Tire rotation question

I seem to always go in after too many miles to get my tires rotated and the shop inevitably says that they cant rotate them because they are worn funny because I was late rotating them. To me it seems that even if Im late with the rotation, that by not rotating them late then I am perpetuating the problem and will need new tires sooner. Is my shop just screwing me over or are they saving my life?


Once the tires develop a wear pattern they will continue to wear that way, even if they are rotated. I don’t know why they say they “can’t” rotate the tires, because they could, but it wouldn’t even out the wear.

If a wear pattern has started then rotating the tires could cause you drivability problems.

How late is “too late”?

My tire dealer offers a “road hazard” package which includes free rotation and balancing every 5,000 miles for the life of the tires. My car manufacturer, Subaru, specifies rotation every 7,500 miles. Since Subarus are all-wheel-drive, it is important to keep tire wear even.

If “too late” is 20,000 miles, I can agree with your tire dealer. If it is less than 10,000 miles, you have an alignment problem that needs to be corrected because it is causing abnormal wear to your tires.

Tires ought not to “wear funny” unless there is an alignment problem. It’s very surprising the shop did not advise you on this isssue. They’d get your additional business and provide you with a useful service. Anyway, have your alignment checked the next time you get new tires.

I agree with Steve. Your tyres should not wear funny unless there is some sort of problem with the suspension or tyres. Have that checked out.

The kind of wear your tyres are showing often will point to the problem.


Vehicles like a bit of toe in for stability.

Tires develop irregular when there is toe in - and the more toe in there is, the more rapidly it develops.

So the question becomes, how long should one wait before rotating tires.

Toe-in changes with vehicle speed. The engineers specify the amount of toe-in for a car at rest, knowing the tires will straighten out at highway speed. Proper toe-in settings should not produce unusual tire wear.

How often to rotate? If the service is offered free, do it twice a year. If you do it yourself (as I do), once a year. If neither applies, don’t rotate at all. Replace your tires in pairs.

This is an advantage of not rotating, you can see if you have an alignment problem and get it corrected. The better the alignment, the longer the tires will last.

As for when to rotate, on AWD, frequently, at least when the difference in tread depth between the front and rear tires is 1/32".

For true 4wd, it doesn’t matter as you should never use the 4wd on good traction surfaces.

For RWD, never

For FWD, when the front tires are at 6/32", swap front to rear only, not side to side.

Notice I’m not specifying mileage intervals. Different tires wear at different rates, also different vehicles wear their tires at different rates. A specific mileage may be too soon (usually is in most cases) or it could be too long.

BTW, I got 102k miles on the original tires on my Nissan PU, no rotations, still on the replacement set. I got 84k miles on the factory tires on my Saturn with one rotation at 35k. I just rotated the replacement set, fronts at 6/32" at 137k miles (about 53k miles on tires), this set should last well over 100k miles.