Adjust Text Size

Don’t be Stupid: Rotate Your Tires

Written by Nickel - 34 Comments

On our way home from the airport last week, we noticed that our Honda Odyssey was “shimmying” way too much at highway speeds. We’ve also noticed a good bit more road noise than we recalled having in the past. We actually first noticed the problem on our way to the airport, but were hoping that it was just the roads that we were driving. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

Upon returning home, we took a closer look at the front tires. There were much more heavily worn than the rear tires. The next day, our local tire shop confirmed our suspicions… The front tires were shot. No big deal, right? Tires wear out all the time. Ah, but in this case, the tires didn’t actually have that many miles on them relative to their rated life span. On top of that, the rear tires looked almost new.

The problem? We hadn’t rotated our tires.

Why rotate?

As it turns out, your front tires experience a good bit more wear and tear than your back tires, especially on front-wheel drive cars. They carry more weight, they’re responsible for putting the engine power to the road, they do a disproportionate amount of braking, and they do all of the steering.

Also, depending on your driving habits, the left and right tires each face their own unique burdens. For example, highway driving often means a lot of cloverleafs, which result in high speed right-hand turns. In contrast, on surface street, left hand turns are typically taken at higher speeds, but right turns are tighter.

The end result of all of this is uneven tire wear. The goal of rotating your tires is to ensure that the entire set wears at the same rate, resulting in an overall safer set of tires that don’t have to replace tires out of sync. Ultimately, you should be rotating your tires in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications even if they don’t show signs of uneven wear. But we didn’t.

The end result

In our case, we burned up a pair of tires and didn’t have a leg to stand on warranty-wise since we hadn’t rotated them. While we could’ve just replaced the two worn tires, we weren’t particularly happy with these tires in the first place. For one thing, they appeared to have worn faster than they should have, even after accounting for the lack of rotation. In addition, while they had gotten much louder as they wore out, they weren’t exactly quiet in the first place.

We ended up talking to the tire shop about this and they agreed to buy back the two rear tires (at a reduced price) so we could replace them with a full set of matching (and better) tires. In case you’re curious, the old tires were Goodyear Integrity, whereas the new tires are Goodyear Assurance ComforTred. We’ve only had them a week, but we’re already much happier with them. They’re much quieter and also seem to give a better ride (though the latter point is a bit subjective).

Staying the course

Now… We just need to commit to regular rotations. It really shouldn’t be that big of a deal, as the tires come with free rotations. As long as we make a point of getting our oil changed at the tire shop, we can just have the tires rotated when the Odyssey is in for its regular service.

To assist with this, we’re stealing a page from MightyBargainHunter’s book, who recommends using one of your trip odometers (most cars nowadays have two) to keep track of mileage between service visits.

Photo Credit: livinus

Published on July 8th, 2008
Modified on August 14th, 2008 - 34 Comments
Filed under: Automotive, Frugality

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

Related articles...

» Twelve Great Resources for Buying Smart
» Don’t Be Stupid – Leave Your Money in the Bank
» Save Money With Do-it-Yourself Car Repairs
» Gas Boycotts are Stupid
» Don’t Miss These Tax Breaks, Part 3
» Don’t Miss These Tax Breaks, Part 2
» How to Improve Your Gas Mileage (and How Not To)
» Weekly Roundup – Top Ten Edition

Was this article useful? Please sign up to receive our content via e-mail:

You will receive only the daily updates, and can unsubscribe at anytime.

34 Responses to “Don’t be Stupid: Rotate Your Tires”

  1. 1
    A.J. Says:

    Also, if you have unidirectional tires, make sure they’re put on correctly. Last time I had my tires rotated the mechanic said someone had put them on backwards!

  2. 2
    thad Says:

    http://www.tirerack.com/ is great for tire reviews.
    I honestly wouldn’t totally trust a tire shop guy, just because I’d be afraid he’d push a tire that helps him out just as much as it helps me.

  3. 3
    Clean Simple Says:

    I too don’t rotate my tires as I should. comes from buying my tires at a place I almost never go near. Next time, I’m getting my tires at Costco (which has free rotation) so I can get them rotated while I do my regular Costco run.

  4. 4
    nickel Says:

    thad: Yeah, we did our homework at TireRack this time around. Turns out the Integrity tires suck, whereas as the ComforTreds are rated quite highly.

  5. 5
    Angie Says:

    What are the recommended intervals for this… Time has come and gone since I should have rotated mine..I am at least 10k (20k total!) miles past when I should have… should I still rotate them and wait equal amount of mileage? Anyway to correct the situation now?

  6. 6
    Kurt Says:

    Odd. My car is the exact opposite of the experience here: back tires wear out in about half the time of the front, and they can’t be rotated. :-(

  7. 7
    nickel Says:

    Angie: Get thee to a mechanic! :)

    The recommended intervals vary by manufacturer, seller, etc. In our case, the tire shop is recommending every 3k miles because they want us to come in and pay for an oil change that often. Based on the owner’s manual, though, we only change oil every 5k miles, so that’s when we’ll be rotating the tires.

  8. 8
    nickel Says:

    Kurt: Is your car rear wheel drive? Or do you drive backwards a lot? :)

  9. 9
    MITBeta Says:

    I rotate the tires on both my car and van every 10,000 miles myself. I trust the shop that put the tires on to do it right, but don’t get near it very often. Most shops that I’ve dealt with WAY overtorque the wheel lugs, which means that there’s no chance you’re going to get the lugs off when you have a flat tire on the side of the road — not to mention the possibility of damaging the wheel, rotor, etc.

  10. 10
    Aaron Says:

    Sorry to hear about the crappy luck. It always sucks to learn a lesson the expensive way. Personally, I just rotate at every oil change (5,000 miles) so I don’t have an extra thing to remember.

    The Comfortreads are good tires, you’ll be pleased. Don’t forget to REGULARLY CHECK YOUR AIR PRESSURE.

  11. 11
    Blaine Moore Says:

    I’m not keeping track of when to rotate my tires, or when to change my oil. I’ll just let the car tell me when its necessary and make an appointment then.

  12. 12
    Kym Says:

    I need to go get an oil change and tire rotation – I actually have no idea how many miles I’ve put on my car with these tires (got new tires last October after a bunch of tire blowouts), just know that it’s time for the 25k maintenance which calls for oil change and tire rotation, so may as well! Thanks for the reminder.

  13. 13
    KC Says:

    I’m picky about tires, probably cause I keep a car at least 12 years and its important to have good tires on an old car. Heck, its important to have good tires period. I only buy Michelins, but I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy other brands. Just make sure the place you bought your tires is nearby – that way you’ll be more likely to get them rotated regularily and worked on. Michelins are under warranty and all the work is free – so I make sure I buy from a place close to home (or work) so its convienant to rotate.

    The other reasons I buy Michelins are the warranty (65k miles) and because they ride like butter. I may pay a lot for those tires, but the ride is unsurpassed and the car (a sports sedan) handles better.

    Think of getting tires like this…would you run a marathon in cheap tennis shoes you bought at Payless? So why would you buy cheap tires?

  14. 14
    KC Says:

    BTW, I noticed oil changes have come up in this conversation. Of course most oil change places and mechanics recommend every 3k miles. I go about 5k, cause my car recommends 7k. But the car is getting older (7 yrs) and so I’m going to change it more frequently. Plus I’m in a southern city and its hot and I drive the car hard and almost never on the highway for more than a mile or two.

    Personally I think if a car is newer you can do what the manual recommends. But as your car ages you might change oil more frequently ,especially if you do a lot of stop and go.

  15. 15
    Benjamin Says:

    Very good article for your readers! I did this exact same thing! We put for brand new Goodyear tires on our car. The front ones only lasted about 20K miles (they should go 40k) because we neglected to rotate them.

    Worse yet, rotations are free when you buy your tires from SEARS.

    LE$$on learned!

    Benjamin

  16. 16
    TheMightyQuinn Says:

    I’m sorry, but I have to say this:

    I rotate my tires EVERY TIME i drive them!

    haha. I’m sorry, I really am.

  17. 17
    Funny about Money Says:

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one… When I first escaped marriage, I’d never even heard of rotating tires! That was one of the 87 gerjillion things the ex- always did and never bothered my silly little head with. Not until the car started bouncing down the road did I learn tires were supposed to be rotated.

    I get the tires rotated free at Costco…with no hassling about oil changes.

    And when I take the car to my mechanic, he also rotates the tires.

  18. 18
    Clair Schwan Says:

    Tires always last much longer when you rotate them so they don’t get a particular wear pattern setting in.

    A few years ago when I replaced my tires, I was taking long trips for business, so I bought a set of 85,000 mile Michelins. A set of 5 tires, with the fifth tire mounted on an alloy wheel like the rest of the wheels on my car.

    Those 5 tires get rotated about every 3,000 miles. They have about 80,000 miles on them now and still have plenty of tread left. I expect to make it to about 100,000 miles before they need to be replaced.

    The idea behind 5 tires mounted on wheels is so I have a full size spare with me when I go on long trips. I don’t like the handling and braking characteristics of those little doughnut spare tires, even though they are supposed to last up to 3,000 miles, so I always pack a full size spare. That way, all the tires handle the same, before and after the flat.

    If you buy tires at a tire store and have your car serviced elsewhere, be certain to tell your mechanic NOT to rotate your tires as part of the regular service. Otherwise, your rotation schedule will be thrown off, especially if you roll in on 4 tires and leave that 5th tire and wheel back home.

    When you buy a set of 5 tires, ideally, they should all be worn out about the same time, so specify a 5 tire rotation if you have a full size spare.

    Clair

  19. 19
    KC Says:

    I sliced one of my tires on a sewer grate and had to have it replaced. Unfortunately the other 3 tires were well worn, but still had about 15k miles left on them. So when I had to get the other 3 replaced I replaced them with 4 new ones and had them give me the partially used one. That way if I hit the same sewer grate at least I’ll have another tire ready to go.

  20. 20
    Chris Says:

    I went from Goodyear Integrity to Goodyear Assurance ComforTred on my 2003 Toyota Corolla back in 6/06 at 26,500 miles. Now at 50,000, they’ve been excellent thus far, noticeably quieter, and gave me the same mpg (manual shift, power nothing “CE” model, I get 32 city, 37-40 hwy, pretty much like the EPA estimate (32/40) claimed). Go to Tirerack.com for user ratings and pricing, then print-out its price and make your local vendor compete. Worked for me, I’ve been happy since. And yes, it makes a difference, on this car at least, if I rotate the tires — about every 7000 miles.

  21. 21
    George Says:

    One comment – I do agree that rotating the tires will extend their life, but I don’t think the economics is there if you don’t have free lifetime rotations from the place you get your tires from. You should always balance your tires at the same time as rotation and that can cost as much as $40 to get them rotated and balanced. – not worth it to do every 3-5000 miles. I would rather pay for 2 new tires every 40000 mile and rotate front to back, then take the time and money to rotate that frequently.

  22. 22
    Clair Schwan Says:

    George: You are right, rotate and balance at the same time, and the cost-effectiveness is found in “free” rotation. Otherwise, the cost of the tire increases each time you have to pay additional for the service.

    I neglected to mention that I got my tires at Sam’s Club, so all the rotation, flat repair and balancing is part of the price you pay.

  23. 23
    jeff Says:

    it sounds like you need an alignment. if properly aligned tires should, more or less, wear evenly.

  24. 24
    nickel Says:

    jeff: It’s not an alignment problem. The wear differential was primarily front-to-back, which is caused by a lack of rotation.

  25. 25
    o'reilly Says:

    ….sure, everybody says tires should be rotated — but you’ll have a hard time finding any hard facts or scientific tests demonstrating that it’s true — or saves any significant amount of money.

    Plenty of opinions, personal tales and assertions — but NO facts. Tire wear can be caused by many things, other than lack of rotation.

    How much more tire-mileage do you get by rotation ??
    (How do you know ?)

    How much money do you save by rotating ?

  26. 26
    Kurt Says:

    My car is rear wheel drive with 50/50 weight distribution (more weight on the back than a normal car) and the tires that came with the car are pretty soft, and thus wear out quickly.

  27. 27
    Focus On Your Money Maker Says:

    Also, a quick note when buying a car, do some research on the cost of tires when they do need replacing. I bought a car and was shocked when I had to replace the tires and the cheapest tire for the car was $120 each.

  28. 28
    My Journey From Debt Says:

    This reminds me, I need to change my oil and I should rotate my tires while I’m at it….note to self, buy washer fluid tomorrow before heading out of town…

  29. 29
    Sunderware Says:

    I’m surprised no one mentioned this yet… but I highly recommend buying tires from Costco. I don’t know how competetive their prices are… but they offer free rotations, balancing, flat repairs, and nitrogen inflation for the life of the tires, provided you maintain a membership.

    But just for that, it has always seemed like the membership has paid for itself… assuming a rotation and balance costs $30… the membership is more than made up for after 2 rotations.

    However, I’m with thad… I wouldn’t trust a salesman to tell me … well pretty much anything. I did my research on Tirerack and then purchased at Costco.

  30. 30
    T-R-A Says:

    I had one set of Goodyears. Crappy things didn’t even last 20,000 miles. Bought nothing but Michelins ever since and they always last 50,000 or better (where I live is usually very hard on tires, but I’d still expect better than 20,000 out of any set)…

  31. 31
    Jesse Says:

    I hit a deer a while back, which rubbed bald marks on each of my tires. When I had my tires rotated, the marks were misaligned, and the car now shakes horribly. Being that I only have 20k miles on the tires, it’s a pretty frustrating feeling.

    I’m surprised no one’s mentioned alignment as well. Toe in or out can be just as hard, if not harder on the life of tires, not to mention the effect it has on gas mileage.

  32. 32
    Mark Says:

    Here’s my problem: We have a 2001 Intrepid, and every time I get the tires rotated, it results in a VERY noticeable pull to the left. It’s not alignment, because I just had that done last December. Tire inflation is watched carefully. For this particular car, I’ve pretty much given up on rotation.

    Any ideas on why rotation causes this problem? Could it be the way the car itself wears the tires?

  33. 33
    C Says:

    To the page author:

    Uneven wear is caused by poor alignment. When you suddenly notice a shimmy at highway speeds it’s because you lost a counterweight.

    Sorry but you got suckered. Your mechanic sold you new tires you didn’t need. A $8 balance-job would have fixed your shimmy.

    -C.

  34. 34
    Nickel Says:

    C: It’s well known that front tires wear fast than back tires, especially with front-wheel drive. Poor alignment affects uneven wear from left to right. That wasn’t our problem. And our problems weren’t caused by mis-alignment or imbalance due to a missing weight. Rather, we wore the tires down to the point that it severely affected their performance. I saw it with my own eyes.

Leave a Reply

Disclaimer...
Because rates and offers from advertisers shown on this website change frequently, please visit referenced sites for current information. This website may be compensated by companies mentioned through advertising, affiliate programs or otherwise.

FiveCentNickel User Survey