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If you own a car, tire rotation is one of the most important maintenance services you can do for your vehicle. Tire rotation is moving the tires from one position to another on the car, from front to rear or left to right. It prolongs the tires’ lifespan by ensuring even wear and tear, improving their performance, and saving you money on fuel and repairs. However, tire rotation is only sometimes necessary or beneficial for every car and every situation. In some cases, tire rotation can be harmful or impossible to do. In this article, we will explain when not to rotate tires and what you should do instead to keep your tires in good shape and your car running smoothly.
What Are The Benefits Of Tire Rotation?
Before delving into why you should not rotate your tires, let’s first review the benefits of tire rotation and why most cars and drivers recommend it. Tire rotation can provide the following advantages:
Even wear and tear
Tires wear out unevenly depending on their position in the car and the driving conditions. For example, front tires usually wear out faster than rear tires because they bear more weight and handle more steering and braking. By rotating the tires, you can balance out the wear and tear and make the tires last longer.
Tires worn out unevenly can affect the car’s handling, traction, and stability, making the vehicle more challenging to control, especially on wet or slippery roads. By rotating the tires, you can maintain the optimal performance of the tires and the car.
Lower fuel consumption
Tires worn out unevenly can also increase the car’s rolling resistance, which means the car needs more energy and fuel to move. Rotating the tires can reduce rolling resistance and improve the vehicle’s fuel efficiency.
Less noise and vibration
Tires worn out unevenly can also cause more noise and vibration in the car, which can be annoying and uncomfortable for the driver and the passengers. By rotating the tires, you can reduce the noise and vibration and make the ride more pleasant.
How Often Should You Rotate Your Tires?
The tire rotation frequency depends on several factors, such as the type of car, the type of tires, the driving habits, and the manufacturer’s recommendations. However, rotating your tires every 5,000 to 10,000 miles or every six months is a good idea, whichever comes first. See your owner’s manual or consult your mechanic for more detailed instructions.
When Not To Rotate Tires: The Exceptions
While tire rotation benefits most cars and drivers, there are some exceptions where tire rotation is not advisable or possible. These include:
Directional tires on staggered wheels
Directional tires have a specific tread pattern designed to spin in only one direction, as indicated by an arrow on the sidewall. They are usually used on high-performance or sports cars, offering better traction, handling, and water evacuation. Staggered wheels are wheels of different sizes on the front and rear axles, usually with wider wheels on the rear. They are also standard on high-performance or sports cars, enhancing stability, performance, and aesthetics.
The issue with placing directional tires on staggered wheels arises because they allow rotation only, leading to problems. You can rotate directional tires only from front to rear, and staggered wheels permit the process solely from side to side. If you try to swap them, you will end up with tires spinning in the wrong direction or wheels that do not fit the axle, leading to reduced grip, increased noise, uneven wear, and potential damage to the tires, wheels, and suspension.
Suppose you have directional tires on staggered wheels. In that case, the best thing you can do is regularly monitor the tire pressure and alignment and replace the tires when they reach the minimum tread depth. Consider switching to non-directional tires or non-staggered wheels if you are willing to compromise on the performance and appearance of your vehicle.
Low tread depth
The distance between the tire’s top and the grooves’ bottom is known as the tread depth. It affects the tire’s traction, handling, braking, and hydroplaning resistance. Most countries’ legal minimum tread depth is 1.6 mm or 2/32 inches. Still, replacing the tires before they reach this limit is recommended.
Suppose you have tires with low tread depth. In that case, you should not rotate them to the rear position, especially on front-wheel-drive vehicles, because the rear tires are more prone to losing traction and causing oversteer, which is when the car’s back end slides out during cornering. Oversteers can be dangerous and difficult to control, especially at high speeds or in wet conditions. To prevent this, you should always keep the tires with the most tread depth on the rear axle, regardless of the drive type of your vehicle.
If you have tires with low tread depth, the best thing you can do is to replace them as soon as possible. You can also regularly check the tire pressure and alignment and avoid driving aggressively or in adverse weather. Consider using winter or all-season tires, depending on your area’s climate and road conditions.
Mismatched tires have different sizes, brands, models, or tread patterns on the same axle or car. They are usually caused by replacing only one or two tires instead of all four or using spare or temporary tires for a long time. Mismatched tires can affect the car’s balance, alignment, performance, and safety of the driver and the passengers.
If you have mismatched tires, you should not rotate them at all, as this can worsen the problem and cause more issues. Instead, it would help if you replaced the mismatched tires with matching ones as soon as possible. You should also avoid using spare or temporary tires for longer than necessary and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Tire rotation is an easy and practical method to keep your tires in good condition and your car running smoothly. However, there are some situations where tire rotation is not recommended or possible, such as having directional tires on staggered wheels, having tires with low tread depth, or having mismatched tires. In these cases, you should avoid rotating your tires and take other measures to maintain and replace your tires as needed. Doing so can ensure that your tires perform well and last long.