Tire Rotation 101
Many of us ignore our car tires. While today’s tires last quite a bit longer, they still need some attention.
Proper tire care includes having the tires rotated – moving them front to back – on a regular basis.
How Often Should Car Tires be Rotated?
One thing you can do is find out how often the tire manufacturer recommends they be rotated. Being a little bit of a car fanatic, I rotate my tires more often than they call for. I want those babies to last a really long time.
I generally take my car into the shop for a tire rotation every 5,000 to 6,000 miles. These days, most tires are rated to last between 50,000 and 60,000 miles. This all depends on your driving style. For those who take those corners a little bit faster or drive on gravel roads up to hiking trails, tires will wear out a little faster.
I have found that having the tires on my car rotated every 5,000 to 6,000 miles really makes a difference in how long they last. Don’t forget just how much those things can cost. Regular, all-season radial tires have a pretty long life. Those lower-profile, high-performance tires on sports cars generally wear out quite a bit faster.
One thing that affects tire wear is what rated compound they are constructed with. High-performance tires are designed to really stick to the road. They have thinner side walls that promote better vehicle handling. They are also made of a softer compound, which wears out faster. The vast majority of us have tires designed for all-season use that have a thicker side wall. You can think of this as the tire being “thicker” in its distance between the rim and the outside radius of the tire itself.
I drive my car to a tire store around every 6,000 miles. At that point it is time to have the tires rotated front to back. I have found that almost every national chain tire retailer will do the rotation for free. Some repair shops will do this too, but don’t freak out if they charge you a little bit. Remember, you’re trying to maximize the life of your tires and it is worth a little investment.
Tire prices are all over the map depending on your type of vehicle and what the factory recommends. I have seen tire prices range from $50 per tire all the way up to $500 a piece. You can’t expect to buy a world-class performance vehicle and get away with putting sub-standard rubber on it.
How Car Tires are Rotated
The way today’s tire rotation is done is pretty easy. The tire shop simply moves the front tires to the rear. In the old days it required what was called cross rotation – the tires where rotated in an X pattern. Back then, tires where constructed in a bias ply process – layers of material bonded together. Now, just about every car and light truck tires are known as radials. These babies handle better and last longer. Tire technology has come a long way.
Well, there you have it. A little bit of routine maintenance on your car tires can really add some life to the poor things. One little thing you can do on your own to keep them up is make sure they are kept at the factory’s recommended tire pressure. Invest in a cheap tire gauge and check them every 3,000 miles. Heck, most quick lube places check the air pressure in your tires when they do an oil change. That’s a bonus!