How to Rotate & Balance Car Tires

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Rotating and balancing tires is an important maintenance procedure to help the longevity of the tires. Many people are too busy or forget when they last had their tires maintained and front tires will wear more quickly do to steering and braking. Most tire companies and auto maintenance facilities recommend rotating and checking the balance every 6000 miles. While rotating the tires is something you can do at home with the right tools, tire balancing requires special machinery. However, the cost is not very expensive and the benefits outweigh the cost.

Things You'll Need

  • Vehicle lift (suspended style)
  • Air chuck
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Pneumatic impact gun
  • Impact socket set
  • Tire balance machine
  • Wheel weights (static and dynamic)
  • Torque wrench or torque sticks
  • Lift the vehicle on a suspended vehicle lift.

  • Check the tire pressure with the tire pressure gauge and then adjust them if necessary using the air chuck. Be sure to fill the tires to the recommended inflation listed on the tire placard located on the driver's side door jamb. If the placard indicates a variance between the front and rear tires, adjust the rear to be placed as the front and the front to be placed as the rear.

  • Remove the hubcaps if applicable.

  • Size the correct socket to the lug nuts and then remove them using the pneumatic gun and socket. Set the lug nuts on the lift arm by each respective tire.

  • Remove one tire and check it thoroughly around the diameter for uneven tread wear and if rotating them would be practical. Also check for unidirectional mounted tires. These tires need to be pointing to the front of the vehicle indicated by a directional arrow or the word "outside" stamped on the outer sidewall of the tire. Unidirectional tires can only be rotated on the same side from the front to the rear axle. Leave the other three tires in their respective positions for now.

  • Place the tire onto the arbor of the balancing machine and secure it with the spin-on or quick-release lock. Make sure the tire is tight to the flange of the balancing machine. Take the measurements of the rim width and rim depth using the tools provided with the balancing machine. Enter these measurements and the diameter size of the tire into the machine per instructions. Since every type of tire machine employs a variety of different ways to do this, you'll need to read the manual or the stick-on instructions label if the tire machine features one.

  • Spin the tire or close the hood to allow the machine to spin balance the tire. If the balance is off, the machine will dictate this on the display in ounces per side. Some aluminum rims also require static or stick-on weights to be placed inside the rim instead of on the edges of the rim. If the tire is OK, remove it. If it requires weights, remove the old and then re-spin the tire for total weight balancing.

  • Add the weights to the tire by placing it in the correct position until the balancing machine indicates it is properly aligned. Use the arrow indicators stamped on the housing of the machine to align the weights onto the rim correctly. Re-spin the tire to assure 0.00 is displayed on each end if applicable. Remove the tire from the balancing machine.

  • Bring the tire to the vehicle and place it on the floor where its new position on the vehicle will be. Rotating tires can employ several different procedures. As mentioned, unidirectional tires can only be rotated on the same side from front to rear. Front-wheel drive vehicles often employ a crisscross pattern where the front tires move straight back to the rear axle and the rear tires crisscross to the front. Rear-wheel, all-wheel and four-wheel drive rotate the rear tires straight forward to the front axle and then crisscross the front tires to the rear axle.

  • Move to the next tire and repeat the balancing procedure until all four tires are balanced and placed in the new position.

  • Replace the tires onto the vehicle and replace the lug nuts.

  • Use a torque stick or a torque wrench to tighten the lug nuts per torque specification for the specific vehicle. Never torque lug nuts in a circular pattern. Always start with one and move to the next lug nut opposite from the first's position. A four lug nut tire would use an X pattern to properly tighten the lug nuts. Five or more lug nuts would employ a star pattern. This makes sure the rim does not kink out of on one side to the wheel hub of the vehicle.

  • Replace the hubcaps if applicable and then lower the vehicle.

References

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