Tire Rotation and Tire Alignment: Why? When? and How?

Tire Rotation and Tire Alignment: Why? When? and How?

Is there anything worse than getting your car tires replaced too often in a few months?

Your family and friends told you that you should try to maintain your tires by getting them rotated and aligned. But, here’s the problem: You literally have no idea what tire rotation and tire alignment are! 

However, do not worry yet, keep reading and you will find out the answers. My topic today is about tire rotation and alignment. Firstly, I am going to talk about tire rotation. Secondly, I will move the discussion into the other main part - tire alignment. And in each part, you will have the answer for 3 questions: Why, When, and How?

Tire Rotation

Tire rotation means changing the position where the individual tire is mounted on the car, or you can say that it means moving tires from one wheel to another and from left to right or back to front, or even diagonally.

Tire Rotation and Tire Alignment: Why? When? and How?

1. Why is it important?

In normal driving, each tire performs different tasks, therefore front tires and rear tires wear differently. Since the tire leans over when you turn, they handle much of the cornering forces. It makes your front tires wear more on the shoulders. The rear tires usually wear more equally because they just have to follow the fronts. If you do not change the places of tires, those outside edges on the front tires will wear down much faster than the rest. As a result, you'll have to replace the tires very soon.

However, tire rotation can equalize these natural wear patterns. By changing the positions of your tires, we can make sure that all of the tires do some duty on the front end as well as getting a little break on the back end. Rotating tires regularly keeps your tires from wearing unevenly, you’ll save money in the long run by extending the life of your tires. In addition, it will bring you smooth rides with safety driving conditions.

FRIENDLY REMIND: Tire rotation can not correct wear problems due to worn mechanical parts or incorrect inflation pressures.

2. When should you rotate your tires?

Tire rotation is often recommended every 5,000 miles (≈8,000 km) to 8,000 miles (≈13,000 km), however, this can be different based on tire manufacturers and the car makers.

It’s often recommended by most vehicle manufacturers that the tires should be rotated on the same schedule as oil changes. Usually, that means every 7,500 miles or six months, however, some have stretched the oil-change interval to 10,000 miles, such as on many Fords, Volkswagens and Toyotas. BMW even allows up to 15,000 miles between oil changes, but that is too long to wait to rotate the tires. You should probably rotate tires every six months or so unless you drive fewer than about 7,500 miles per year.

3. How can you rotate your tires?

Rotating tires might sound easy, but when it comes to doing it by yourself, it will be a huge annoyance. However, do not worry, I’m here to help you!

3.1. Rotation pattern

Before you start rotating your tires, you need to know what pattern you’re going to use to rotate your tires. It’s important to rotate your tires according to the correct tire-rotation pattern. The way you rotate your tires depends on a few factors, the biggest one is whether your car has directional or non-directional tires.

a. Non-directional tires, same size and offset on front and rear:

There are three rotation patterns that cover most vehicles with non-directional tires and wheels that are the same size and offset on front and rear:

Rearward Cross Pattern

Rearward Cross Pattern: This pattern is used for rear-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive vehicles. The rear tires are moved straight forward, while the front tires moved to the opposite sides of the rear.

Tire Rotation and Tire Alignment

Forward Cross Pattern: On vehicles with front-wheel drive, just do the opposite. Move the rear tires to the opposite sides of the front and move the front tires straight back.

Tire Rotation and Tire Alignment: Why? When? and How?

X Pattern: This is an alternate pattern that may be used instead of the Forward Cross for front-wheel drive vehicles.

b. Directional and/or staggered high-performance tires and wheels:

In addition to the three main rotation patterns listed above, there are two additional patterns that can be used for today's high-performance tire and wheels.

Tire Rotation and Tire Alignment: Why? When? and How?

Side to Side Pattern: Use for vehicles equipped with differently sized, non-directional tires and wheels on the front and rear axles.

Tire Rotation and Tire Alignment Why When and How

Front to Rear Pattern: Use for vehicles equipped with the same size directional.

3.2. How to rotate car tires

The time needed: 20 minutes.

STEP 1. Engage the parking brake. Just for your safety.

STEP 2. Loosen the lug nuts on all your wheels.

STEP 3. Lift up one wheel with a car jack and place a jack stand underneath it.

STEP 4. Remove the tires and rotate them according to the appropriate pattern for your type of tires. When you place a tire back onto the wheel mount, screw the lug nuts on by hand as much as you can.

STEP 5. Lower the car from the jack stands. Take the lug wrench, tighten the nuts even more.

FRIENDLY REMIND: During a tire rotation, there are 3 key things that should happen:

  • Each tire and wheel is removed from your car or truck and moved to a different position.
  • Air pressure should be checked and adjusted as necessary
  • Brakes should be checked while the tires are off and it's easy to see and reach them

Tire Alignment

Tire alignment is also known, called, or referred as wheel alignment. Alignment refers to an adjustment of a vehicle’s suspension – the system that connects a vehicle to its wheels.

1. Why is it important?

While driven, your vehicle can be pulled to one side consistently by misaligned wheels, and as a result, it makes you to constantly correct your steering. In addition, you can hear annoying “shimmy” or vibration in your steering wheel due to the lack of proper alignment. Wheels that are out of alignment can also cause uneven tire wear and uneven tires wear out more quickly. They don’t grip the road properly, especially in bad weather. Left unchecked, misaligned wheels can cost you time, money and give you headaches.

Maintaining proper alignment is essential to preserving your car’s safety, as well as its tread life. You can save hundreds of dollars on replacing tires due to premature treadwear.

2. When should you alignment your tires?

It is recommended by most manufacturers that you should get a four-wheel alignment at least once a year. Other times you may need a front-end or four-wheel alignment when your vehicle has one of these symptoms below:

  • Pulling to one side or the other.
  • Wandering on a level, straight road.
  • Shuddering or wheel vibration usually felt in the steering wheel.
  • Uneven tire wear.
  • Crooked steering wheel.

3. How can you align your tires?

Aligning your tires can be a very complex task. First, you have to understand about three main factors that affect alignment. Only by understanding the terms used and what they mean can you learn how to align your tires. After talking about alignment terms, we will learn how to align car tires.

3.1. Alignment terms

There are three things that always be mainly concerned when a technician checks your tire alignment. They are camber, caster, and toe.

Tire Rotation and Tire Alignment

CAMBER

Camber: it is the most widely discussed and controversial of the three elements. It is also the tilting of the wheels from the vertical when viewed from the front of the vehicle. The camber is positive when the wheels tilt outward at the top. Contrary, the camber is negative when the wheels tilt inward at the top

Tire Rotation and Tire Alignment

CASTER

Caster: It is a bit harder to conceptualize, it’s the angle of your steering axis when viewed from the side of your vehicle. Caster is positive if the line is angled forward, and negative if backward.

Tire Rotation and Tire Alignment

TOE

Toe: is considered to be the easiest concept to visualize. It is the extent to which your tires turn inward or outward when viewed from above - much like looking down at your toes and angling them inward or outward. Positive toe occurs when the front of both tires begins to face each other.

3.2. How can you align your tires?

The bad news for you is that you can not accurately adjust the camber and caster at home with simple tools, so the easy solution is to bring the car to a professional shop. However, we also have the good news: Usually, caster and camber don't need to be adjusted, unless your car has been in an accident. And finally, the best news is that toe - the most frequently needed alignment adjustment - is easy to set using a jack, a couple of open-end wrenches, a tape measure, and a pocketknife.

Using the following steps, you can correct the front-end alignment issues at home:

Step 1: Scaling and Cross-Weighting

  • Check your tire pressure: they should be appropriately and evenly inflated before you proceed.
  • Check your specifications: looking for details about the proper alignment settings in your car's repair manual. You should find numbers describing the car's ideal toe, camber, and possibly caster.
  • Check the front end suspension: you have to jack up the front end, and place it on jack stands. Make sure the steering wheel is unlocked.

Step 2: Measure Toe with the String Method

With the car still on the jack stands, follow these steps:

1. Determine the proper toe.

2. Draw a line: Scribe a thin line near the center of the tread with a pocketknife or scribe.

3. Lower the car: After you lower the car to the ground, push down on the car above each wheel a few times to move the suspension and allow the car to settle on its springs.

4. Roll the car: Unlock the steering wheel to make sure the wheels are straight, and push the car forward at least 10 feet.

5. Stretch a string: With an assistant, take a piece of string or wire measure the distance between the lines on the fronts of the tires at points level with the spindles. Measure the distance between the lines on the backs of tires at the same height

Tire Rotation and Tire Alignment

6. Subtract the differences:

  • The distance in the front is smaller than in the back: Your wheels toe-in
  • The measurement in the back is smaller: They toe-out.

Step 3: Measure Camber

  1. 1
    Determine the right camber
  2. 2
    Get a measuring triangle
  3. 3
    Place the triangle
  4. 4
    Take your measurement

Step 4: Correct Your Toe

Adjust the toe by loosening the lock nuts on the tie-rod ends next to both spindles and taking up the desired adjustment equally on each side to keep the steering wheel centered. Repeat the measuring procedure after you lock everything down to be sure you got it right.

REMEMBER: Take the car for a drive to make sure that any obvious alignment issues have been corrected.

Tire Rotation and Tire Alignment

Above are important things that you need to know about tire rotation and tire alignment. After this article, you can see that vehicles are designed with the manufacturer’s settings for a reason. Knowing how to rotate and align your tires can help to maintain the right setting numbers. It not only ensures the longevity of your tires, but also gives you safety driving condition.

I hope that you can find this article useful. Good luck with maintaining your car!

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