Tire rotation moves tires from front to back and side to side on a vehicle. The pattern you’ll use to rotate the tires will vary based on several factors, including the vehicle’s drive train, wheel size, and tire type. Rotating patterns vary based on the vehicle’s drive train, wheel size, and tire type. Vehicles with four non-directional, same-sized tires — which is most vehicles — typically use a rearward cross or forward cross pattern.

Is tire rotation necessary?

Tire rotation is necessary if you want your tires to wear evenly. It allows you to inspect them for irregular wear patterns, so you can fix problems early and avoid replacing them prematurely. We spoke with TJ Campbell, tire information and testing manager at Tire Rack, to find out how tire rotation works. He also told us why it’s important, how often to do it, and what could happen if you don’t.

Why is tire rotation important?

“No vehicle out there is going to wear its tires the same way at all four corners,” Campbell says. “What tires are subjected to is very different from one side of the vehicle to the other and one axle to the other.” Rotate them regularly, so each tire spends the same time on all four wheels and helps wear them evenly.

What is the optimal tire rotation frequency?

The industry standard frequency for tire rotation is every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. However, Campbell advises people to rotate them more frequently when new because that’s when they’re most susceptible to irregular wear. He recommends rotating them every 3,000 miles for the first three rotations and extending the interval to every 5,000 miles after that.

What are the consequences of not rotating my tires regularly?

Uneven wear

When you don’t rotate your tires, they may not wear evenly, leading to excessive wear on a small section. If this happens, you may have to replace your tires prematurely. Maintaining proper alignment and the recommended tire pressure can also help your tires wear evenly.

Performance imbalances

Generally, front tires wear out faster on front-wheel drive vehicles, and rear tires wear out faster on rear-wheel drive vehicles. If you don’t rotate the tires, the two axles won’t behave the same when turning, changing lanes at high speeds, or driving through water. You may hydroplane, fishtail, spin, or lose control, leading to an accident.

Rotating your tires is essential for the lifespan of your car and prevents them from being damaged prematurely. Learn more tire maintenance tips and how car insurance covers tire damage.