Do It Yourself Auto Maintenance: How to Rotate Tires

Updated on October 9, 2016

Performing a tire rotation is, for most vehicles, a simple procedure that can be done with minimal time and effort. Are you tired of spending money on something that is so simple to do, or having to wait forever for a tire/service shop to do something that should only take a few minutes to have done? All you will need to do all your own tire rotations from here on out is: a couple of hydraulic jacks, jack stands, and a lug wrench.

Benefits of Tire Rotation

Regularly rotating your vehicles tires will extend their life by achieving uniform wear on all four tires. If you do a good job rotating your tires, you should expect your tires to get the mileage they are rated to get.

Removing Lugnuts

The first thing you do to rotate your tires is to remove your wheels. Make sure your vehicle is on level ground. Next, to remove the wheels you will need a lug wrench. Make sure that the lug wrench you are using fits your lug nuts well. If the wrench you are using is too big, it may not take the lugs off or you could end up rounding off the nuts. Either using a hand powered lug wrench, or if you have pneumatic powered tools, remove the lug nuts by turning them to the left (counterclockwise for most vehicles). Do not completely remove the lugs, just turn them enough to break them loose so you can finish taking them off by hand. Next, jack up the vehicle.

How to Safely Jack Up a Vehicle

Get your jacks in place under the vehicle so that they come in contact with the place under the car that it should be jacked up with. Some vehicles have certain points that they should be jacked up from. To find this spot, either check the owners manual or with your local service shop to find where you need to place the jacks. If you're still not sure where to jack it up, just make sure that you don't jack it up on small parts that can bend or break. You can always jack it up by the frame. Once you have it jacked up, get your jack stands under the car and place them next to where you have jacked it up. Slowly let the jacks down so that the jack stands are supporting the weight of the vehicle. Once you have the vehicle jacked up, remove the lug nuts completely and remove the wheels.


How to Rotate Tires on Front Wheel Drive Vehicles

Vehicles that are front wheel drive should have their tires rotated from front to rear, with the front tires moving straight back and the rear tires switching sides to the front. This is the best way to rotate tires for these vehicles because the tires direction of rotation is reversed when switched to the other side of the car. After the tires are rotated four times the tires will end up back in the same place they started at.

Sequence of rotation: Left front moves to left rear, left rear moves to right front, right front moves to right rear, right rear moves to left front.


How to Rotate Tires on Rear Wheel Drive Vehicles

Rear wheel drive vehicles should have their tires rotated from front to rear, with the rear tires moving straight up and the two front tires switching sides to the rear. This will help in achieving uniform wear because all four tires will eventually move to all four positions on the car.

Sequence of Rotation: Left front to right rear, right rear to right front, right front to left rear, left rear to left front.


How to Rotate Tires on Four Wheel Drive Vehicles

Four wheel drive vehicles can have all four tires moved from front to rear and side to side at the same time. Think of it like an "X" pattern.

Sequence of rotation: Left front to right rear, right rear to left front, right front to left rear, left rear to right front.


How to Rotate Tires on Vehicles with Uni-Directional Tires

Some tires have tread patterns which have to be turning in only one direction. Most of these tires are high performance speed rated tires which mostly go on sports cars. For these tires, since you have to keep them on only one side of the car, you can only rotate them from front to rear not swapping any of them from side to side.

Sequence of Rotation: Left front to left rear, left rear to left front, right front to right rear, right rear to right front.

Vehicles With Two Different Size Tires

Some autos now days have two different size tires installed on them. Usually these are sports cars or other high end vehicles. The reason for this is usually for better traction because many of these instances there are narrower tires on the front and wider tires on the rear. So how do you rotate these tires? Well, the only way that one could rotate these tires would be to swap the tires from side to side only, not moving them from front to rear. However, many of these vehicles come with the uni-directional tires installed on them. So, if your car has two different size tires and they are uni-directional, you can not rotate your tires.

Safety Tip

Any time you are working around your vehicles wheels you have a chance of coming in contact with brake dust. Be very careful to avoid coming in personal contact and especially avoid breathing in brake dust as it may contain asbestos.

Re-installing the Wheels

Now that you have figured out how to move your tires around, the next step is to re-install the wheels onto the car. To do this take one wheel at a time and center it up onto the hub, make sure to line up the studs to the holes, and push the wheel back. Hold it in place while you are screwing the lugs back on so that it doesn't come off. By hand, screw all the lug nuts on. Once you have hand tightened the lugs, take your lug wrench and tighten them a little more. When doing this, make sure the sequence you are tightening the lug nuts in is like a star pattern. Do one and then do the one exactly across from it, then go to the next one and repeat. Once you have done this on all four wheels, its time to let the vehicle back down. Simply reverse the process you used to jack the vehicle up and let the car gently back down to the ground. Now, go ahead and tighten the lug nuts all the way around, remember to use the star pattern again. If using a hand wrench, tighten the lugs firmly as you can. However, do not over tighten them so you can never get them back off. A really handy tool to have is called a torque wrench. It will only apply a certain amount of torque on the lugs so that they are at the correct tightness for the vehicle.

Things to Remember

Now that you have properly torqued down all of your lugs, it is important to remember to check your tires air pressure. This is especially important to remember to do if your vehicle specifications are for two different amounts of air pressure for the front and rear tires. For more information on checking tire pressure click here.

Another important point is to re-check the torque on your lug nuts after you have driven the vehicle for about 50 miles. This is highly recommended if you have aftermarket wheels on your car.

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      anndango 4 years ago

      Great hub! I think I could even do this and I am not mechanically inclined. I've always wanted to know how and now I do. Thanks!