Tire rotation is the practice of swapping the front tires of a car with the back tires at regular intervals. The basic idea behind this is to extend the life of the tires by allowing more even treadwear. Some specialty tire manufacturers do not recommend the practice for their customers, but most cars benefit from it. Some tire stores even include tire rotation as part of their service contract.
The front tires of a passenger car or truck have to perform several different tasks. In conjunction with the rear tires, they provide traction through direct contact with the road surface. They must also respond to steering commands by altering the car's momentum in one direction or another. The result of all this friction is a gradual loss of tread. Front tires simply take more abuse than rear ones while the car is moving.
In order to prevent the front tires from wearing out much faster than the rear ones, a periodic tire rotation becomes necessary. Some experts suggest it be done after 7,500 miles (or about 12,000 km) have elapsed. Others say the procedure should be timed around every other oil change. The tires may also have to be rebalanced at the same time, a procedure often included in the service at a commercial automotive center. Some mechanics may suggest a front-end alignment as well, since a misaligned car can create even more uneven treadwear.
Car owners with some mechanical know-how and enough jacks can rotate their tires at home. The trick is to keep track of each tire's original location and its new destination. If the spare tire is in good repair and full-sized, it may also be included in the rotation. The process begins with jacking up the entire car evenly with four jackstands or a hydraulic lift.
Once the car is securely lifted, the right front tire should be removed with a lug wrench and muscle power. If a spare tire is included in the process, the spare should replace the front right tire. Otherwise, the right rear tire should be moved to the front position and the original right front tire should be attached in the right rear position. All lug nuts should be tightened securely in a criss-cross pattern to ensure a balanced fit.
The same procedure should be followed on the left side tires. The left front tire becomes the left rear tire and the left rear tire is now in the front position. Once all of the lug nuts have been secured and the spare tire stored away, the car can be lowered to the ground and test-driven. If the car seems to pull in one direction or feels wobbly while in motion, the tires may need to be professionally balanced and the front end may need a realignment.