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Tire rotations should be performed on a vehicle every 3,000 to 5,000 miles for vehicles which experience daily or near daily use and every 5,000 to 10,000 miles for vehicles which only see light usage and thus whose tires wear down slower. The friction created between the tires on a car and the road slowly wears down the tread on the tire, which helps it grip the road for better performance. Rotating the tires simply means switching the positions of the existing tires into new positions so the pressure is applied to new parts of the tread instead of constantly wearing it down in one spot. A good way to remember to have tires rotated is for the driver to request this service each time she gets an oil change. It not only saves the driver the hassle of performing the process herself, but is also easy since the car is already lifted off the ground for the oil change and the tires are easily accessible.
Replacing the tires on a vehicle is not the same thing as performing a tire rotation. Rotating tires keeps the same four tires and simply switches them to different spots so the weight presses onto different spots and allows the tires to last longer. It also creates a more even wearing down of the tread across all four tires. If possible, a driver should have all four tires replaced at once so the tires will wear down at the same pace and she can rotate them all at once. The more evenly the tires wear down together, the better they'll perform as opposed to having two tires worn down and two tires still relatively new.
When a driver is deciding how often she needs to perform a tire rotation on her vehicle, she should examine how much tread is left on the tires and how long it's been since her last rotation. The tread forms a rough surface on the tire and if it's wearing smooth in certain spots but looks fairly new on others, it may be time to rotate the tires to alleviate some of the pressure on the worn spots. If it's been 5,000 miles or more since her last tire rotation, the driver should consider rotating the tires even if they do not appear to need it. It's also typically best to perform a tire rotation before taking a long trip, even if the car still has a little ways to go before it needs the next one.
Several different kinds of rotations exist and the process a driver can use on her vehicle depends on the kind of tires she has. To do at home tire rotations, a torque wrench is required. Typically, rotations are done from the front to the rear since the front tires wear out quicker than the back tires. Each car’s instruction manual will specify how often to rotate the tires and either the manual or a mechanic will know what type of tire rotation is necessary for a specific vehicle.
One good rule of thumb is to have the tires rotated at every oil change. With oil changes running about 3,000-5,000 miles apart, this is a pretty good interval.
The driver should also ask the mechanic to inspect the tires for wear and nails, and to check the valve stems for leaks. This is also a good time to have the tires balanced if the car seems to be handling in a way that's not quite right. It's much easier to inspect tires for wear and damage when they're off the car, as they will be when they are rotated.
Also have the mechanic make a note in your file about the rotation pattern, so he or she follows that pattern every time, to ensure even wear on the tires.