How to Rotate Tires on Your Car or Truck

Part of routine vehicle maintenance and preventing premature tread wear is rotating your tires. That’s because tires wear differently. For example, the front tires generally carry more of the vehicle’s weight, which makes them wear faster. Additionally, the speed at which you take left and right turns can make a difference in tread wear. Bottom line: Uneven tread wear happens, which is why you need to commit to regular tire rotations unless you want to spend several hundred dollars on new tires every two to three years or risk your safety while driving.

Generally, the rule of thumb is to rotate your tires every other oil change (or every 5,000 to 6,000 miles), and the good news is that with the right tools and know-how, it’s maintenance that you can perform yourself. Here’s a look at what you’ll need and how to do it:

What You Need

  • A jack: The car jack that comes with your car should typically only be utilized for one-off tire changes in emergency situations, not full-blown tire rotations. We suggest a floor jack if you want to perform rotations in your home garage.
  • Jack stands: These help support the weight of your vehicle and rest underneath the vehicle as you perform the tire changes. You should minimally have two jack stands, though four makes rotating much more streamlined.
  • A lug wrench: This is really the only tool you need for loosening and tightening the lug nuts.
tire rotation graphic

Rotating the Tires: A How-To Guide

Before we get to the basics, you’ll need to know if your tires are directional (designed to roll in one direction) or non-directional (designed to go on any wheel). If they’re directional, plan to swap the front right tire with the back right tire and vice versa on the left side. If they’re non-directional, rotate via a cross pattern (i.e. swap the back left tire with the front right tire). Now that we’ve covered that, here are the steps to take when rotating your tires:

  1. Use the lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts on the vehicle’s wheels. Don’t take them off yet, just ensure that they’re loosened.
  2. Assuming you have four jack stands, use the jack to lift up each wheel one at a time and place a stand under each one. (If you only have two stands, you’ll need to be more strategic in how you rotate.)
  3. Now, take off the lug nuts and remove the tires. Rotate them accordingly based on whether you have directional or non-directional tires.
  4. Once the tires have been rotated and are in their new spots, replace the lug nuts and hand-tighten them. Be sure not to completely tighten them yet.
  5. Use the jack to lower the car back down to ground level, then use the lug wrench to completely tighten the lug nuts.
  6. Repeat again in 5,000 to 6,000 miles.

Depending on the number of jacks that you have and how fast you work, you should be able to complete a rotation in about a half hour.

Other Considerations

When you rotate your tires, you should also be inspecting each tire for wear and any other damage that it may have sustained. At the same time, be sure to check the wheels to look for cracks and other damage in the frame, and replace if necessary. Tires are one thing, but if you do need replacement wheels, consider a source such as Power Parts 4 Less, which offers high-quality wheels for cars and trucks at more affordable costs.