When Not to Rotate Tires

When Not to Rotate Tires (and why you should wait)

Tire rotation is one of the most important tire maintenance tasks you can perform on your vehicle. Most technicians and tire experts agree that you should rotate your tires around every six months or 6,000 miles. This is also my advice because tire rotation is a relatively simple way to avoid uneven wear on your tires and prolong their lifespan. But as well as knowing when to rotate tires, you should know when not to rotate tires. Today, I’ll talk about when not to rotate your tires.

There are many situations in which it doesn’t make sense to rotate your tires. In this guide, I will explain why tire rotation may not always be necessary, and also touch on the importance of rotating when you need to.

Here’s an outline of what I’ll talk about here:

  • When Should I Not Rotate My Tires?
  • What Does Tire Rotation Do?
  • Why is Tire Rotation Important?
  • When Not to Rotate Your Tires
  • How Often to Rotate Your Tires
  • What is the Cost of Tire Rotation?

When Should I Not Rotate My Tires?

Sometimes you may not need to rotate your tires. Examples of when you should avoid tire rotation include if you do not have the tools, knowledge, or access to a mechanic. Maybe you have special tires that require bespoke management, including rotation. Of course, in some scenarios you may simply not need to rotate your tires.

What Does Tire Rotation Do? 

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of tire rotation, it is literally rotating the tires on your vehicle. You are swapping them by moving them around to ensure even tire wear.

How to Know if You Need to Rotate Your Tires

Tire rotation is a relatively simple task that many motorists can do at home. Even so, it is better to get tire rotation done by an expert, especially if you do not know what you are doing.

For example, you move the front tires to the rear and the rear tires to the front. Depending on the drive of your car, the tires will wear out more quickly on one end than the other.

A rear-wheel drive vehicle puts all the power through the back wheels, so tire wear is likely to be faster. In this case, swapping the tires to the front will take some of the load off them. The same is true for front-wheel drive cars (front wheels will wear down faster).

However, it is not quite as simple as that. There are many factors that contribute to the wear of tires, including driving habits, road surfaces, and manufacturer. Because of this, there are various patterns for swapping tires, such as diagonal, directional, and based on the type of tire.

If you keep your right front tire on the right hand side of the vehicle, it may wear unevenly. The same is true if you over-inflate or under-inflate your tires.

Irregular Wear on Tire

To get the most out of your investment in tires it’s important to make sure they are properly inflated, and that they are rotated properly and regularly.

It is worth checking out my guides on how long tires last and how many miles do tires last to learn more.

Why Is Tire Rotation Important?

The biggest reason to rotate your tires is to ensure they wear evenly across all four. As you drive, tread depth decreases through use, although it does not wear in a uniform manner.

Swapping your tires around can help to keep wear even.

Tire with Irregular Wear From Not Rotating Often Enough

If you avoid rotating your tires, there are several problems that can become worse as the tread wears down:

Heat Damage

Tires are the only point of contact between your heavy vehicle and the road surface. When you drive, especially at speed, the friction between the tire and the road causes heat. If the tread is worn on one or more of your tires, the heat build-up could cause damage. Under normal operation, the channels between the treads would allow heat to escape away from the rubber.


Those channels between the treads also allow water to run away from the tire in wet conditions. If the tread depth is too low, a layer of water builds up between the tire and road surface, meaning the car can start to hydroplane. In such situations, you may lose all control of your vehicle.

Tire Failure

A tire failure or blowout is one of the worst things that can happen when you are driving, and also one of the most dangerous. As the tread wears down below acceptable levels, it increases the risk of a tire blowout happening.

Aside from safety considerations, there are other reasons why you should rotate your tires. For example, many tire manufacturers will void your warranty unless you can provide records of regular tire rotations.

When Not to Rotate Your Tires

So, you know why you should rotate your tires, but what about the times you should avoid rotating? This is arguably a more challenging part of tire rotation to understand. If any of the following apply to you, I suggest you do not rotate your tires:

You’re Doing it at Home with No Knowledge

Changing tires is relatively easy, especially if they are all the same size and you can simply swap out the rims. However, if you have no experience in changing wheels, a complete tire rotation may be a step too far as a beginner. There are just too many variables that could make the procedure go wrong without proper knowledge.

You Don’t Have the Right Tools

Perhaps you have the knowledge and experience, but you will also need the tools. For example, I think a good tire rotation is done with all wheels off the ground at the same time.

How to Know When Not to Rotate Tires

That means using a professional car lift, which most people don’t have in their home garage. You can do the job by jacking one wheel at a time, but it is time-consuming, and mistakes are more likely.

You Have Specialist Tires

Some vehicles, such as sports cars, have special performance tires, or tires that are designed for a specific purpose. While these tires will also need to be rotated, you will need to see a specialist technician and should never attempt the process at home.

You Just Don’t Need to

Maybe you are heading to the mechanics to get a tire re-balance and want to throw in a rotation at a cut price. That sounds good, but sometimes your tires just don’t need to be rotated, and you’re not saving any money by adding a discounted add-on service.

Either it is not time, or the tread is holding up well. Either way, a reputable mechanic will be able to tell you if a rotation is necessary. If your mechanic always tells you you’re due for a rotation, it might be time to look for a new mechanic.

How Often to Rotate Your Tires

Let’s be clear, I am not suggesting you never get your tires rotated. You absolutely should do this procedure regularly.

The reality is sometimes you may not need to and there are some scenarios where you should not rotate your tires. Still, there will come a time when you need to do this task, so when is the best time to do it?

How to Know When to Rotate Your Tires and When Not To

Check the maintenance information provided by the tire manufacturer. There will be information specific to the model of tire you’re using.

This will include how frequently you should rotate the tires. Instructions from the manufacturer are arguably the best source of information, as the manufacturer has tested the tire and has years of customer feedback.

If you have a frequent (reputable) mechanic, or know of a garage with stellar customer reviews, listening to the technician is a good bet. He/she will be able to tell you when the best time is to rotate your tires and may also be able to spot other potential tire problems like balancing issues, alignment, and general wear and tear.

Even without this information, you should be rotating your tires about once every six months. Another way to look at it is as every 5,000 to 6,000 miles. It is worth noting these are averages based on how many miles the average driver covers in the U.S. each year.

That number is 12,000 to 13,000 miles, so most people should be rotating their tires twice a year.

What is the Cost of Tire Rotation?

Some people have the knowledge and equipment to rotate their own tires. If you are doing the job at home, it will cost you the grand sum of zero.

That’s right, a tire rotation is completely free if you do it yourself. Of course, that is presuming you already have all the required tools at hand.

Rotating Tires

Even though at-home tire rotation is possible, I only recommend this for the most experienced people. For everyone else, you will be taking your vehicle to the shop to be checked by a tire technician.

While prices vary based on location, the tire center you choose, and other factors, the cost of tire rotation is between $10 and $20 per wheel. If you swap over all four wheels, you are looking at a bill between $40 and $80.

Many tire shops will have special deals where they bundle in a tire rebalance along with rotation. Ask your mechanic if you can get a discount for doing both tasks at the same time.

It is worth noting a rebalance is only needed once a year instead of every six months like a rotation.

When Not to Rotate Your Tires (and when you should)

There is no avoiding tire rotation and eventually uneven wear will mean rotating is the best course of action (or you may have waited too long). However, there are some scenarios where you should not rotate your tires.

As always, I strongly recommend speaking to a professional to find out what is best for your tires and vehicle, but I hope the tips and guidance I’ve provided on this page have given you a good place to start.

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