Tyres are the critical link between your car and the road, making their condition critical to your safety. They’re also one of motoring’s key consumables.
Suffice to say, you want to be as safe as possible without spending more on tyres than you need to, but how do you do it? One secret is tyre rotation.
The front and rear tyres on your car do different jobs and encounter different forces. This means they typically wear at different rates. If you ignore this you’ll likely end up with some tyres in your set worn-out before their time. In 4WDs and other vehicles, different-diameter tyres can even cause drivetrain damage.
Tyre rotation is a simple solution to these issues and involves regularly moving the tyres around the car to ensure they wear evenly and achieve their maximum life.
When should I rotate my tyres?
Look to your owner’s manual – many manufacturers suggest doing it every 10,000km – but tyre makers tend to recommend every 5,000km. Whatever tyre-rotation schedule you follow, supplement it with regular inspections for irregular wear patterns and other issues – these could point to a need to rotate more regularly, or for alignment, balancing or other attention.
Which tyre where?
There are rotation ‘patterns’ that can be used on any car, such as swapping between front and rear on each side or doing the ‘cross’ (swapping the front right to rear left and front left to rear right, respectively). There are other common patterns specific to which wheels on the car are doing the driving:
- Front-wheel drive: fronts to the back (same side), rears to the front in a ‘cross’ (left rear to right front, right rear to left front)
- Rear/all-wheel drive: backs to the front (same side), fronts to the rear in a ‘cross’ (left front to right rear, right front to left rear).
If you have a full-size spare tyre, include it in the rotations. This will spread the wear over five tyres, further extending their life.
But wait …
Not every tyre can be rotated as recommended above. Some cars have different-sized tyres front to back or tyres with unidirectional tread (tyres designed to roll in a single direction). Some cars can have both at once, making things even trickier.
If your car just has different-sized tyres front to back, a side-to-side pattern can often work. If it just has unidirectional tyres, a simple front-to-rear pattern might be best. If you have a more complex combination – or just want to avoid the jacking, lugging and bolt-twirling that are part of any tyre rotation – consult with a tyre specialist.