What it is and what it's not
Tire rotation can often be confused with tire alignment. While both are vital to the life of your tires, they are not the same. Rotation is, rotating your tires, usually swapping the front and rear tires to help them wear evenly. Alignment has more to do with the suspension and requires a special machine to make sure the wheels and axles are angled properly.
Why rotation is important
Tires are expensive, and their importance is often underestimated. Uneven tread, damaged tires, and too low or too high air pressure can be dangerous. Worn tread can cause unbalanced handling, vibrations, and loss of grip on wet pavement. Rotating tires can help prevent uneven wear on the tread, extending the life of the tire. Some warranties even require it.
The guideline is to rotate every 5-8,000 miles, but because tires wear differently on each vehicle, it's important to check the owner's manual for the specifics on when and how.
Can I do it myself?
Yes, but there are a few things to figure out first.
Directional tires, staggered sizing, and wheel offset will make tire rotation difficult. Some vehicles have wider tires in the rear, and those cannot be swapped out with the narrower front tires. Tread that runs in a specific direction cannot switch sides.
Where to put the tires will be determined by whether you're driving a front-wheel, rear-wheel, or all-wheel drive vehicle. Wear is unique for each one and requires a different rotation pattern.
Make sure you have the tools along with some basic care and safety knowledge. A tire iron, jack, and jack stand are all you need for the job. A detailed explanation of how to do it is here, thanks to Popular Mechanics.
If in doubt, go to a professional. Waiting too long will cost more down the road. Questions? Contact us! We're happy to help.