Tires do not wear evenly and it is preferable to take steps to ensure that all four tires wear at an even rate. In this way it is possible to extend the overall life of a single set of tires. Not only will the tires last longer, but the vehicle will perform better and the safety of the passengers will be better protected.
There are many reasons why tires wear at different rates. When a vehicle turns, for example, more pressure is placed upon the front tires, especially the one facing the direction of the turn. Front wheel drive vehicles are especially said to place tremendous pressure on the front wheels, causing them to wear much quicker than the rear ones. Braking also has an effect. There is also a distinct difference between the weight distribution on the front and back tires. Mechanical problems can also cause uneven wear. For example, any wheel that is out of alignment will wear much faster than the others. Over or under inflation may also have an effect. All of these factors can be negated by rotating the wheels from time to time.
Most manufacturers recommend that this practice should be executed after a certain distance has been covered. Not only does it help to prevent uneven wear if the tires, but it can most certainly even have a positive influence upon the road holding, handling and traction of the vehicle.
There are several schools of thought when it comes to the question of how exactly and how often this procedure should be performed. Most manufacturers provide guidelines and it may be wise to ask the advice of a reputable dealer. It seems that the most common answer is that the procedure should be performed roughly every twelve thousand kilometers.
Traditionally, the rearward cross method has been favored. This involves swapping the front and back wheels on each side of the car. The left front wheel goes to the left back and vice versa. In recent years, however, experts have come to recommend the X pattern. In this instance, the wheels are crossed back to front. For example, the left front wheel is placed at the right back and the right front wheel at the left back and vice versa. This method, when performed regularly, is said to ensure the best chance for an even wear.
Experts agree that the methods described above may be beneficial for all wheel drive and rear wheel drive vehicles, but that a different technique is necessary for front wheel drive cars. For these vehicles, the forward cross technique is recommended. This is because front wheel drive vehicles places particularly harsh demands on the front wheels. This method involves moving the back wheels to the front, but in a cross pattern. The left back wheel goes to the front right and the right back wheel goes to the left in the front. The two front wheels do not cross. The left wheel in the front goes to the left at the back of the car and the wheel in the front right side goes to the right back.
Detractors argue that there is little point in trying to ensure that all the tires wear simultaneously and at the same rate. They also point out that this practice necessitate that a complete set of wheels to be bought at a time, something not all car owners can afford. It is furthermore argued that it is best and safest to have the best tires at the rear, regardless of whether the car is front or rear wheel drive.
Yet many experts maintain that vehicles offer better handling when all the wheels are in the same condition. They admit that the replacement of all the wheels at the same time may prove to be an expensive exercise, but prudent automobile owners will certainly be able to plan for the periodic purchase of new tires so that a full set is available when it becomes necessary to replace the set.
When reviewing the various views, it seems as if tire rotation can only be beneficial. The practice allows for even wear on all the wheels, resulting in better handling and improved safety. Luckily, it is easy to perform this simple task at home by using only the tools that are supplied with the vehicle and that is used to change a flat tire.