What Happens if You Don’t Rotate Your Tires? (2022 Guide)

Last Updated September 9, 2022

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Unfortunately, tires do not make the top of the list when it comes to creating a “List of items important for car safety.” 

Well, if anything, tires should be your priority as they are not only essential for a smooth ride, but good tires mean less unwanted incidents. 

what happens if you don't rotate your tires

So among all the things that you can to ensure a longer tire life, tire rotation is one of the most important. To answer your question, a lot of things can happen if you do not rotate the car tires. 

Let’s understand the meaning, importance, impact, and consequences of failure to rotate tires.

What Happens If You Don’t Rotate Your Tires?

Not rotating the tires at the designated limit means exposing the two front tires to take more stress. Now, apart from the economic impact you have read above, there are a few other things you should know about. 

  • Performance Issues: With the front tires losing their grip at an accelerated pace, you might feel like losing control of the tire while turning the wheels. Such issues aggravate in wet and snowy roads. Make sure to get your tires rotated when you feel that the tires are not responding to the steering, issues with braking, and a reduction in cornering capabilities. 
  • Tread Cupping: Not rotating the tires can lead to tread cupping or tire scalloping, which are small 3 to 4 inch (diameter-wise) worn-out bits from the tire, leading to a rumbling noise at higher speed. 
  • Increased Heating: Tire grooves serve dual purposes. They are meant to channel the flow of the water and let the cool air pass through the tires, preventing excessive heat up. Uneven tire treading leads to diminishing grooves, which eventually causes excessive heat buildup, leading to tire blowouts. 

What is Tire Rotation?

Tire rotation involves shifting the vehicle’s tires from one spot to another. In general, the front tires would move to the rear side, and rear ones shall come to the front. In another type of rotation, the left side tires are shifted to the right and vice versa. 

There are a few other rotation sequences we can follow, but the rear-front and left-right shifts are the most common. However, it is not recommended to rotate the tires without following a pattern. In other words, abrupt and out-of-sync rotation causes more harm than good. 

tire rotation
Image source: NHTSA

The image above visualizes the tire rotation pattern approved by the NHTS, and it must be practiced by every car owner. 

For a synchronized rotation, the thumb rule is to rotate them after every 5000 to 8000 miles. A more precise rotation sequence will be laid out in the car’s user manual, so make sure to check it once before initiating the rotation. 

Is Tire Rotation Really Necessary?

Yes, tire rotation is necessary. According to the NHTSA data that we could find, 738 people had to lose their lives in 2015 because of bad tires. Rotating the tires translates to ensuring that the tires tread evenly from all sides, which ultimately gives them a longer life. Not rotating the tires means that you will end up getting new tires quite too often and may also have to bear with a bumpy ride. 

The front tires take more stress than the rear ones. Added to this, every tire on the vehicle interacts with the road differently. Even though the car tires that we see are built according to the car, heat has been a bane for all types of tires, and it will continue to be so. 

Other than the heat, every tire goes through a different condition when the car takes a turn. If that’s not all, braking, the surface of the road, acceleration, tire pressure, composition, and vehicle suspension also play a role. 

When all these factors affect the tire’s condition, you must rotate them to ensure an evenly spread out tire stress. This makes tire rotation a good idea and one that will ensure a longer life for every tire. In addition to this, tires can quickly lose their footing or grip on the road even before they are completely worn out. Good tread is imperative to ensure better friction between the tires and the road ahead. 

Car tires are the only thing connecting the car to the road. So, to ensure a smooth ride, the tires need to be in good shape. Good shape does not necessarily mean that the tires need to be new all the time. But even if they wear out, which they will almost every day, it should be evenly spread across all the tires. 

How Long Do Tires Last If You Don’t Rotate Them?

To find the answer to this question, we talked to several experts and customers too. The purpose was to find, if not the most accurate, but close to the accurate result of not rotating the tires. Here’s what we could deduce. 

The example below is related to a front-wheel-drive car because it is the most common tire configuration found today. We know that the front tires wear out three times faster than the rear ones. So, if the normal life cycle of the tire is 60,000 miles, the front tires will run out of life in 20,000 miles. 

Imagine the cost of changing the tires in a span of 120,000 miles, which means that you may have to change the front tires at least 6 times and the rear ones two times. Assuming the average cost of two tires to be $100, you are looking at spending $800. 

If you were to rotate the tires at every 8000 miles leading to an even stressing of all the tires, every tire would run for at least 40,000 miles before they needed replacement. This means until the completion of 120,000, you will need 12 new tires, including the front and rear ones costing only $600. 

So, without rotation, the tires will last only for 20,000 miles, and rotation increases the tire’s life by 2x. Even if we leave out the economic impact, tire rotation is necessary for all types of four-wheelers and tires. 

Can Rotating Tires Mess Up Alignment?

If anything, tire rotation can prevent misalignment rather than messing it up. On the contrary, not rotating the tires can mess up with the alignment as the tires wear out differently. 

The front tires take all the weight of the engine and wear out from the margins due to turning. So, rest assured that rotating will only help ensure better tire health and a longer life, not to mention a safe ride irrespective of the road conditions. 

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