Tire rotation, it seems, is a hot topic among tire dealers.
I have received several intriguing emails in response to my columns on the issue (March 25 and Aug. 13 editions of Tire Business).
To review, my friend had dif culty getting his front-wheel drive (FWD) 2015 Dodge Caravan up my steep
driveway, as a late winter storm early this year dumped a few inches of snow on our area.
My friend had been to an automotive service center a day earlier and asked for an oil change and free tire rotation. The oil change was completed, but the service manager refused to rotate his tires, telling him his rear tires had better tread than those mounted on the front.
The service manager said the better tires were on the rear, and that's where they should stay.
Tire dealers and other industry experts have weighed in on the subject, the majority of whom supported the tire dealer who refused to rotate the tires. One expert — Jacques Bajer, a former Ford Motor Co. engineer who persuaded Ford in the 1970s to switchto tubeless steel-cord-belted whitewall radial tires as original equipment on its cars in the U.S. — said the issue depends on the car's propulsion system. He said he believes tires with better tread should go on the front axle of FWD cars and on the rear axle of rear-wheel drive (RWD) vehicles, and that it didn't matter on an all-wheel drive system.
One clarification: In my column, Identified Mr. Bajer, who operated Tire Systems Engineering Inc., as a former employee at Group Michelin. He worked closely with Michelin, but he never worked for the French tire maker.
Mr. Bajer also encouraged dealers not to criss-cross assemblies when rotating tires. He said it was imperative "to evaluate the vehicle for smooth road shake and pull, using the same stretch of road, and taking into consideration wind and other atmospheric conditions."
Meanwhile, other experts, such as the Tire Industry Association, encourage that "each tire and wheel is removed from your vehicle and moved to different position to ensure that all of the tires wear evenly and last longer."
One dealer replied to Mr. Bajer's comment, saying his shop always crosses tires to the main drive axle, especially on older vehicles, trucks and vehicles with aggressive tires.
"Really any situation where you might expect to see the tires have a higher likelihood of getting choppy," he said.
Meanwhile, according to Kevin Rohlwing, senior vice president of Training for the Tire Industry Association (TIA), the industry standards for tire rotation depend on the type of vehicle and type of tire.
"In general, you cross the tires on the free-rolling axle when they rotate to the drive," Mr. Rohlwing said. "All-wheel and four-wheel drives cross all tires in a double X and directional tires rotate front to back."
He said that not crossing axles is an "old school myth" to prevent "belt shift" on radial tires.
"It may have been true 40-plus years ago, but today's radial tires can be safely crossed when rotated," he said.
Is that the standard practice in your shop? Do you criss-cross assemblies, as long as the tread pattern of the tires isn't directional?
Email me at [email protected] with your thoughts.
At any rate, following are some of the responses, reprinted with permission by the authors:
Thank you for your extensive article on the tire rotation issue. It would appear that the discussion can be condensed down
to four responses:
a) For the sake of our customers' safety (and liability concerns), we adhere to industry-recommended standards.
b) My personal opinion outweighs industry-recommended standards that are vetted by experts.
c) A mindset that: "I haven't seen an accident from doing it, so I don't believe it happens."
d) I am unwilling to lose a sale, so I let the customer tell me how to run my business.
This issue is no different than the safe repair area on a tire, size of repair that should be repaired or mismatching tires on an all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicle. Just because something "can" be done, or a customer "wants" something done, does not mean it "should" be done.
We follow industry guidelines because no extra revenue is worth risking the safety of our customers or someone else on the road with them.
Is it pleasant to have a customer upset because we refuse a service? — of course not.
Are there customers who won't (or can't) purchase a set of four tires? — of course.
Should this dictate safety standards we adhere to? — never.
If we are professionals, we have a responsibility to our customers to explain what we do, why we do it, and the bene ts to them.
Kenny's Clark & Goodyear
K&A Merschman Inc., Bemidji, Minn.
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Great article re: positioning of two new/two worn tires on an automobile.
I treat this subject in my vehicle dynamics class at the University of Akron when dealing with vehicle handling — and ensuing wet-road accidents and possible lawsuits. I've found that the easiest way to approach this sometimes counter-intuitive tire positioning issue to students is to explain what I refer to as the "arrow principle."
It's the reason that arrows are etched/feathered at the aft end of the shaft, and airplanes and ships have "rudders" at the back Otherwise, forward vehicle motion would be unstable. Math is needed here to go further — but I am surprised by the many incorrect responses that you previously cited.
Mechanical Engineering Dept., University of Akron
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I just nished your most recent article on where the tires should be placed on a vehicle when replacing only two tires.
One thing that never seems to be mentioned when debating this topic is if two different qualities of tires are being used. Tread depth is not the only determining factor on a tire's traction.
Let me give an example of what I'm trying to point out.
A front-wheel drive (FWD) vehicle comes in to have the two front tires replaced, and the current rear tires are a mid- to high-grade all-season tire that you know to have good wet and light snow traction attributes. The customer explains they want an inexpensive tire this time because they don't plan on keeping the car for long. Now you're ready to put on a pair of tires that you know when new don't have the same traction ratings as the tires currently on the vehicle.
Should the new tires still go on the rear, or would it then be recommended to put the new tires with the lower traction rating on the front of the vehicle?
We wrestle with this on a daily basis because we don't feel the issue is as cut and dry as most of the dealers that responded seem to. The type of tires purchased versus the type of tires on the vehicle (if different) and the amount of tread remaining on the tires being kept do factor into this.
With similar quality tires, we will typically place the new tires on the front if the current tires have 8/32nds-inch tread or more remaining so that a regular tire rotation schedule can then be kept.
Tires of different quality are handled on a case-by-case basis. I would be interested to hear your opinion on this.
Dick's Tire Barn, Charlton, Mass.
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Initially I was going to respond but unfortunately did not. I read the summary of responses, which has triggered this email.
In the original set of circumstances, the tires were well-worn but the owner only wanted to do two at the time. What was not mentioned in the responses and would have been a 100-percent valid reason for not touching the vehicle, if the vehicle was all-wheel drive (AWD) and two new tires are installed with two well-worn tires, the drive-train could be damaged extensively.
We would either bow out or have the owner sign a release stating that he understands what is being done and the consequences. If I recall correctly, it wasn't stated if the vehicle was front-wheel drive, four-wheel drive or full-time all-wheel drive. This would trump the rotation considerations discussed.
Dave Stern Tire, Paterson, N.J.
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I enjoyed your tire rotation article. It's interesting to me that you used the example initially in your article of a Dodge Caravan. Probably the most frightening event in my 48 years or so of driving was when I "lost" the rear end of my Caravan in slushy road conditions. The vehicle was absolutely uncontrollable, even with four good tires.
After fighting the skid for a while, I finally had to just let the car do a few 360s before it came to rest. Luckily nobody was coming the other way.
I invite the skeptics who want to put the good tires on the front of a front-wheel drive car to test drive a Caravan with bad rear tires in slippery conditions.
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There really is no debate about where the two new tires should go. On the rear, no matter front-, rear-, or all-wheel drive.
Anybody who says different is living in the stone age. There are numerous videos such as this on the Internet. A man suggested not crossing tires during rotation. That is 40-year old advice. All recommended rotation procedures advise some crossing tires unless they are directional.
Defer Tire, Streetsboro, Ohio