Tire rotation involves detaching your tires from a vehicle to exchange their positions.
Balancing, on the other hand, refers to the correct distribution of weight across a tire or the wheel it is mounted.
Because both procedures involve removing the tires, many car owners expect that the technician balances the tires whenever he rotates them.
Are tires balanced when rotated?
Not necessarily. If the tires are evenly worn, and you don’t experience vibration at speeds over 50 mph, you can leave balancing. However, balancing your tires then they are rotated can extend tread life and improve handling.
Does Tire Rotation Include Balancing?
While the two procedures involve the removal of the tire from the wheel, they are entirely different.
Unlike tire rotation that focuses on switching the position of tires, tire balancing is all about spreading the weight of the wheels evenly.
That said, you should balance your tires every time you rotate them. This is especially important for rear tires, as they are more likely to wear out because they lift the cargo space of the vehicle.
In addition, you might not easily notice that they are imbalanced because they are located at the back.
What’s the Correct Way to Balance Tires?
It is common, even for dealers, to make balancing mistakes.
So it is important to state how tire balancing should be done:
There are three steps to balance wheels correctly, including:
1. Matching the Tire to the Wheel
This step aims to match the wheel to the tire for optimal weight distribution.
The mechanic mounts the tire on the rim and uses their opposing forces to achieve a balance.
Balancing weights help remove any residual imbalance.
2. Running Optimization
Second, the mechanic checks for wheel deformities, such as warping and bending, which can cause an imbalance.
To remove this imbalance, the tire is taken through an irregular deflection.
Then balancing weights are attached to remove the remaining imbalances.
Next, the tire and wheel assembly is balanced properly by mounting them on a balancing machine.
Depending on the tire type and the severity of the imbalance, the mechanic can use a static or dynamic balancing method.
After the wheel and tire have achieved balance, the technician adds balancing weights at specific points on the wheel to neutralize residual imbalances.
That said, it is important that you note common balancing mistakes so you can avoid them:
- Placing the cone outside the tire: Many dealers place the balancing cone outside the wheel. This is wrong as it makes tires unstable when you remount them. What you want to do is mirror the mounted position of tires, so you can be sure they will be balanced perfectly. The way to do this is to place the cone at the back and a pin plate to hook the tire’s lug holes, so you imitate the feel of a mounted tire.
- Failing to remove residual static imbalance: When you adopt the dynamic balancing method, a fraction of the assembly’s weight may be left imbalanced. It’s best to check that the wheel is balanced because even a tiny disparity is enough to take the whole tire off balance.
- Reusing wheel weights: Used wheel weights are often ineffective and may fall off mounted tires.
Should I Rotate Tires on My Vehicle Once in a While?
Yes, you should rotate your tires from time to time.
Tire rotation can increase tread life, enhance control, and boost fuel efficiency, among other benefits.
Why Should I Rotate My Tires Often?
The following are the reasons why you should rotate your tires regularly:
1. Even Wear Across Wheels
On their own, tires may not wear out evenly.
For example, in vehicles used for carrying heavy loads, the rear tires will most likely wear out faster. Switching the position of rear tires with front tires will ensure that all tires share the weight of the vehicle equally.
If you don’t rotate your tires, some tires will wear out completely, while others are still in good shape.
Nevertheless, you’ll have to replace all of them, anyway.
So, rotating your tires actually saves money.
2. Better Handling of Your Vehicle
When your tires wear out evenly because you rotate them, it also means that tread depth across tires lessens evenly.
So, when tires move on the road, they all produce equal traction.
That way, it is easier for the driver to stay in control of the vehicle even on slippery and bumpy roads.
In contrast, a lack of regular rotation puts you at risk of losing control in adverse driving conditions. For example, your tires may not provide equal traction while driving in the rain, increasing the risk of a crash.
3. Your Car will Last Longer
If you don’t rotate your tires, their performance dips over time.
As a result, some of the stress the tires are supposed to take will be transferred to other components of the vehicle.
These components may develop faults and require frequent repairs. In the long run, you may have to get another vehicle because of the huge repair costs.
You can avoid these problems simply by rotating your tires.
How Should I Rotate My Tires?
If you have no mechanical knowledge, then it’s best that you pay a technician to rotate your tires.
However, if you have the technical knowledge and the required tools, by all means, do it yourself. At least, that way, you can be sure that the lug nuts have been screwed back perfectly.
The things you need for tire rotation are:
- A smooth area to do the rotation
- A wheel chock, so the car will stay in place
- A torque wrench to unscrew and screw the lug nuts with precision
- A jack to lift the vehicle
- Jack stands to support the vehicle after lifting it up
Before you rotate your tires, you need to understand the type of tires on your car.
Regarding direction, tires can be classified into 2 types:
- Directional, same-size tires
- Directional, different size tires
- Non-directional, same-size tires
- Non-directional different-size tires
The tread of these tires can only work well when they move in one direction.
Directional tires usually have ‘Direction’ or ‘Rotation’ marked on them, so they are easy to identify.
Here is how to rotate directional tires:
- Directional same-size tires: You rotate these tires by switching the rear tires to their direct front. For instance, the left rear tire takes the place of the left front tire and vice versa.
- Directional different size tires: In this case, you only switch tires that have similar sizes. If, for example, only the left rear has the same size as the right front, that’s the only tire it can switch places with.
Their tread will work perfectly irrespective of the direction in which they move.
Here is how to rotate non-directional tires:
- Same-size tires:
- The forward-cross method, where you switch the position of these tires diagonally.
- The left front takes the place of the right rear, and the right front switches places with the left rear tire.
- The Alternate method:
- The rear tires move to their direct front, but the front tires do a diagonal transition.
- Different-size tires:
- The tires are moved from one side to another.
- For instance, the left front moves to the right front.
How Often Should I Rotate My Tires?
According to many car brands, you should rotate your tires whenever you take your vehicle for oil changes.
If you are using a Ford vehicle, for example, that means you’ll rotate them every 7,500- 10,000 miles. In this case, the advice to wait for an oil change is still reasonable.
However, with cars like a BMW, where you don’t have to change the oil until 15,000 miles, you shouldn’t take that advice. On average, we recommend that you rotate your tires twice a year.
Of course, there are few vehicles that have specialized rotation timelines.
In those cases, work with the instruction stated in the user’s manual.
How Much Does It Cost to Have Tires Balanced and Rotated?
Depending on the shop you visit, balancing your tires can cost between $15 to $75, depending on the service provider and other factors.
If you take your tires for balancing during a sale, some dealerships can even do the job for as low as $14.
A few tire service centers may also balance your tires for free if you just bought the tires there.
Your vehicle brand and the dealership you consult for your rotation will determine how much you pay. For instance, some dealerships rotate your tires for as low as $60.
On the other hand, rotating your tires may cost up to $120 at other shops.
In addition, when you’ve just bought new tires from them, some dealerships may rotate your tires for free.
If your tires have problems that need to be fixed before a tire rotation, you may have to pay more.