Should you rotate your tyres?

By David Bonnici, 01 Jun 2017 Car Advice

Should you rotate your tyres?

Rotating your tyres helps keep your car safe and save you money in the long run, however it’s important to know if and how the tyres can be rotated before you start cranking up the jack.

There was a time when rotating a car’s tyres was common practice to ensure the rubber wore evenly, however with so many different specialised tyres on the market it may no longer be necessary, or appropriate, to move your wheels around.

How often should you rotate tyres?
As a rule about every 10,000kms or when you notice uneven wear on one or more tyres. See if you can get it done when taking your car in for a service (often manufacturers will do it during scheduled servicing), or take it to a tyre shop and ask them to rotate them along with a wheel alignment. Either option won’t be expensive and will save you plenty of time especially if you only have a standard car jack at your disposal.

That said it is pretty simple to do it yourself, though it’s important to know your tyres and if they can be rotated. You car’s handbook will usually have this information, though as a rule there’s a standard sequence depending on the type of tyres fitted to the vehicle.

Five-wheel swap
For cars with a classic set up including tyres that are the same size on the front and rear axles and an full-size spare, go with the following five-way rotation sequences depending if the car is front or rear wheel drive. Four-wheel drive rotation is the same as RWD.

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Nothing to spare swap
Many cars now have a space-saver spare or a basic steel spare that’s incompatible with the larger fitted alloy wheels, meaning you just need to rotate the four fitted wheels in the following order.

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One-direction swap
Some tyres have a tread pattern designed to travel one way. Called uni-directional tyres, their preferred direction is usually marked with an arrow on the sidewall. Such tyres can be swapped from front to rear provided they are on the same side of the car – never swap them from left to right, as that will greatly diminish their ability to disperse water.

Fat and skinny swap
Some cars place different width tyres on the front and rear, such as high performance rear-wheel drive cars that need some extra rubber on the back to help stick to the road on launch. If the car is equipped with non-directional tyres then you can swap the wheels on the right with those on the left (but obviously never from front to back), but if you have directional tyres you’re fresh out of luck – you won’t be able to rotate your tyres. 

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How to change the tyres
If you decide to rotate the tyres yourself, make sure the car is on an even surface for the jack to lift it safely. Loosen the wheel nuts before jacking the car up as it’s easier when the wheels can’t spin around – click here for more information on changing tyres.

Other ways to reduce tyre wear.
Make sure all tyres are regularly inflated to their recommended pressure and get your wheels aligned regularly. This is probably the best time to get your tyres rotated too as the tyre fitters can do it much quicker and safer – and you won’t have to get your own hands dirty.

Other things can lead to irregular wear such as uneven suspension alignment settings and damaged or worn front-end components such as tie rods or ball joints.