What is Tire Rotation?- How to Rotate and Why

Tire rotation, that is routinely repositioning your vehicle’s tires in specific patterns from front to back or side to side, is an important element of tire upkeep and safety. Additionally, rotating your tires may also be required to keep your tires covered under warranty.

For a quick visual summary of tire rotation, check out our Tread Life episode about tire rotation. Read on for more information about what tire rotation is, why tire rotation patterns matter, and the correct pattern for your vehicle’s needs.

What Is Tire Rotation?

First things first, what’s a tire rotation? Simply put, a tire rotation is when you move your tires from their current position to different spots on the vehicle.

While it may sound simple, tire rotations provide massive benefits.

This routine tire maintenance helps your tires perform at their absolute best and even helps extend their tread life. Regular tire rotations can help prevent your tires from developing uneven or irregular wear, tire noise, and ride disturbances. Plus, not performing regular tire rotations can void your tire’s manufacturer warranty.

Why Is Tire Rotation Important?

There are several reasons why tire rotation is an important element of your standard tire care. First, by routinely rotating your tires, wear is spread evenly across all four tires, and their tread life is maximized.

That’s because each specific position on your vehicle requires a different give from each tire—(for example, tires on the front of a front-wheel drive vehicle will take a larger proportion of the torque and friction that’s needed for turning, accelerating and braking)—and can lead to more, or less, wear on the tire. It is especially important to rotate new tires by 5,000 miles because deep, fresh tire tread is more susceptible to uneven wear.

Secondly, even tread wear keeps the tread depth on your tires uniform, which can help keep traction and handling consistent across all four tires. This will improve cornering and braking performance and keep your vehicle safer for driving overall.

Finally, if your vehicle has all-wheel-drive, evenly worn tires lower the stresses on the drivetrain, reducing wear on expensive drive components.

What Tire Rotation Pattern Should I Utilize?

There are many different tire rotation patterns, so deciding which one is right for you can feel a little confusing.

But it’s actually pretty simple. Both your tire and vehicle type can help you determine which pattern is best to follow. Check out the different rotation patterns illustrated below:

Tire Rotation Pattern

Looking at the patterns above, you might note that certain tire types can only be rotated in a specific way.

For example, staggered fitment tires can only be rotated from side to side (if the tires aren’t directional). If the tires are directional, they’ll have to be dismounted and reinstalled facing the opposite direction. Check out our page on tire tread patterns to learn more about directional tires and tread patterns.

When rotating your tires, be sure to double-check the tire air pressure on all of them, including the spare. Some vehicles have different air pressure specs for the front and rear tires, so it’s important to keep an eye on that when rotating your rubber.

Four-Wheel Drive

Vehicles equipped with permanent four-wheel drive and those with “on command” four-wheel drive and driven mainly in four-wheel drive mode are best suited to a four-tire cross rotation. With this pattern, tires from both axles are crossed and installed on the opposing axle.

Straight Rotation

Straight rotation was developed in the early years of radial tires. This rotation method switches the tires front-to-rear but does not cross side to side. This rotation method is used for directional tread patterns.

Five-Tire Rotation

If your spare tire is a matching full size tire (as opposed to a temporary spare) and you want to keep it in rotation, move the spare to the right rear position. Then place the tire that would have gone to the right rear in the spare position.

Six-Tire Rotation (Dually trucks)

If your vehicle has dual rear wheels the rotation pattern looks like two triangles, one on the driver’s side and one on the passenger’s side. For each side, move the outer dual tire to the inner position, the inner dual tire to the steer position, and the steer tire to the outer dual position.