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Do You Need to Rotate Winter Tires?

BY: Chris Brown
A car's tires in the snow.

The wintertime can be a great time to hit the road to see friends and family, get any last-minute shopping done, or simply enjoy the sights and sounds of the season. But just as you would bundle yourself up when heading out in the winter weather, it’s essential to prepare your vehicle for the rain, frost, ice, or snow of the months ahead. For drivers in areas such as the midwest or northeast especially, performing the extra steps needed to winterize your vehicle ensures your car, truck or SUV can handle any severe winter weather. 

One such task that many drivers may not consider but can help you stay safe in even the harshest winter conditions is rotating their winter tires. 

What Are the Benefits of Rotating Tires Before Winter?

The condition of your tire tread determines how well your car grips the road surface. When you’re driving in wet or icy conditions (both more common in winter months) and the surface is slick, your car’s tires need the most traction they can get to help make sure you can change your speed, brake, and stop quickly.

Your tire’s tread is so vital that all tires are legally required to have a minimum tread of 2/32 of an inch. Failing to rotate your tires results in uneven wear, bringing you closer to the legal minimum sooner and leading to suboptimal performance. Winter tire rotation is recommended as it prolongs the life of your tires and leads to better performance and safer driving. What’s more, it can lead to significant savings, as a tire rotation costs much less than an early tire replacement.

To check if your vehicle’s tread depth is too low, all you need is a penny. Simply place the coin between the grooves of your tire’s tread, making sure President Lincoln’s head is upside down. Once in the tread, check to see if you can see the top of Abe’s head. If you can, it’s time to replace your tires.

You can save on the cost of rotating and maintaining your tires with a breakdown protection plan like EnduranceAdvantage™. Along with providing you with coverage from the cost of unexpected breakdowns, each EnduranceAdvantage package also comes with up to $3,500 in regular maintenance coverage. That includes essential services such as tire rotations, alignment checks, tire pressure (PSI) checks and more — at no additional cost to you. 

How Often Should You Rotate Your Tires?

While your owner’s manual can give you more information about how often you should rotate the tires on your specific make/model, as a general rule, you should look to rotate your tires every 5,000-7,000 miles or every 6 months. This includes any winter/snow tires you may have. Neglecting to rotate your tires during their recommended intervals leaves them more vulnerable to excess wear, which could lead to a sudden blowout or flat tire due to a road hazard.

With 24/7 roadside assistance and up to 2 tire repairs or replacements, you can rest easy knowing your Endurance Elite Benefits have you covered. Coming with the purchase of any Endurance breakdown protection plan and a small activation fee, you can get access to other great perks like key fob replacements and up to $500 in collision discounts.

How to Rotate Your Tires at Home in 6 Simple Steps

Visiting a certified repair facility or an ASE Certified mechanic can help ensure your vehicle’s tires are rotated correctly and help you avoid any premature tread wear. If you want to be more hands-on in maintaining your vehicle, rotating your tires can be a relatively simple task that you can do at home by following a few simple steps.

These include:

Step 1: Identify Your Tire Rotation Requirements

Depending on which vehicle and tire type apply to you, you’ll need to follow a particular pattern for rotating your tires. To determine what your vehicle has, check your owner’s manual or with your vehicle manufacturer. 

Some of the most common patterns include :

  • Four-wheel drive (4WD)
    • Swap rear left tire with front right tire, and rear right tire with the front left tire (in an X pattern)
  • Front-wheel drive (FWD)
    • The front left tire goes to the rear left
    • The front right tire goes to the rear right
    • The rear left tire goes to the front right
    • The rear right tire goes to the front left
  • Rear-wheel drive (RWD)
    • The rear left tire goes to the front left
    • The rear right tire goes to the front right
    • The front left tire goes to the rear right
    • The front right tire goes to the rear left
  • Uni-directional tread
    • Swap front left with rear left, and front right with the rear right

Step 2: Decide Whether to Include Your Spare Tire

Some vehicle manufacturers may recommend using your spare tire within your typical tire rotation. Doing so can help ensure the spare tire’s wear patterns mimic your other tires and help them avoid deteriorating at different rates. Though, this will depend on the type of spare tire your vehicle has. If your spare is a full-size tire, then it makes sense to enter it into the rotation. If you do, make sure you always stick to the same winter tire rotation direction each time and swap out the spare tire for another tire at the same point (ex., always the rear-left one).

Step 3: Gather Your Tools

To perform essential maintenance at home, you need the proper tools, which will include:

  • A floor car jack
  • A jack stands (up to 4)
  • A lug wrench

Step 4: Prepare Your Car

Loosen the nuts on the wheels using the lug wrench (but not so much they could fall off) and then raise the vehicle using the car jack and stands. The more jack stands you have, the quicker the job will be, but it’s safer not to raise the whole car off the ground, so we’d recommend doing two at a time, selecting the pairs you’re swapping.

Step 5: Swap Out the Tires

Follow the standard tire rotation pattern that applies to your vehicle and swap out the tires, placing them on the wheel mounts.

Step 6: Fix on the Nuts and Lower from the Jack

Once the tires are in their new positions, tighten the nuts evenly by going in a star or criss-cross pattern. This will help to avoid any potential flexing or shifting of your tire. Once all the tires are secured, simply take care lowering the vehicle from the jack stands, and you’re all done!

Save Thousands on Car Repairs with Endurance

Taking steps to winterize your vehicle can help ensure you and your passengers stay safe throughout the frigid winter months. Having an Endurance breakdown protection plan can also help take the worry out of the winter season by protecting you and your vehicle from the cost of unexpected auto repair bills. You can also help ensure your vehicle stays running for longer with up to $3,500 in regular maintenance coverage included as standard with each EnduranceAdvantage plan. That includes essential services such as tire rotations, engine diagnostic exams, alignment checks and more. 

You can even get access to several other special, one-time services, such as a battery replacement for even more coverage and savings. Additionally, Endurance customers will also receive access to 1 year of Elite Benefits with the purchase of any protection plan and a small activation fee, including perks such as 24/7 roadside assistance and up to 2 tire repairs or replacements. 

To learn more about how Endurance can help you save, request a free quote or give us a call directly at (800) 253-8203. You can also find more DIY maintenance tips, answers to FAQs, and more helpful automotive articles by checking out our Learning Center.

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