Being stranded on a busy street in rush hour traffic with a flat tire is dangerous. So is being stranded on a dark abandoned road. There is nothing you can do about the occasional tire damage due to road debris, but most flat tires are due to neglect. This is why it is important to rotate your tires.
When and Why
The easiest way to remember when to rotate your tires is to do it every time you do an oil change. As a model motorist, you change your oil every three thousand miles, right? This same time frame is a very key time to rotate the rubber on your wheels. As you drive, the tread on your tires wears down. If you drive a front wheel drive, your front tires will wear more than the rear. A rear wheel drive would wear out the back tires faster. Though not the only reason, this is the most basic reason to rotate your tires. Rotating your tires every time you have an oil change will allow each tire to wear at the same rate as the others. This extends the life of your tires. If you don’t do it, two of your tires will wear out twice as fast as they should.
If you don’t like to get dirty, you can usually get an oil change and a tire rotation at the same place and time. Most oil change places offer tire rotation service. It will generally run you between $40 and $45 for a tire rotation. If this price is too steep, you may opt to rotate your tires yourself. The process is less complicated than it seems.
How to rotate your tires
You will need two tools to do the job: a jack and a lug wrench. Most cars today come standard with a small jack with a crank handle. I suggest you throw it in the trash now. Go down to your local parts store and spend a one-time $30 to buy yourself a 2-1/2 ton floor jack. This will make the job much easier and, more importantly, much safer. It’s also wise to buy a $10 four-way lug-wrench to replace the traditional one as well. This will give you the leverage you need to get the job done.
There is a simple pattern to use when rotating your tires. Take the tires that pull, in the case of a front wheel drive, the front tires, and criss-cross them to the back. For example: The left front tire would be relocated to the right rear, and the right front tire would be relocated to the left rear. As for the rear tires, they will simply move forward, staying on the same side.
Okay, I know what you are thinking: How can I possibly do this with only one jack? The answer is simpler than you think. You have a spare tire in your trunk. Start by removing the left front tire. Immediately replace it with your spare. If your spare is full sized, it will remain here. If it is a temporary spare, stay with me, it will end up back in the trunk before we’re finished. Now roll the left front tire you took off to its new home at the right rear. You’ll have to move your jack to the back for this, but with the spare on the front, you’re all set to do so. Once you’ve made this swap, roll the right rear straight up to the right front. Take your jack along and make the swap again. Now roll that right front around to the left rear. Again make the swap. Now, if your spare tire was a full spare you can throw the left rear tire in the trunk to become the new spare. This is called a five tire rotation. It allows all five tires to wear evenly and extends the life of all of your tires. If, however, your spare is a temporary spare, you can roll that left rear tire straight up to the left front and swap it with the temporary spare tire and put the temporary spare back in its spot in the trunk.
Congratulations, you have now successfully executed a tire rotation and completed another step on the road to becoming a model motorist.