Proper vehicle maintenance may cost money, but it’s essential to realize that it could save you a fortune. Ironically, one of the most overlooked maintenance services for a vehicle is tire rotation, despite how relatively cheap and quick it is to do.
A tire rotation can cost as low as $40 and takes less than 20 minutes for a well-equipped shop to perform. Depending on service inclusions, and the type of vehicle and tires, that price may go up. However, the cost of a tire rotation will always be less than the cost of a premature tire replacement.
This article will examine tire rotations in more detail, including the factors that drive the service cost up. We will also discuss the benefits of having your tires rotated and how it can save you money in the long run.
The Cost of Maintaining Your Tires
Tires naturally wear out as you use your vehicle, but you can prolong the life of your tires with proper care and maintenance. The cost of tire maintenance will vary depending on the services, but there are many ways to care for your tires that won’t cost you a dime.
Here are a few ways to care for your tires that will not cost you any money:
- Keep your tires properly inflated at the recommended level.
- Avoid spinning your tires out.
- Don’t overload your vehicle.
Other forms of tire maintenance will cost money, but not as much as it costs to keep replacing your tires prematurely. Tire wear may be inevitable, but having your tires serviced can significantly extend their lifespan.
Part of prolonging the life of your vehicle’s tires is making sure each tire wears out evenly, and all tires wear out simultaneously. Each tire on a car gets exposed to different conditions, which means some tires will wear out faster than others.
For instance, the front tires on a front-wheel-drive vehicle with a front engine will wear out faster than the rear tires since the front tires carry more load, undergo more pressure from steering, and deal with more friction than the non-driving wheels.
Having the tires rotated involves moving the tires around to even out the stress each tire is subjected to in its lifetime, preventing premature tire wear.
Cost of Tire Rotation
The cost of a tire rotation will significantly depend on how much the auto shop charges for labor, but expect to spend at least $10 per wheel. Some shops may have different rates depending on your vehicle or the size and type of wheels you’re using.
The difference in rates according to the vehicle, type, and size of the tires should be minimal. Naturally, bigger tires are heavier and require more effort to move around, but the amount of work involved in rotating tires shouldn’t vary that much unless the vehicle has a TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System).
A TPMS works by using a sensor in the tire’s valve to measure tire pressure and temperature. Vehicles with a TPMS will show each wheel’s information on the driver’s instrument cluster or a display screen. Moving the tires around will display incorrect information because the wheel indicated on the screen will be on a different corner of the car.
You can’t simply swap the wheels on a car with a TPMS since it will skew the data. To keep the sensor’s readings accurate, you will need to unmount each tire and then mount them back on the wheel where you want them to be. Each time a tire gets mounted on a wheel, it is always good to have them balanced.
Hence, expect to pay at least $20 more per wheel to rotate the tires on a car with TPMS.
Some shops may offer to have your wheels balanced in line with a tire rotation, and it’s often a good idea to take them up on the offer. As wheels put on more miles, they can become unbalanced, causing the steering wheel to shake and vibrate. Even if your car drives smoothly, it’s still important to have your wheels balanced to ensure even tire wear.
Wheel balancing is done using a tire balancing machine and involves putting weights throughout the wheel to ensure an even (or balanced) weight distribution. The machine spins the tires to detect the heavy parts of the wheels, and it stops spinning at the exact spot where the weight needs to be added.
Cost of Wheel Balancing
The average cost for wheel balancing is $10 to $20 per wheel, and the charge may vary depending on how many weights have to be used. But don’t worry, each weight costs less than a dollar.
You can purchase a pack of 100 weights for a reasonable price. The CKAuto P Type Lead Clip on Wheel Weights (available on Amazon) come in various sizes and can be used for all steel wheels for passenger vehicles and light trucks.
Since wheel balancing involves removing all the tires from your vehicle, some shops might be kind enough to throw in the tire rotation for free.
If you notice that your tires are wearing out unevenly, meaning the inner part of the tread is much thinner than the outer part, or vice-versa, then this is an indication that you may need to have your wheels aligned. If the car pulls to one side of the road, or if you notice other steering issues, this could also be an indication that your vehicle is due for wheel alignment.
Cost of Wheel Alignment
Wheel alignment is done by adjusting your car’s suspension to ensure that the wheels are parallel and lay as flat as possible on the road. A wheel alignment service can cost between $65 to $100.
It’s unnecessary to have your wheels aligned periodically since you can do it as needed. You may have to shell out a bit more money for wheel alignment, but driving with misaligned wheels creates more drag and less roll, so that it will cost you more on fuel consumption and tire replacement.
The Benefits of Rotating Your Tires
Many benefits come with having your tires rotated periodically. That’s why automobile and tire manufacturers recommend that you have your tires rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.
The recommended frequency of tire rotations and the placement of each wheel will vary depending on the vehicle, so it’s best to consult the owner’s manual. A vehicle’s weight distribution, as well as its drivetrain, will determine which wheel goes where.
It may seem unnecessary to have your tires rotated as often as an oil change, especially if you feel your car drives as good as new. However, you may regret your decision to forego a tire rotation when you have to replace your tires sooner than expected.
Having your tires rotated regularly far outweighs how much it costs and the time it takes to get it done. Let’s examine the benefits more closely.
Even Tire Wear
The most obvious benefit of having your tires rotated periodically is to extend the life of your tires. Each wheel on your vehicle has varying workloads, depending on your vehicle’s weight distribution, drivetrain, and braking system.
Rotating the tires ensures that each wheel is exposed to the same amount of work. Think of it as your favorite fast-food joint; the service crew rotates shifts and responsibilities to ensure their tasks are fairly spread out. By treating your tires equally, you can expect them to perform much better and work for you longer.
Rotating your tires will improve your vehicle’s road manners since each wheel will have an equal grip. Having grippy tires at the front and bold tires at the rear can cause your car to tailspin while having less grip at the front can cause your car to understeer.
Uneven tires can also negatively impact how smooth your vehicle rides due to unwanted vibrations. So, rotating your tires will give you better riding comfort aside from providing you with more safety.
Lower Fuel Consumption
Uneven or worn-out tires lead to less grip, which translates to your engine exerting more effort to move the car forward and decreasing fuel efficiency by 3%.
Keeping your tires in good shape through tire rotations can reduce how much you spend at the gas pumps, which we can all appreciate, given how high gas prices are.
You might also want to read: Why Is My Car Burning So Much Gas?
Aside from saving you money at the gas station, extending the life of your tires can drastically save you money on tire replacements. A new set of tires can cost hundreds of dollars, so spending a fraction of that to delay a tire replacement doesn’t sound bad.
Given the recommended frequency of tire rotations and its average cost, a car owner will likely spend around $80 per year to keep their tires in good shape. The fee may increase if other services like wheel balancing or alignment have to be done, but it will always be a small price to pay considering how much money it can save you in the long run.