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Kid: Hey Dad, how often do you rotate your tires?

Dad: Well, Kid, every time I drive. I turn the car on, put it in gear, and the wheels go round and round and round…

Tire rotation may be a great set up for a Dad Joke, but it’s also a very real and necessary part of regular car maintenance.

Ideal tire care not only involves making sure your tire pressure is correct but also keeping an eye on tread wear. You can easily extend or shorten the life of your tires depending on how you care for them, which includes regular tire rotation.

Here’s what to look for, and when to take your car to the service center, so that you can avoid blowouts or flat tires.

Do We Seriously Have to Rotate Tires?

Actually, no. If you feel like rolling the dice, you can just ignore your tires, never check your tread depth, and pretend like they’re not a thing. You’ll start to notice that they’re losing air frequently. Your car will shake side to side or wobble violently from uneven wear. You’ll slip through corners and slide through stops on those bald tires. Your fuel economy will drop considerably.

Chances are also good that you’ll void any warranty on your brand new car. Your friends will definitely stop asking you for a ride because it’s too scary, and you’ll live a very lonely life.

Ok, maybe that last part is a stretch. But, seriously, your ride quality will go downhill really fast, and you do run the risk of seriously and permanently screwing up the way your car handles, especially if you get in an accident from skidding, sliding, or hydroplaning.

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So yes, it’s a really, really good idea to rotate your tires regularly.

You see, despite the logic that all four wheels are in the same place at the same time, tire wear does its own thing. If you don’t believe us, just pop out to the garage and take a look at your car’s tires. You’ll notice that the tread depth is a little different in some spots. These are called wear patterns.

If left unattended, your tires will continue to wear down in those same spots over time. If you’ve ever worn a really old pair of shoes to work out, you know where this is going. Eventually, those worn-out spots start changing the landscape of the rubber, making the surface slick or dangerously uneven.

So What Does Tire Rotation Do?

The idea behind regular tire rotation is that you’ll give the tread a chance to wear evenly all the way around, thus extending the life of your tires.

When it comes to tire rotation pattern, there are many, many schools of thought. Some people swap front tires and rear tires. Some swap opposite sides and positions, meaning they replace the front left with the rear right tire, and vice versa.

Some people advise different tire rotation patterns for front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive vehicles. Obviously, the wheels that are doing the work are going to wear faster, meaning front-wheel drive vehicles will see greater wear in the front tires, and RWD cars in the rear.

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All wheel drive vehicles are not exempt, either. Even though you think the AWD badge should allow tires to wear evening, it simply is not so. There’s actually a surprising amount of variation in all-wheel drive functionality, but that’s a topic for another article. The moral of the story is: Get your tires rotated, regardless of your drivetrain.

How Do I Know Which Tire Rotation Pattern to Use?

Vehicle manufacturers like to do things their own way, so before you start pulling tires and moving them, be sure to take a gander at the owner’s manual. Here, you’ll find all sorts of important information, such as what type of tire to get and tire sizes, as well as how often you ought to rotate them.

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Most experts agree that it’s a good idea to give your tires a visual inspection frequently to check for any weird wear patterns, bulges, or bald spots. These are signs of uneven wear that should be addressed immediately. Then, each time you have an oil change, give the tires a serious inspection. This is also a good time to go ahead and rotate the tires, if you haven’t done so recently.

Eventually, yes, you will need to get new tires. Rotating your tires regularly will extend the life significantly, but not eternally. When it comes to get a new set of tires, though, your car and your service specialist will thank you greatly for treating it well and keeping it aligned and balanced through regular tire rotation. Plus, the whole part where you don’t get in a completely preventable accident is pretty neat, too.

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