How much does tire rotation cost? How often should you do it? And, wait, what is a tire rotation?
In this article, we will be answering those questions and then going a little deeper by considering whether or not it’s financially worth doing.
Tire rotation is commonly used to extend the useful lives of all four tires on a vehicle. Many people and auto shops include it on their list of regular maintenance tasks, along with things such as changing the oil and filters.
Today, I hope to go through some of the most asked questions regarding tire rotation cost. I hope you find your answer somewhere in here.
So, with that being said, let’s dive into it.
- Tire Rotation Advantages and Disadvantages
- How To Rotate Tires
- DIY Tire Rotation Cost
- Professional Tire Rotation Cost
- Is It Worth It?
- Walmart Tire Installation Cost – How Does It Stack Up Against The Rest?
- Wheel Alignment Cost Walmart – The Cost Of Tracking Services
- Wheel Bearing Replacement Cost And All You Need To Know About It
What Is Tire Rotation?
Tire rotation is about swapping your tires’ positions over. For example, you might remove the offside front tire and reinstall it on the nearside rear.
There are a few benefits and drawbacks to this, and we’ll explore those in a moment.
Depending on whether your car is front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive, or all-wheel-drive/four-wheel-drive, you should use different rotation patterns.
Tire Rotation Benefits
With tire rotation, there are both advantages and disadvantages.
- Collectively, your set of four tires will last longer. In the end, you’ll probably need to get all four changed at once, though, which might be a hefty upfront cost with some cars. Whether or not this is worth it financially is debatable, and we’ll look at it in one of the upcoming sections.
- Your car should be safer to drive if you do tire rotation properly. Instead of worn down tires on the front, switching them with tires from the back should mean that you have as much tread as possible. More grip? More safety.
- Similar to the point mentioned above, you’ll get slightly better handling. Again, this comes from the increased amounts of grip.
- Finally, fuel efficiency should increase. Uneven tire wear can lead to reduced vehicle performance and, therefore, decreased fuel efficiency. This reduced fuel efficiency can be up to 3%. The average American family spends $3,000 a year on gas, representing $90 extra spent per year. This cost can add up to quite severe amounts of money in the long run, and saving money is always useful.
Tire Rotation Drawbacks
There aren’t many drawbacks to tire rotation unless you consider the time it takes to be an inconvenience. Honestly, though, it doesn’t take that long.
The main thing you should consider is whether or not the cost of tire rotation is worth it for you. Despite all the benefits we just went through, tire rotation costs can easily make the whole operation financially worthless. For some people, you’d be better off just keeping the tracking in check and getting the tires replaced as and when necessary, as standard.
Keep on reading for a more detailed look into this.
Difficulties also arise when your wheels are fitted with TPMS – Tire Pressure Monitoring System – sensors. These sensors are located in the tire valves and often correspond with a specific wheel.
When this is the case, we call them Direct TPMS. TPMS that doesn’t correspond with a specific wheel is called Indirect TPMS.
As a result, with Direct TPMS, the wheel with this valve always has to go back to the car’s same corner.
Therefore, instead of just taking the wheels off and refitting them onto a different part of the car, you would have to:
- Remove the wheels and tires.
- Use a tire machine to remove the tires from the wheels.
- Refit the tires to their new respective wheels.
- Rebalance the wheels.
- Reinstall the wheels.
This process is considerably more costly than a simple tire rotation process.
How Do I Rotate My Own Tires?
One way to keep the cost down is to do the work yourself. This work is perfectly manageable, even for a beginner, and technically it’s also free.
In reality, of course, you’ll have needed to purchase all the tools you need.
- Breaker bar – for removing the wheel nuts.
- Correctly sized sockets – again, for the removal and replacement of the wheel nuts. These might need to be deep and/or impact sockets.
- A trolley jack and axle stands (if you don’t have a ramp, which I assume you don’t).
- Torque wrench – this is the most important thing on the list. If you don’t have one – and a reliable one, at that – stop everything and go to get one now. You’ll be using the torque wrench to tighten up the wheel nuts when they go back up. If you don’t use it, your wheels might fall off when driving. Seriously.
- You’ll need some PPE in the form of latex or nitrile gloves. These aren’t just for keeping clean. The oils and greases can be damaging to your skin and cause dermatitis. Don’t wimp out on gloves!
The following items are optional
- The locking wheel nut key – newer cars with alloy wheels, especially, often have a locking wheel nut. This nut helps to prevent alloy wheel theft, something prevalent in the 80s. Without this key, it’ll be hard to get the wheel off, and you may need a specialist to come and get it off for you. At least it’s good to know it works.
- Mechanical wheel nut gun, either battery-powered or pneumatically – this isn’t necessary, especially for this job. And especially for a beginner. Although it might feel cool, listening to that whining, buzzing, drilling noise (and, okay, it is!), the amount of power these tools put out is crazy. They’re also very expensive. It’s far from needed in this situation, and you might find yourself destroying the thread on the wheel nuts or studs. I would suggest you don’t need this, on this occasion.
- Garage equipment such as wheel balancing machines or tire machines would be useful, but most people won’t have them. I wouldn’t expect you to. However, these machines would enable you to do some basic maintenance on the wheels.
This video details how to change a tire on the road, if this unfortunate situation were to arise.
Before We Get Started…
Okay, so here’s how to do it. Bear in mind that this is advice only and shouldn’t be taken as direct instructions. Get someone to help you if you’re at all unsure.
First, here are a couple of safety points.
- Never put any part of your body underneath the car. In this situation, it’s entirely unnecessary.
- Always wear your gloves. It doesn’t matter if the wheels are getting a bit greasy; you can clean them up later.
- When you’ve finished, and the car is back on the ground, don’t forget to use the torque wrench to torque the wheels up.
- Ensure you know how to lift heavy items (such as wheels and tires) without hurting your back. Especially when using axle stands rather than a ramp, you’ll be spending a lot of time bending over. Standing up could be damaging if you do it in the wrong way.
- Use the owner’s manual to check the best places for putting axle stands or jacking points. There should be a diagram in there to show you. If you can’t find it, a quick check on Google should provide you with your answers. It’s important to know this, so you know where to put the jack when lifting the car and where the safest places are to bear the car’s weight.
- Check your wheels don’t have Direct TPMS.
Tire Rotation Patterns
There are some specific ways you should rotate your tires for maximum effectiveness.
For the three different drivetrain layouts, you have two options each.
- Remove the rear wheels and replace them on the front, but on the opposite side. Take the front wheels to the back, but keep them on the same side.
- Repeat the process from step 1 with the rear wheels. This time, however, replace the front wheels at the rear on the opposite side. In this situation, you’ll switch the nearside front/offside rear tires, as well as the offside front/nearside rear ones.
Rear-Wheel-Drive or Four-Wheel-Drive
- Remove the front wheels and replace them on the rear, but switch the sides. Bring the rear tires to the front, keeping the sides the same.
- (The same as Process 2 from Front-Wheel-Drive) – Repeat the process from step 1 with the rear wheels, but replace the front wheels at the rear on the opposite side. In this situation, you’ll switch the nearside front/offside rear tires, as well as the offside front/nearside rear ones.
On some cars, the tires always have to be fitted to rotate in a particular direction.
These tires are denoted by an arrow on the tire, indicating the direction of rotation.
- Switch the tires across the axle – that is, switch the offside front with the nearside front and the offside rear with the nearside rear.
- Switch the tires down each side of the car – swap the offside front with the offside rear and the nearside front with the nearside rear.
We will now go through the process, step by step.
- Before doing anything, make sure the engine is off, and the parking brake applied. It would be best if you left the front wheels pointing straight ahead and parked the car on a flat, level surface.
- Use the breaker bar to loosen all the nuts on the wheel slightly. Just ease them off. You don’t need to do much. It’s easier to do this when the car is on the ground than when it’s in the air. If the wheel contains a locking wheel nut, you should remove that nut entirely here.
- Jack the car up and put an axle stand in a safe position, as indicated by the owner’s manual. Gently lower the jack until the vehicle is safely resting on the axle stand, and then remove the jack entirely.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 on the other three corners of the car.
- Use a regular ratchet with the correct socket to remove the remaining wheel nuts. You will probably be able to spin them off by hand once they’re loose. Be careful of the wheel falling when you remove the last nut. Don’t trap your fingers.
- Move the wheel around to its new corner.
- Repeat steps 5 and 6 for the other wheels.
- Put the new wheel in place and screw a couple of wheel nuts on by hand. Doing this helps to bear the weight for you. Once it’s in position, put all the other wheel nuts in, using a basic ratchet to tighten them if needed. Make sure the wheel nuts are relatively tight and all correctly in place and that the wheels are all nicely in line with the car.
- Repeat step 8 on the other corners of the car.
- Use the jack to lift the car off the axle stands and lower it back onto its wheels, one corner at a time.
- Use the torque wrench at the correct setting (found in your owner’s manual) to tighten up each wheel nut, including the locking wheel nut.
- All done!
How Much Does A Tire Rotation Cost If I Do It Myself?
Alright, let’s crunch some numbers.
If you already have all the above equipment, the real answer would be… well, nothing! Your only investment would be time, and this job shouldn’t even take a beginner longer than half an hour. That’s something everyone likes to hear.
Now let’s look at how much you might be spending on each of these items. For these items, I’m making a weighted approximation based on my experience.
- Breaker bar – $35.
- Sockets – $30.
- Trolley jack – $200.
- 4 axle stands – $100.
- Torque wrench – $100.
- Latex/nitrile gloves – $10.
Please note: you will be able to find products that are cheaper than these prices. These are my guesses. However, especially with the more expensive items on the list, it’s essential to make sure you don’t compromise cost in return for quality.
The equipment must be up to scratch. If it isn’t, you could find yourself in a dire situation.
Based on the above costs, you could be spending up to $475 on getting the equipment. You will be able to keep it all, though, and use it again and again.
Is this worth it for you? It depends. If you’re planning on working on your car a lot, then yes. If not, it’s not worth it.
How Much Does A Tire Rotation Cost With Professional Services?
Expect to pay between $10 and $20 per wheel.
All of this charge, remember, is labor, and so it all depends on your local auto shop’s labor rate.
In total, therefore, you’re probably looking at somewhere between $40 and $80 for a tire rotation. In most cases, it’s probably somewhere near the lower end, costing about $50.
Remember that garages also offer other services concerning tire wear, such as:
If you need any of these, it makes sense to get them done now.
Shop around for a few quotes. Since it’s not a specialty job, this is one of those situations where the cheapest probably is the best option, as long as you trust the technician.
Some auto shops will offer tire rotation as part of a standard service, in which case, you might argue, it’s free.
Is It Better To Do It Myself Or To Hire Someone Else?
We have just seen what sort of costs you should expect to be paying for this job.
I would suggest that, if you already have the equipment and some decent car knowledge, you should do the work yourself. However, if you’re at all unsure, take the car to your local shop. It shouldn’t cost you too much more than $40 or $50.
Where Can I Get My Tires Rotated?
You should be able to get your tires rotated pretty much anywhere. Seriously.
This work is about as basic as automotive engineering and mechanics can get. It’s literally taking the wheels off and putting them back on in a different order.
Whether you take your car to the local auto shop or the Ferrari service garage down the road, they’ll be able to do it. The only difference will be the cost.
How Often Should I Rotate My Tires?
It’s recommended that you rotate your tires every 5,000 to 10,000 miles. The more often, the better, as long as you rotate them regularly and at the same intervals.
If you don’t do it at the same regular intervals, you’ll end up with uneven wear anyway, making the whole process completely redundant.
Do I Need To Rotate My Winter Tires?
You probably don’t need a garage to do this. It’s something you can do on your driveway. Follow something like the method outlined above, and you should be fine.
How Much Does Tire Rotation Cost In The Long Term?
This is probably most people’s concern, and it’s fair enough. Can tire rotation be financially justified?
That is my honest answer.
However, as always, it depends. In this case, it depends on the following.
- How many miles do you do each year?
- Do you use top-of-the-range tires? Mid-range? Budgets?
- How much tire maintenance do you do? Such as wheel alignment, keeping them correctly inflated, having them balanced regularly, etc.?
- Do you drive “hard”? That is, do you accelerate, brake, and turn with strong, jerky motions rather than smooth, fluid ones?
These questions all relate to how much you spend on tires in total.
The greater this amount is, the more value tire rotation will have to you.
Sadly, if you pay a professional to do this for you, the savings will probably be counterbalanced by the extra expense. This is particularly true if it’s a one-off job. If the garage includes tire rotation as part of a regular service, then it’s a case of ‘why not?’
Is The Cost Of Tire Rotation Worth It?
Overall, your best options are probably one of the following.
- Rotate your own tires because this keeps costs down. Be careful not to make any mistakes, but this should be the most effective way of making your tires last as long as possible.
- Drive more smoothly, reduce your mileage (if possible), and look after your tires. All of these will put less stress on your tires, meaning they last longer before tire rotation is even considered.
- When tire rotation is offered for free or as part of a professional package service, it’s probably worth taking it.
If you’re driving with a constant four-wheel-drive system, it’s more important for tires to wear evenly. If you do this, the transfer case won’t wear out so quickly. Therefore, you should consider tire rotation as a viable way of keeping other costs down in this situation.
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