How To Rotate Tires At Home

Unless you like buying tires sooner than you need to, rotating your car's tires is required maintenance.

how to rotate your car tires

Many DIYers, like myself, do tire rotation right in their own driveway. Aside from saving money and a trip to the repair shop, you'll be avoiding all-too-common stripped and over-tightened wheel nuts. And you'll get a chance to check your brakes as well.


Types Of Tire Rotation

The majority of vehicles only require front-to-rear tire rotation. This is when the back tires move to the front on the same side.

front to rear tire rotation

Other types of tire rotation:

Cross Rotate

If you have a vehicle with all-wheel drive, an X-shaped cross pattern is recommended for best results. So the back tires will swap sides as they move to the front. To cross rotate tires on an all-wheel drive car, you'll need four good jack stands.

On rear-wheel drive vehicles, you can optionally cross-rotate, but front to rear is the more common practice.

Side to Side Rotation

On a handful of sports cars, front wheels and tires are different than the back. On these cars, tires can only be rotated side to side.

Five-Tire Rotation

Most modern vehicles have a compact, temporary spare (or none at all), so it can't be included in a tire rotation. But, if your spare wheel and tire is full-size, and it's non-directional, and it's not branded "for temporary use", you can include it in your rotations.

Uni-Directional vs Non-Directional Tires

Most car tires are non-directional, meaning they can spin in either direction. Uni-directional tires are meant to spin in one direction for maximum traction. Not many vehicles have uni-directional tires, but if yours does, attention needs to be paid as to which side of the vehicle they're on.


Tools and Equipment Needed

Floor Jack. If you don't own one already, a hydraulic floor jack will come in handy for other maintenance jobs as well.

tools and equipment needed for tire rotation

Jack Stands. For safety's sake, after the vehicle is lifted, rest the car on top of jack stands while working.

Hand tools. To remove the wheel nuts, I use a 1/2" breaker bar with a 3" extension. A 1/2" ratchet will make wheel nut installation a little quicker. You'll also need a wheel nut socket.

how to rotate tires at home

Torque Wrench. After the countless times I've removed and installed wheels, I still rely on a 1/2" Torque Wrench for proper tightening. A click-style wrench is always preferred over the cheaper beam-style.

rotate tires


Park your vehicle on a flat surface, and apply the parking brake. Before lifting, loosen the wheel nuts slightly, but you're not removing them yet.

how to rotate your car tires

On a front to rear tire rotation, you only need to lift one side of the vehicle at a time. With a floor jack, lift as evenly on center as you can, so both front and rear tires raise up off ground evenly. Work the jack slowly, just enough so that it just lifts the tires off the ground.

You can now remove the wheel nuts from the wheel studs.

Stick To A System

Decide on which wheel comes off first, and where it's going. Years ago, when I worked at the tire shop, we'd mark the tires where they were going with chalk (L/F, L/R, R/F, R/R).

Whatever procedure you choose, stick to it, so you don't inadvertently put wheels back in the same spot they came off!

After moving each wheel to it's new location, tighten the lug nuts as much as you can by hand with the wheel nut socket. Once all the wheel nuts are on the wheel, tighten mildly with a ratchet. The idea here is to tighten all the wheel nuts evenly and uniformly before torqueing.

Carefully raise the jack and remove the jack stands from under the car. Let the vehicle down slowly.

Torque Twice

It's best to use a star pattern to tighten the wheel nuts to required torque. On this 2021 Mazda CX5, I first tightened to 60 ft/lbs with a torque wrench, then 80 ft/lbs, and then to the recommended 95 ft/lbs. Then I finish with a double check at 95 ft/lbs.

torque wheel nuts after rotating tires

Repeat process for the other side of the car.

Check/adjust tire pressures, then a quick road test to make sure all is good.


Check Brake Pads and Rotors

Get the most out of your tire rotation - before putting the wheels back on, check to see how your brakes are doing.

check brakes when rotating tires

Shine a flashlight into the caliper and check the width of the brake pads. When new, brake pads are about 8mm thick. When they wear down to less than 2mm, it's time to replace them.

Check Front Suspension for Wear

Before or after taking the wheels off, grab a front tire with both hands and rock it forward and backward. What you're doing is checking for side to side play. A little is OK, but anything more than 1/4" back and forth movement is a sign of a worn wheel bearing or tie rod.

This is also a good time to check for ripped CV axle or tie rod boots.


How Often Should Tires Be Rotated?

Typically, tire rotation interval is between 5,000 to 7,500 miles. Rear wheel drive vehicles are much more forgiving about tires not being rotated enough. The opposite is true of front wheel drive vehicles - keep the interval as close to 5k as you can on FWD vehicles!

Leaving your car's tires in the same spot for 10,000+ miles may cause uneven wear that does not "wear back" once you do rotate them.

TIP: Write down the mileage when you rotate your tires and make a note to do it again in another 5,000 to 7,500 miles.


Free Tire Rotation?

Beware: this is a common sales tactic and unfortunately very abused. Repair shops want your vehicle in their bays, so they can inspect it and try to sell upsell you on other services you may or may not need.


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Related Articles:

Best Jack Stands and Lifting Procedures

Best Oil For Daily Drivers

Ratchet Buyer's Guide

Five Things I Learned Working At The Tire Shop

Daily Driver Maintenance