How to: Tire Rotation

More to it than rolling wheels

OK ladies: How many of you throw up your hands in frustration when it comes to general car maintenance? I know, given our traditional cultural backgrounds, many of us inherited the short end of the stick when it comes to an automotive education.

Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with handing those mundane tasks over to someone else. Heck, I've been known to enjoy a hot cappuccino over the morning paper while some sweet young thing dirties his hands on my oil filter -- but for those of you who want to overcome yet another stereotypical, gender-oriented bias by performing some of these basic jobs yourselves, trust me, most of them are easily within your abilities.

Perhaps you've heard the term "tire rotation" and dismissed it as simply something that your wheels do in order to get you where you need to go. There's slightly more to it than that...

Simply put: it's just a redistribution of your wheels, to even out tread wear and preserve traction and handling.

Tires wear differently from front to back, depending on the type of vehicle.

Tire Rotation

Illustration: Lesley WimbushFor most cars, the engine represents a great deal of weight riding just over the front tires, hence, they tend to wear a lot faster. Tires on a rear-wheel-drive vehicle have quite a different set of performance expectations than those on a front-wheel-drive, and those on the family van will experience quite a difference in wear than those on a sports car.

The advantages to the driver in having the same amount of wear on all four tires are many: not only will the performance be predictable and uniform, but all can be replaced simultaneously instead of having one pair wear out sooner. Not to mention that many tire companies require proper rotation practices to maintain a valid warranty. Best of all, by extending the life of your tires, you'll save money, too!

Most manufacturers recommend that tire rotation be done every 10,000 ams.

Now, if you want to choose "having it done" over "do-it-yourself," all power to you: The best time is during an oil change when the vehicle -- and all four wheels -- are in the air.

Otherwise, here's how.

First rule of thumb: Always put the vehicle on jack stands to work on it. As someone who has had a 1,600 kg truck flip over the jack and slam the guillotine-like brake rotor into the ground, narrowly missing her foot; this is not something to take chances on.

I like to get the lug nuts loosened while the wheels are still on the ground as it gives me something to work against rather than having them spin uselessly in the air.

The accompanying graphic will show you the correct rotational pattern of your wheels, depending on the configuration of your vehicle.

When you're done, pat yourself on the back. Not only have you taken yet another giant step forward for automotive gender equality, but the money you've saved could go towards some killer shoes.


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