Tires on your car do not wear at the exact same rate. Especially when most cars on the road are two-wheel-drive (2WD), with the main driven wheels being either the front or the rear. To make sure that all four of your tires wear a relatively even rate, proper tire rotation is necessary, and it is a general vehicle maintenance routine that even you can conduct at home with the tools that your car comes with and then some.
To do the rotation yourself, you need a few tools at your disposal. First of all, you need a tire jack. Most cars come with this tool, along with a lug nut wrench that will allow you to remove your car’s wheels. To keep your car supported, you need another jack or a set of jack stands.
- Lug nut socket wrench
- Scissor jack or Hydraulic Jack
- Jack Stands (4)
Important terms to remember and consider
Quite a few modern tires will have an asymmetrical tread pattern and a corresponding direction of rotation. You may find this embossed on the sidewall of your tire in the form of an arrow. This parameter will affect your tire rotation and is common in more sport-oriented models or more modern tires in general.
Uniform size or staggered?
You may notice that on rear-wheel-drive (RWD) cars that the rear wheels are potentially wider than the pair at the front. This is to help with rear-wheel grip. Most cars have a set that is uniform, or square. Aside from the complex term, this means that all of the tires are the same size. That being said, uniform tire sets will be less complex to rotate than a staggered set of tires.
If your car comes with a full-size spare tire, then it would be wise to incorporate it into your rotation as well. If your car gets a temporary spare tire, you don’t need to worry about it that much. Considering that tires age and have an expiration date, the spare should be used at least a couple of times and incorporated into your tire rotation scheme.
Uniform, non-direcitonal tire rotation pattern
Directional and staggered tire rotation pattern
Engage the parking brake and parking gear
Make sure to lock your vehicle’s wheels into place before conducting everything. This will prevent your car from rolling off, and it will help you with loosening the lug nuts.
Break the lug nuts
This isn’t literal, but you should be able to crack the lug nuts on your car loose while it is still on the ground. Don’t remove the lugnuts while your car is still on the ground, save that for after the next step.
Jack up your car
With the scissor jack or hydraulic jack, raise your car up to an optimal height for you to place the jack stands underneath. Do this for each side. Jack it up, place a jack stand, and repeat until your vehicle’s wheels are in the air.
Remove the wheels
This step should be easy since you’ve already loosened the lug nuts on your wheels. Make sure to remove the wheels by lifting them slightly and carefully carry them off the bolts. Keep the wheels next to its hub first so you don’t get mixed up.
Inspect your tires
While tire rotation is the primary concern, it does help to take a good look at your tires and check for any damage, uneven tread wear, or if it is due for replacement.
Rotate your tires
Follow the diagrams that are appropriate for your vehicle’s drivetrain and tire type as mentioned prior. Hand-tighten the lug nuts every time you transfer a tire to a different hub.
Tighten the lug nuts
Now that you’ve rotated your tires, tighten the lug nuts accordingly. Make sure that your wheels are attached firmly and make sure to go in a star pattern when torquing down on your wheels. This will ensure that you don’t cross-thread or have unevenly tightened wheels. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t be able to loosen the nuts easily, so tighten it as much as you can, and apply a bit of pressure counterclockwise to check if the nut is sufficiently tightened. However, if you want to be more accurate, you may bring out a torque wrench in order to dial in the tightness as much as possible.
After that, just jack down your car, pack up and you’re all set!