Rotating Tires

Directional tires have to stay on the same side of the car. They often feature arrows on the sidewall to show the proper direction.

Directional tires have to stay on the same side of the car. They often feature arrows on the sidewall to show the proper direction.

We know that all tires rotate. But we're talking about another kind of rotation — rotating tires to different corners of the car and maybe even reversing the direction in which they turn.

Many tires are rotated front-to-back and side-to-side, but some tires are directional, which means they're only supposed to turn in one direction. They have to stay on the same side of the car. Directional tires often have arrows on the tire's sidewall to show you the direction in which they should turn.

If you're not sure which kind of tires you have, check with your mechanic.

Should I do this service when it's recommended?

You should do this service only if you can do it for $20 or less, in our opinion.

The financial benefit of rotating tires is that you'll increase the useful life of the tire. But if you pay more than about $20, you'll probably wipe out any savings you might have gained.

Instead, ask your mechanic to rotate your tires when they're already off your car for another service, such as a brake repair. That way, you won't have to pay extra — unless your mechanic is a jerk.

Can I Do This Myself?
It depends on where you rank on the Car Talk do-it-yourself scale:
There are two kinds of screwdrivers?
I've successfully hung pictures around the house.
I've changed my own oil.
I've fixed things on my car that involve removing more than five bolts.
I've built a working nuclear reactor out of wood.

If you have access to a floor jack and jackstands, you can rotate the tires yourself. Otherwise, it's a pain in the rear and you should take your car to your mechanic to have the tires rotated.

Why do I have to do this?

You don't have to rotate your tires. But by rotating them, you will increase your tires' life because they'll wear more evenly.

What happens if I don't do this?

Nothing bad will happen, but you'll get fewer miles out of your tires.

Is there any maintenance required between intervals?

No.

Car Talk Tip: Don't forget Newton's Seventh Law: Tires in balance tend to stay in balance. If you're having your tires rotated, don't pay extra to have them rebalanced. You probably won't need it. Have your tires rebalanced only if you feel a shimmy or vibration.

Posted on 3/31/05