With this crummy economy, one way of saving a few bucks is by scheduling regular car maintenance. Now, there are many ways you can maintain your auto such as replacing engine oil, checking the braking system, and inspecting the suspension system. Today, we’re going to tackle another critical part of your auto that is rotating the tires. Here, what we’re going to look at specifically is the concept of 4 tire vs 5 tire rotation.
In case you didn’t know, your car’s tires don’t wear out uniformly. The front tires usually wear out faster than the rear ones leaving each tire with its own uneven wear characteristics. What this means is that you’ll have to spend lots of cash each year just to replace your tires. So, to prevent spending a lot just on tires, this guide will discuss what exactly tire rotation is, the correct tire rotation patterns, and why it’s important to rotate your tires.[toc]
4 Tire vs 5 Tire Rotation: Proper Way to Rotate Tires
What is Tire Rotation and Why is it Important?
The importance of tire maintenance goes beyond your driving experience. While it’s important to inspect your tires regularly, rotating them periodically is one way you can prevent total wear of your tires. So, for those wondering what tire rotation really is, this is generally the idea of changing the position of each tire to improve the wear quality while still pushing those rubber tires to their life limits.
Now, there are many benefits of tire rotation you’re likely to observe. Apart from getting more life out of them, you’re likely to experience better car handling, increased tire performance, and improved gas mileage among other benefits. With that said, let’s get a roundup of some of the benefits you’re likely to enjoy with tire rotation.
- Improved Fuel Economy:
By rotating your tires, there’s reduced wear and tear since the amount of wear is distributed evenly across each tire. What this means is that there is less road friction and tire pulling which basically improves traction and stability. With increased stability, your tires rotate more smoothly causing the engine to perform efficiently for better gas mileage not forgetting a reduced cost in repair.
- Even Tire Wear:
Tires wear out differently due to many factors such as driving habits, type of terrain, temperature fluctuations, and the type of car you’re driving. For instance, if you’re driving a front-wheel-drive car, the front tires are likely to wear out faster since they bear the burden of driving your car while still steering it.
Also, if you have a habit of aggressively turning your car from left to right when driving, your front tires are likely to wear out faster than usual. So, to avoid some of these unwanted tire wear, you need to rotate your tires periodically.
Although it’s fine if you can rotate the tires yourself, it’s usually better if you can hire a professional mechanic to do the job so that they can inspect other areas such as the braking system, tire pressure, and the suspension system.
- Improved Car Performance:
When tire rotation is observed periodically, you will enjoy better car handling as well as a safer ride. You see, when you avoid tire rotation for too long, what happens is that the tires wear out due to road friction leading to front-end misalignment which generally affects your drivability. In extreme cases, this situation can result in a blown-out tire which is actually dangerous.
- Decreased Vibrations:
Another advantage of rotating your tires is to reduce vibrations caused by extreme tire wear. These annoying vibrations can be felt on the steering wheel when driving and can leave you with lots of discomforts when driving.
- Saves Money:
Last but not least, rotating your tires periodically helps you to save a lot of money that could otherwise have been used to replace the tires. It also increases your fuel economy and allows each component to work properly thus saving a lot in repair costs. Finally, by rotating the tires routinely, you can have your car serviced all under one cost thus saving more on repair costs.
When Should You Rotate Your Tires
Although we’ve mentioned the various benefits of a tire rotation, one burning question most people have been asking themselves is when exactly is the right time to rotate the tires. Normally, tire rotation is considered a common maintenance task that should be scheduled every 5,000 to 8,000 miles. Although it seems normal, tire rotation is a very critical process that can impact your drivability since the tires are the ones that link your 2-ton car with the road.
In most cases, the front tires are the ones that exhibit quicker rates of wear since they’re usually tasked to handle most of the car’s performance. For instance, they’re responsible for braking, steering, and most of all, they bear the added weight of your car’s engine.
So, by rotating your tires, you actually relieve the front wheels from the enormous duty of handling your car and give them a chance to wear out evenly. Although we’ve mentioned the benefits of rotating your tires, what we didn’t mention is some of the factors that cause tire wear. We’ve mentioned steering, braking, and weight, right? However, there are other reasons that cause uneven tire wear such as poorly inflated tires, worn-out suspension components, improper tire alignment, and uneven weight distribution.
Thankfully, tire wear can be prevented by spreading your tires to different corners of the car. While you can rotate the tires depending on the mileage, you can also consider checking the car’s manual to learn how frequently you’re supposed to rotate the tires.
Finally, another perfect time you can consider rotating your tires is when you’re scheduling a comprehensive car maintenance check. This can be accomplished when your car is off the ground when your mechanic is changing the oil or when inspecting the braking and the suspension systems.
So, How Do You Rotate Your Tires?
Now, the first step of rotating your tires is by inspecting them thoroughly to ensure they’re of the same size. You see, car models are different. For instance, most performance cars have wider rear tires and thin front tires. On the other hand, there are those car models (such as the Audi RS3) that have wider front tires and thin rear tires. With such cars, rotating wider tires with their thin counterparts will more likely be impossible.
Another case is with the wheels. This is demonstrated by some specific car models such as the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro z/28 that has the same tire sizes but different wheel sizes. Since the rear wheels are wider than the fronts, you have to remove the tire from the wheel for you to rotate them. Thankfully, since your car comes with a user manual, you have to peruse through it thoroughly to understand the nature of your tires.
Since we’ve mentioned the first step of rotating your tires, we’ll go straight to the second step that is marking the tires with a pencil to avoid losing track of which tire belongs to where. So, once you’re done marking the tires, loosen the lug nuts of each tire before jacking it off. Loosening the nuts when the tires are on the ground is very important as it saves you the time of having to deal with sticky nuts when the car is on the jack stand.
So, once the car is off the ground, remove the nuts with your fingers and confirm that all the tires and wheels are of the same size. Make sure you understand the tires to determine whether they’re directional or non-directional.
4 Tire Rotation Method
The 4 tire rotation method is quite common in most cars and it usually comes up with three rotation patterns. This method can be used with directional or non-directional tires as well as vehicles that use front-drive, rear-drive, and all-wheel-drive. Before you start rotating the tires, you need to inspect them thoroughly to ensure that both the front and rear tires are of the same size. So, if you’re ready, let’s begin.
- 1. Forward Cross Pattern
The forward cross rotation pattern is one of the most common patterns used in most cars today. This rotation method is associated with cars that use the front-wheel-drive transmission. Just as we mentioned earlier, each tire on your car has its own uneven wear characteristics. For instance, front tires are susceptible to regular wear and tear since they hold most of the car’s weight as well as handling most of the car’s performance issues.
To prevent an accelerated rate of wear, the rear tires are supposed to be shifted on opposite sides of the front axles while the front tires are supposed to be swapped straight to the rear on the same side. When swapping the tires, it’s recommended that you inspect the depth of the treads and the tire pressure to ensure the tires are in perfect condition.
- 2. Rear-Wheel Drive
The rear-wheel-drive rotation pattern is usually used when your vehicle is a rear-wheel drive or a four-wheel drive. With these types of vehicles, the rate of tire wear is usually more balanced since there’s a division of labor between the front and the rear tires. While the rear tires deliver the power, the front tires take care of the steering and the braking system.So, to rotate tires in this type of setup, the rear tires should shift straight to the front axle on the same side while the front tires should move pretty much on opposite sides of the rear axles.
- 3. The X-Pattern
The X-pattern rotation method is an alternative to the forward cross pattern for those motorists driving front-wheel-drive vehicles. In this tire rotation method, the front tires are swapped with the rear tires but in opposite positions. Therefore, the front tires will not go directly at the back on the same side but rather on the diagonal side. Likewise, the rear tires will move on opposite sides of the front axles.
Directional and Non-Directional Patterns
Now, following advancements in modern technology, the vehicle industry has continued to redesign car tires and wheels to improve drivability and overall car performance. This has led to the introduction of two other rotation patterns which are the directional and the non-directional patterns also known as the front to rear and the side to side patterns.
- 4. Directional Pattern
This tire rotation pattern is also known as the front to a back pattern where tires on the same side are designed to swap only on one side. This means that the front and rear tires on the left can swap while the front and rear tires on the right can swap each other as well. For this method to work, your car’s tires must be directional and must rotate in the same direction. What makes directional tires quite unique is because the tires have a one-way tread pattern that’s optimized depending on the direction the tires are rotating.
The tread patterns are also angled to optimize handling and are designed to channel water perfectly under the tires to reduce hydroplaning and improve traction when driving on wet conditions. For those DIYers looking to swap the tires themselves, directional tires have little arrows or triangles on the sidewall that indicate the direction in which the tires are supposed to turn.
- 5. Non-Directional Pattern
The non-directional pattern is also known as the side-to-side pattern. Unlike the directional pattern, the non-directional pattern is not limited as it offers you the freedom to rotate your tires both on the front and rear axles. However, this pattern is mostly used on side-to-side tires such as switching rear tires and front tires independently.
Now, for most performance cars that have thick rear tires and thin front tires (and vice-versa), considering the side-to-side pattern is the only logical procedure. However, if you wish to rotate the tires using the X-pattern, you’ll have to dismount the tires from the wheels then remount them on the opposite wheels to enhance balance.
- 6. All-Wheel Drive
Just like driving any other vehicle, all-wheel-drive vehicles will also require tire rotation maintenance to stay in good shape. Although there’s a common misconception that all-wheel-drive tires wear out more evenly, this is not always the case since 4-wheel drive systems don’t always drive with all four tires all the time.
In fact, most all-wheel-drive vehicles use the front tire mode when driving leaving the front tires with a better chance of wearing out rapidly. Also, the weight difference between the front and rear can affect the rate of wear you’re likely to experience with the tires.
Therefore, if you’re driving an all-wheel or a four-wheel-drive vehicle and you’re planning to rotate the tires, always follow the rear-wheel-drive pattern. The front tires will switch to the opposite sides of the rear axles while the rear tires will move straight to the front axles without changing sides. This means that the left front tire will switch to the right rear, the left front to the right rear, and the left rear will move to the left front while the right rear will go to the right front.
5 Tire Rotation Method
The next tire rotation method you might want to consider besides the 4-tire rotation is the 5-tire rotation method. This method is quite common among most motorists with four-wheel drive vehicles. Unfortunately, it’s also the most complex as it includes the spare tire into the equation. What makes it even more complex is because the majority of modern vehicles today are equipped with spare tires that aren’t intended for extended driving.
Such spare tires are usually branded as “for temporary use” meaning they’re lightweight with shallower tread depths making them the best for temporary use before you repair the original tire. So, in case your spare tire is labeled “for temporary use”, then a 5-tire rotation method will generally be impossible to implement. However, if your spare tire is of the same size as the rest of the four tires, then this method will generally work for you.
In most cases, the 5-tire rotation method works best for 4×4 SUV vehicles and All-wheel drive vehicles since the spare tires are of the same size as the rest of the tires. In this case, the spare will need to be rotated to give each tire a break. Also, this will give the spare tire a chance to help out instead of sitting there waiting to be reused. So, if you’re considering the 5-tire rotation method, here are two patterns you can consider.
- 7. Forward Cross
The forward cross pattern is usually considered when your vehicle is a front-wheel drive with non-directional tires and a matching spare tire. In this pattern, the rear tires will move on the front hub in a criss-cross manner while the left front tire will move to the left rear hub. The spare tire will then move to the right rear hub while the front tire will become the spare tire.
- 8. Rearward Cross
On the other hand, if you’re driving a rear-wheel-drive vehicle or a 4×4 wheel car with a full-size matching spare, then the rearward cross pattern is the best to consider. In this pattern, the rear tires will switch to the front hubs. Next, the right front tire will switch to the left rear hub while the spare tire will move to the right rear hub. The front tire will then become the new spare tire.
As you can see, the idea of tire rotation is one of the smart ways you can consider extending the life of your tires. Other ways you can think of include adjusting the pressure on each tire, even weight distribution, and regular inspection on the nuts to ensure they’re tight enough.
Finally, when you’re planning to rotate your tires, always make sure that you peruse through the owner’s manual to understand the type of tires on your vehicle and whether they’re directional or non-directional. In case you don’t have a manual, you can inquire at a dealership, ask a car expert, or visit your car’s manufacturer’s website to inquire from their customer support team.