Have you ever looked under your shoes and noticed that one area of the sole is more worn than the other? The way you walk causes wear in certain areas — and the same happens with your car and its tyres.
What causes wear? The wear on tyres can become uneven for a number of reasons. A car’s weight dispersion can be a contributor, particularly if you have a nose-heavy, front-wheel-drive vehicle.
Not only do the tyres on these have to endure the steering, braking and accidental kerb-bumping from parking, but they also carry the entire weight of the engine and the drivetrain.
This can often cause the front tyres to wear faster than the rears. Influences such as incorrect air pressure and uneven alignment can also play havoc.
How does tyre rotation help? To combat uneven wear, your tyres should be rotated to different positions on your vehicle. This is generally carried out as part of a regular interval service or, if not, you can request that it’s done.
Regular tyre rotation can also prevent your car from failing its Warrant of Fitness as tyres are checked for excessive wear on the outside edges.
Having tyres that wear down at the same time may mean that you have a more expensive one-off payment to make, but it will reduce the frequency of having them done.
We’d recommend a tyre rotation at every service. For most vehicles, that translates to every 12 months or 10,000-15,000km — whichever happens first. If you clock up the kilometres quickly or have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, you may want to rotate your tyres more often.
How is the rotation carried out? The way a tyre is constructed dictates how they can be rotated. Uni-directional tyres can be rotated front to back and left to right, but rotational and directional tyres can only be swapped front to back. Performance vehicles often have a wider rear tyre and wheel rim, which means they can’t be swapped.
Make sure your best tyres are at the rear This recommendation comes from the idea of a vehicle potentially losing control by “breaking away” in the back end. Imagine a blow-out or a slow leaking, under-inflated tyre on the rear and a vehicle cornering at speed.
The risk of the car spinning out of control is high, and once a car starts to lose control of the steering-wheel direction or the amount of engine power applied, this can quickly become a dangerous situation with potentially disastrous results.
Having the best tread depth on rear tyres cuts the risk of a puncture and in wet conditions the water can be better dispersed.
Although a blow-out or having an under-inflated front isn’t ideal either, the driver does stand a better chance of controlling the vehicle.
An under-inflated front tyre can also cause the car to drift one way or the other and the steering characteristics can change, giving the driver some warning of a problem. The same cannot be said for the rear.
How do I know if my tyres need rotating? A look around the tyres may reveal signs such as feathering, bald spots and bulges. On a road test there may be a humming sound coming from them on smooth roads or a slight wobble detected in the steering.
In some cases you may need more than just a rotation as these could be a sign that the tyres are on their way out. There may also be a problem that needs further investigation.