You probably know that tire rotations need to be performed at regular intervals to ensure even wear on all four tires. No vehicle has perfect 50/50 weight distribution from front to rear, and the inertia of braking and cornering transfers a vehicle’s weight forward to put an undue amount of force on the front wheels. Regular rotations from front to rear or in an X pattern are required (under warranty) so that the front tires don’t wear out prematurely.
Most manufacturers call for a 5000-6000 mile interval between rotations; since that coincided with oil change intervals, it was popular to just have the rotation and oil change done at the same time since the vehicle would already be off the ground. Now synthetic oil has enabled a longer time between oil changes, but that tire rotation still needs to be done regularly anyway.
So, how much time should you budget out when it’s time to get it done?
A few things to consider
Once the vehicle’s off the ground, a technician should be able to take off the lug nuts, take off the wheels and perform the rotation in about 20 minutes time. However, it’s usually likely to go longer due to other tasks being part of this job.
On many vehicles, the shop will also need to:
- Balance all four wheels
- Inspect the tires thoroughly for uneven wear, defects, bulges, debris caught in the tread
- Inspect the tire pressure monitoring sensors and resetting them using a scan tool
- Check tire pressure of all four tires
In addition, since the vehicle’s already up on a rack, tire rotations are a good time to give the car’s suspension, exhaust system, floor pans, ABS sensors, brakes and undercarriage a good going-over. A technician should check for fluid leaks, damage, excessive wear, rust or other problems so that you can arrest a small problem before it turns into a big one.
All that considered, your tire rotation can take more like 40 or 45 minutes (at most) rather than the 20 minutes of actually switching the tires’ locations.
Some vehicles (often, high-performance ones) are equipped with directional tires that are designed to turn in only one direction. While these tires provide outstanding traction and road manners, they can only be rotated front-to-rear. Rotating them in an X pattern would mean dismounting them from the rims and then remounting them so that the proper sidewall is facing out when the tires’ positions are switched. If you have directional tires, you should probably be aware of this.
Can you rotate tires at home?
If you have a floor jack, torque wrench and four jackstands, there’s nothing to stop you from performing your own tire rotation in your driveway. However, you won’t be able to reset the vehicle’s TPMS sensors unless you have a scan tool, and different makes of vehicles have different scan tools and processes for resetting/relearning the sensors. Skipping this step can mean that your TPMS system won’t be able to alert you to an underinflated tire.
In other words, for anyone other than the most dedicated do-it-yourselfer, tire rotations are something that’s usually better left to a tire shop. Regardless, tire rotations are essential for you to get the most out of your investment in a set of tires, and you’ll notice an improvement in handling and road manners as soon as you leave the tire shop.