Monday, July 22, 2024

AWD Tire Rotation: Proper Tire Care for AWD Vehicles


Tire rotation is an important maintenance task for all vehicles, including all-wheel drive (AWD) models.

Rotating tires periodically helps them wear evenly and extend their lifespan. Tires are expensive, so making them last longer saves money.

Uneven tire wear can also impact your vehicle’s handling and braking.

Many people assume AWD vehicles don’t need tire rotations since power goes to all four wheels.

But even with AWD, each tire still carries different loads and wears at different rates. The front tires handle steering and braking forces.

The rear tires drive the vehicle. Rotating tires balances out these differences so they wear evenly. This ensures optimal performance, safety and maximizes tire life.

How Tire Rotation Works

Tire rotation is the process of periodically moving each tire and wheel to a different position on the vehicle. This ensures the tires wear evenly and prolongs their lifespan.

The most common rotation pattern is called the forward cross or X pattern. With this method, the front tires are swapped side to side, while the rear tires are moved in a criss-cross pattern.

For example, the front-left tire would move to the front-right, while the rear-right tire goes to the front-left.

Rotating in an X pattern ensures that the tires wear evenly and maintains proper alignment.

Tires that are always used on one side of the vehicle tend to wear on one edge faster.

Rotation allows each tire to be in a front, rear, left, and right position to even out tread depth.

Some vehicles use a back-to-front rotation pattern instead. This just flips the front and rear tires without crossing them side-to-side.

While not ideal, this can work for some drivetrain configurations. Always check the owner’s manual to see the recommended rotation method and pattern for your vehicle.

Proper tire rotation extends the life of your tires, saves money on premature replacements, and enhances safety through even tread wear.

It’s one of the easiest maintenance steps to improve your vehicle’s performance and longevity.

Benefits of Rotation

Rotating your tires regularly provides some key benefits that help extend the life of your tires and save you money in the long run.

When you rotate your tires, you are essentially allowing them to wear more evenly. Tires wear at different rates depending on their position on the vehicle.

For example, front tires tend to wear faster than rear tires due to factors like alignment and turning.

By rotating the tires to different positions, they wear more evenly across all four tires over time.

This evens out the tread depth and allows you to get the maximum use of each tire before needing to replace them.

With an even wear pattern, tires will last longer before they reach the minimum tread depth requirements.

Most tire experts recommend replacing tires when they reach 2/32 of an inch of remaining tread depth.

By rotating tires regularly, you ensure they wear down evenly to this point, rather than wearing out one or two tires prematurely.

This prevents you from having to replace tires as frequently, saving you money.

Overall, regular tire rotation is one of the easiest and most effective ways to extend the life of your tires and avoid premature replacements.

Most mechanics recommend rotating every 5,000-8,000 miles, allowing you to maximize your tire investment.

Don’t neglect tire rotation – it provides big savings over the life of your tires.

Tire manufacturers and automakers generally recommend rotating your tires every 5,000-8,000 miles.

This frequency accounts for the average driver who puts on around 12,000-15,000 miles per year.

Rotating this often ensures the tires wear evenly so you get the full tread life out of them.

It also allows you to spot any potential tire issues early before they become serious problems.

For most drivers, a good rule of thumb is to rotate your tires with each oil change or every other oil change. Most oil change intervals fall within the 5,000-8,000 mile range.

If you drive fewer annual miles, you can likely get away with rotating every 6 months or so.

For those who drive more highway miles at higher speeds, rotating every 4,000-5,000 miles is a safer bet.

The goal is to not go much beyond 8,000 miles between rotations, even if you don’t drive that much in 6 months of time.

The rotation schedule helps prevent uneven tread wear that shortens your tire life.

Rotation for AWD Vehicles

All-wheel drive (AWD) vehicles require a unique tire rotation pattern compared to two-wheel drive vehicles.

This is due to the differential which allows each wheel to receive power.

On AWD vehicles, the front and rear axles turn at different speeds while cornering, so the tires wear at different rates.

Rotating the tires evens out the wear. The most common rotation pattern is a crisscross – front tires go to the opposite rear, and vice versa.

This ensures the tires with more wear go to the opposite end with less wear.

Some AWD systems have a center differential or transfer case allowing rotation in an X pattern like other vehicles.

But crossing axles is still recommended for most AWD vehicles to account for the different wear rates.

Always check your owner’s manual for the proper rotation procedure. Rotating in the wrong pattern could damage AWD system components.

Signs You Need Rotation

One of the most obvious signs that your tires need rotating is uneven treadwear. This means that some parts of the tread have worn down more than others.

Typically, the front tires will show more wear on the shoulders while the rear tires will be more worn in the center.

This uneven wear happens because the front tires handle most of the steering and braking forces. The rear tires mainly propel the vehicle forward.

Rotating the tires will help distribute this uneven wear so that your tires wear down more evenly.

This helps them last longer before needing to be replaced. If you notice the tread depth is significantly less in some spots, it’s a sign that rotation is overdue.

Have a professional inspect the tires and measure the tread depth in different areas. They can advise you on whether rotation alone is sufficient or if any tire replacement is needed.

Don’t wait until the tread wear becomes severe, as that will shorten the life of your tires.

How to Rotate Tires

Rotating your tires is actually quite simple with the right tools. Here are the steps:

  • Park your vehicle on a flat, level surface and apply the parking brake. Chock the wheels that will remain on the ground.
  • Using a floor jack, lift the front of the vehicle and secure it on jack stands. Remove the front wheels.
  • Move one front tire and wheel to the opposite rear position. Move the other front tire and wheel to the opposite rear position.
  • Lower the vehicle off the jack stands and lift the rear of the vehicle, securing it on jack stands. Remove the rear wheels.
  • Move one rear tire and wheel to the opposite front position. Move the other rear tire and wheel to the opposite front position.
  • Reinstall all the wheels and torque them to the manufacturer’s specifications using a torque wrench. Refer to your owner’s manual for the proper lug nut torque.
  • Lower the vehicle completely and remove the jack stands.
  • Drive the vehicle forward and backward a short distance to allow the suspension to settle into the new positions.
  • Perform a test drive to ensure proper clearance and that the tires are balanced.

Following the proper steps using a floor jack and torque wrench will allow you to safely rotate your tires and achieve maximum tire life.

Consider having a professional perform the rotation if you don’t have the proper tools.

Have a Professional Do It

Even all-wheel drive vehicles require regular tire rotation to maximize performance and tread life.

While the process seems straightforward, there are some nuances to properly rotating tires on AWD vehicles that DIYers can easily get wrong.

Improper rotation techniques on an AWD vehicle can lead to serious drivetrain damage and costly repairs.

The biggest risk is rotating the tires in a criss-cross pattern rather than front-to-back/rear-to-front.

This can cause the drivetrain to bind up and lead to serious mechanical issues.

Additionally, if the tire sizes are not matched correctly after rotation, it can damage the AWD system.

This is especially important for vehicles with full-time AWD that cannot disable power to any of the wheels.

To avoid any issues, it’s highly recommended to have tire rotation done by a qualified auto service shop that specializes in AWD vehicles.

They have the expertise to safely lift and rotate your tires using the proper procedures for your specific vehicle’s AWD system.

This small added cost upfront can prevent very expensive damage down the road.

Don’t take chances doing it yourself – have the professionals handle tire rotation on your AWD vehicle.

Rotation Reminders

Keeping up with regular tire rotations can be challenging, so set reminders to help you stay on schedule.

The best way is to add rotation to your calendar or vehicle maintenance app. Schedule it at the interval recommended in your owner’s manual, usually every 5,000-7,500 miles.

Add an annual reminder for the start of each year. Check your odometer reading and schedule the next rotation based on your total mileage.

Some maintenance apps can even track mileage and remind you automatically when it’s time.

You can also add a reminder to your phone’s calendar to pop up when you hit the target mileage.

Set notifications to repeat so you’re reminded each rotation interval. Some shops offer free tire rotation reminders as well.

Staying proactive with reminders makes it easier to get your tires rotated on time. Proper maintenance will extend the life of your tires and keep your AWD vehicle performing safely.

Don’t wait for your tires to show signs of uneven wear. Schedule regular rotations in advance and avoid problems down the road.


Regular tire rotation is important for all vehicles, including AWD models. By rotating tires every 5,000-8,000 miles, you can promote more even wear, improve handling and traction, and extend the life of your tires.

This helps you save money over time by maximizing your tire investment.

While AWD systems require following specific rotation patterns to avoid damage, this is easy to do at home or by taking your vehicle to a professional.

The small time investment is well worth it for the performance and safety benefits. Keeping up with tire rotations ensures your AWD system functions as designed.

With proper care and maintenance, your tires and AWD drivetrain can deliver reliable traction and control for many miles.

The Tire Reviews Team
The Tire Reviews Team
Rev up your knowledge with The Tire Reviews, your one-stop pit stop for swift and concise tire reviews. We cut through the noise, delivering the lowdown on treads that matter. Whether you're chasing performance or seeking a smooth commute, join us as we navigate the world of tires.

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