The Frugal Car Owner: How to Rotate Your Tires

RelayRides automotive expert, Brad Iger, shares his latest tips to save cash on car care with advice on how to rotate your own tires (no pit crew required.) 

Continuing in our series of low-cost maintenance guides, this week we’ll be covering how to rotate your tires. As we’ve mentioned before, your tires are one of the most vital components on your vehicle, as they’re the point of contact your car has with the road. Ideally, you should rotate your tires every time you change your oil – approximately every six months or 7500 miles. Doing so will not only ensure that you get the maximum amount of life out of tires, but will also give you a chance to make sure your rubber is in proper shape in terms of tire pressure and damage that might cause problems down the road. So without further ado, let’s get wrenchin’.

What You’ll Need

Fortunately, rotating your tires is not complicated. All you’ll need in terms of tools is a large racket, a socket set (or the particular socket that fits your lug nuts), a good tire jack, two jack stands and a place to work on your vehicle. Once you’ve collected the necessary items, you’re ready to get to work.

Figure Out the Rotation Pattern

For the majority of tires, you’ll be using a diagonal pattern. The front driver’s side will be swapped with the rear passenger tire and the front passenger side will be swapped with rear driver’s side wheel.

If your vehicle uses directional tires–high performance tires designed to be mounted with the tire tread pointed in a specific direction – you’ll be swapping the driver’s side front with the driver’s side rear and the passenger front wheel with the passenger rear wheel. These tires are far less common and if your vehicle has them, you’ll likely know it. Ok, it’s time to rotate.

Loosen the Lugs and Raise the Vehicle

Before you put the car in the air, you’ll need to loosen the lug nuts to finger-tight tension. If the wheel doesn’t have the resistance of the vehicle’s weight on the tire, it’s much more difficult to take the lug nuts off and remove the wheel.

Raise It Up

After that’s done, use the tire jack (or preferably, a floor jack) on the lifting point specified in the owner’s manual. Using other parts of the car to lift the vehicle can cause damage to your car and/or your person, so don’t do it. Once you’ve lifted the vehicle into the air high enough that the tire is a few inches off the ground, place a jack stand on the lift point next to the tire jack and lower the car onto the jack stand.

Lift the other side of the car, again utilizing the lift point specified in manual. Place a jack stand under the car on the lift point next to the tire jack and lower that side of the car onto the tire jack. Remove the lug nuts for each of the wheels you have lifted off the ground and swap the wheels, tightening the lug nuts to a finger-tight tension. Repeat the process for the other two wheels.

Tighten It Up

Once all four wheels are back on the ground, it’s time to tighten the lugs again. Use a diagonal “star” pattern when tightening the lug nuts – do not tighten them in a clockwise or counter clockwise pattern as this will cause some nuts to be tighter than others and can lead to damage to the rotating parts of the wheel assembly.

As soon as you have all the lug nuts are properly tightened on all the wheels you’re all done. Using the proper tools, the entire process should take you less than half an hour.

Keep an eye out for more upcoming Frugal Car Owner guides that will help keep your car on the road and money in your pocket!