Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rotating Your Tires

Whether you plan of rotating your tires yourself, or paying someone to do it, lets look at why rotate in the first place. Tires do not wear evenly on the back and rear. On a front wheel drive car, (FWD) the front tires will wear faster than the rear. They are carrying a heavier load and are used to move the vehicle. They also wear due to being the wheels that steer. Parking, pulling, turning a corner, all this brings force to bear on the front tires and force creates friction and the result is heat. Heat an friction produces wear. So you need to rotate your tires at least every 10,000 miles or sooner if stated in your owner's manual. Otherwise the fronts will wear out much faster than the rear and you will be buying 2 tires for the front, with older tires on the rear. You must rotate to equalize tread wear. You should rotate the tires side to side. In other words left rear to left front, and right rear to right front. Before getting started it is imperative you own a torque wrench. The lug nuts must not be over-tightened and a torque wrench is a necessity. Tighten the lug nuts too much and you will warp the rotors, costing you money later on. If you do not own one and do not plan on buying one then pay a trusted mechanic to rotate your tires. 
Park the vehicle on a level hard surface and set the parking brake, put the transmission in park or 1st gear if manual. Pick which side you will work on first and place wheel chocks around the wheels on the other side. With a lug wrench or socket/ratchet loosen all the lug nuts on both wheels you are rotating. If you are using an Air Impact wrench you can skip this step. Place a floor jack at the factory jack point just behind the front wheel. Normally it is 1 - 2 feet back of the wheel. Look for a notch and place the jack under the frame. Jack the car up just enough for both front and rear wheels to come slightly off the pavement. If they don't then move the jack point until they do. When you find the correct spot, mark it with a permanent marker for future tire rotations. Place jack stands under the frame front and rear. Now remove the lug nuts front and rear and place in a safe place, not on the pavement. Remove the front tire and look inside the wheel for debris, such as a hunk of tar stuck to the wheel, or anything else. This can throw the wheel out of balance so remove it. I personally use this opportunity to give the backside of my wheels and tires a good cleaning.  Inspect the tire for cuts, damage, or uneven tire wear, which may be a sign you need an alignment. After cleaning roll that tire to the rear, remove the rear tire and immediately mount the clean wheel. Clean the wheel/tire you just removed and mount it on the front. Put all the lug nuts back on and hand tighten. Make sure the lug nuts are seated properly, and installed correctly. Hard to believe, but some people have installed them backwards with the seating surface out, so be sure. They will come off if mounted incorrectly. Now take that wrench you loosened the lug nuts with and tighten them snug but do not try to tighten tightly. Remove the jack stands and lower the car. Take out your torque wrench and set it to whatever the torque specs listed in your owner's manual are for your vehicle. On my Accord it is 80 Ft/Lbs. Your vehicle may or may not be the same. Don't know, then call your local dealer and ask. The lug nuts must be torqued correctly. Torque the lug nuts in a criss-cross pattern. Now move to the other side and repeat the above procedure. Another job well done.

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Mayfield, Ky, United States
Retired and have been working on automobiles for over 50 years. I have learned that the best way to care for your car is to DIY. I personally do not trust the kid working at Spiffy Lube to change my oil. If, I want it done right I do it myself. Automobiles today are very complex but some things you can still do yourself. I have years of experience working on all kinds of vehicles and want to pass along what I have learned to those wishing to DIY.