Advice on Wheel Rotation
Wheel rotation is an important part of tyre care. Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked and sometimes ignored. Here’s the low-down:
What is ‘wheel rotation’?
It means changing the position of the wheels on a car. For example, moving the front wheels to the back and vice versa.
Another example is moving the front-left wheel to the rear-right side and the front-right to the rear-left.
Wheel rotation patterns are usually dictated by the type of car and drivetrain. For example, in front-wheel-drive cars, it’s common to move the front wheels to the back and back-left to front-right and vice versa.
Why is wheel rotation important?
It’s aimed at your tyres, not wheels. Tyres wear differently depending on which ones have the engine power behind them, how heavy the load or weight on them is and braking and accelerating.
Wheel rotation is important as it allows tyres to maintain consistent wear across all four tyres. This improves handling and extends the life of your tyres. Furthermore, wheel rotation can help reduce road noise.
Generally, the front tyres on a front-wheel-drive car wear out much faster than the rear tyres. This is because the front tyres have the job of driving the car (engine power) and also steer the car and do most of the braking. You’ll notice cars have larger brakes on the front wheels.
This is another tyre-wear culprit. Roads are curved to allow rainwater to drain away – the middle of the road is higher than the sides. It’s called ‘road camber’ and is more noticeable on single-lane suburban roads in Australia.
The result is that vehicles lean slightly to the passenger side because, in Australia, we drive on the left. Left-side tyres, therefore, have slightly more weight on them and wear faster.
How often should you rotate the wheels?
Most tyre manufacturers recommend rotating wheels around every 5 – 10,000km, or every time you get your car serviced. Modern infotainment systems can alert drivers when a rotation is due. Note that new tyres with thick tread can wear at a faster rate than older tyres so an initial rotation after 5000km is important when you buy new tyres.
How do you rotate wheels?
In a nutshell, simply raise the car up safely, take the wheels off while noting the position they were in, put them on the new wheel hub and bolt them back on. It sounds simple enough, but as most people only have one car jack and at least two wheels need to be off at the same time, it can be tricky – and dangerous if not done correctly.
Wheels also need balancing and aligning to give your car proper and safe handling. Sometimes, tyre pressure needs adjustment too.
Tyre dealers and most mechanics can rotate your tyres while you wait.
What if the tyres and wheels are different sizes?
Some cars have wider tyres on the rear. This is common with performance vehicles for example. These tyres have to be taken off the rims and remounted correctly by a professional. If you’re like most people and not sure about when or how to rotate your tyres, simply visit a tyre dealer.
I have no idea if my tyres need rotating!
Street tyres have wear indicators. These are thin, raised ridges within the tread pattern, running across the tyre. When the tread is flush with the wear indicators, you need new tyres. Ignoring tyre wear is a common mistake so have a look before your next drive.
Often, it’s worth stopping by a tyre dealer and getting your tyres checked by a professional.
The Bottom Line
Wheel rotation is an important and fairly simple part of a car’s general maintenance. Luckily, it doesn’t involve a lot of time or dollars and can extend the life of your tyres and increase the safety of your vehicle.
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