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Rotating your own tires is an important but misunderstood part of automotive upkeep, especially if you think this happens automatically while driving. Yes, tires spin. No, rotating them doesn’t mean spinning them even more. To rotate means to switch the tires around to different wheels, equalizing the tread wear.

Technically, “shuffling your tires” is more accurate but just doesn’t have the same ring. Here’s how to rotate them yourself without damaging the car or your body. 

Despite the fact that you have a 2- or 4-ton beast to wrestle, rotating your own tires is more than manageable without an army of mechanics and a car lift. A few basic tools and a lot of patience are all you need.

Once again, it’s important to keep in mind that you are dealing with a multi-ton vehicle when it comes to rotating your own tires. Don’t assume you will naturally muster the strength of ten elephants should you become trapped underneath the car. Safety is important. Here are some tips to follow:

You will need a flat surface to park where you can work on your car if you want gravity to be on your side. Avoid sloped driveways or roads with a steep crown. The garage is the best place to do it.

Like any good magic trick or surgical operation, there’s a certain order to do things to get the best results. In this case, you need to figure out the proper rotation sequence to maximize the mileage on your tires. The rotation sequence will depend on the tires you have. Plan out the sequence ahead of time so you won’t have to keep track of tire positions and swaps in the heat of the moment. 

If your tires have treads that point in a specific direction, this means you have directional tires; creative name, we know. Assuming your tires were installed or rotated correctly previously, they should be in the appropriate direction before you start. This rotation sequence will keep the tires in the right direction as you swap.

If your tires have uniform treads that don’t point, you have non-directional tires. This means you don’t have to worry about which direction the tire faces. Instead, this rotation sequence swaps the tires for the most uniform tread wear.

There are a few different rotation patterns you can use, depending on the type of tires you have. The process will also vary depending on the number of jack stands available. If you only have one or two, prepare to do a little vehicular juggling.

With four jack stands, you can lift the car completely so all four wheels are elevated. This is the safest way to rotate your tires without getting a firsthand look of gravity’s effect on steel and aluminum.

This next step is important to ensure you have a vehicle that can keep all four wheels on when barreling down the road at highway speeds.

If you don’t have enough jack stands for each wheel, you can get by with as little as a single stand. The process is harder, and you will up the danger factor, but it can be done with time, patience, and the proper balance between the vehicle’s center of gravity, the ground, and some metal. 

This first step will require a bit of careful planning and calculation. You will need to start with the tires you want to swap first, then move around to the other wheels while lifting and rotating different corners. 

(Optional) Repeat these steps for the other wheel. If you are simply swapping the wheels on the same side, go ahead and position the other tire. If not, keep the other tire nearby for the next lift.

You will probably have to repeat the previous steps once or twice to get around to each wheel. Work slowly and keep track of which tire you are on in the sequence.

A: Tires wear at different rates if you don’t rotate them regularly. Front tires wear faster due to turning right and left. 

A: Technically, yes. As long as you have the right tools, you can swap the wheels if you don’t mind jumping around with the car jack for a few lifts. For safety and convenience, however, bribing a friend or family member to help out is the better way to go.

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A: Swapping tires on rims is a different matter from tire rotation. You’ll need another set of tools to get the tires off and onto the rims. It’s better to leave this to the professionals if you want to save yourself some headache. 

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