the everyday car owner to perform at home is a front-to-back wheel exchange.  This individually tackles the left and right sides of the vehicle and does a simple front/rear switcharoo.  This style of tire rotation is mainly for directional tires, or tires that have specifically moulded their rubber grooving to rotate in one direction. These grooves form a V shape for good stability and handling through more slippery road conditions, and the tire will be equipped with a sidewall arrow pointing to the forward rotation they should be placed at.  Thus, they can only stay on the left or right side of their vehicle.

Different Sized Tires

Performance driven cars, most likely equipped with rear-wheel drive, will sometimes combat their harsher back-tire wear with larger rear tires compared to the front pair.  According to Cerritos Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram (Cerritos, CA), this gives the tire more material to erode through compared to if the car were equipped with all same-sized tires, granting the car a somewhat extended longevity to their tires’ use.  This tire configuration requires a side-to-side rotation, wherein you exchange front-right for front-left and vice versa, and back-right for back-left, to negate any uneven wear maneuvering the vehicle takes on the tires.

Considering Drivetrains

Best for rear-wheel drive vehicles is a cross exchange to more evenly wear on your tires.  This requires that your tires both be non-directional and be the same size both front and back, as it moves the front tires to the rear, and rear tires to the front.  While you’re doing this, however, you’ll be exchanging the sides the front tires will be exchanging on. So, for the front-right tire, you’ll be moving it to the back-left position, while the front-left tire goes to the back-right.  The rear tires can simply be moved forward and attached to their respective sides on the front.

Front-wheel drive cars employ a similar methodology, but with a forwards cross.  Back tires will move to the front and be attached on opposite sides from where they started, while the front tires move directly back.

Lastly, all-wheel drive vehicles will rotate their tires with a double cross method.  Front tires move back and exchange sides, and back tires are replaced forward, also crossing which side of the car they originally were on.  This maintains an even wear on all four tires as wheels all supply their own torque to each corner of the vehicle. So long as this is done on a scheduled basis, all four tires should require replacements at largely the same time.

The Five-Tire Shuffle

A full-sized spare tire is a blessing if you’re stuck with a flat tire out on some rough terrain, so you’ll usually find this feature equipped to most trucks and more adventurous SUVs.  But, you don’t want to replace a flat with a fresh and completely unworn tire, as that places unnecessary stress on its partner and will cause some uncomfortable driving lean on the road.  These switches should be performed on a full set of same-sized non-directional tires with a spare that’s not labeled for temporary use.

First, when the vehicle is front-wheel drive, is a somewhat altered forward cross.  The spare will go onto the right- or left-rear, and you’ll rotate your tires same as the directions above.  Whichever front-tire the spare is now occupying then becomes the spare tire. If your vehicle is rear- or all-wheel drive, you’ll be performing an altered backward cross.  The spare will go on the right- or left-rear, and both rear tires can move forward. The front tires will cross and be installed on the rear, and whichever position you placed the spare on will become your extra fifth tire.  

The aging of your car’s components isn’t something you can avoid, unfortunately, but smartly accommodating how your vehicle wears on its parts can extend their lifetime to what they’re rated to last.  Rotating your tires keeps your vehicle handling well, maximizing fuel efficiency, and uses your tires to their fullest, while saving yourself a little cash if you know how to perform some of your own maintenance. When was the last time you changed your tires around?  Try out the suggested method that best suits your vehicle’s drivetrain and wheel size and see how many more miles you can get out of your next new pair!

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