Does My Car Really Need This Service ~ Tires

bad tire on a Volkswagen

Worn out VW tireNext up in the “Does my car REALLY need this service” we have tires! Today we will talk about

  • When to rotate, and when to NOT rotate
  • Why balancing is important
  • When you should replace your tires

If you want to learn a little more about tires, check out Understanding Your Vehicle’s Tires. That breaks down the parts of tires, how to read the sizes, and tons more great information.

Why are tires important?
Consider that your tires provide 100% contact with the road. That means every bit of acceleration, and braking rely on just a few square inches of contact pattern. All 4000lbs of your car are riding down the road on that little spot. We need to make sure we get the most out of that contact area.

What are the types of tire services?
There is a heck of a lot that goes into making a tire. The good thing is the average driver doesn’t need to worry about that. All we need to worry about is keeping our tires in tip top shape. Here are the basic services your mechanic can perform on tires.

  • Rotation
    This is where you would move the front tires to the back, and the back tires to the front.
  • Rotate and Balance
    Here your wheel and tire assembly is put on a machine and balanced. Weights are added to off set heavy spots in the tire. Generally the tires are rotated here too.
  • New tires
    When your old tires are worn out, it’s time for new ones. After a new tire is mounted on a wheel, it is balanced too
  • Flat repair
    If you get a nail or something in a tire, it may be repairable. I recommend having a tire repaired. The plug kits they sell at stores are okay, but a professional repair is best

Pretty simple right? There is not too much to maintaining tires.

When to rotate, and when to not rotate
This is the most affordable way to prolong the life of your tires. Well, this and keeping the pressures set properly. You really can’t over rotate your tires. Plus when your mechanic takes the tires off, he will generally look at your brakes too. There is no harm in rotating your tires every time you have the oil changed.

There are times when you do not want to rotate your tires. If rotating your tires will put bad tires on the rear,  DO NOT ROTATE. You want to keep your best tires on the back.

Why is balancing so important.
Your riding down the highway. Your steering wheel is shaking back and forth making you crazy. You might just have a tire out of balance. If you have a tire that is vibrating bad enough to feel, you need to get your tires balanced.

There is also a good case for having your tire balance checked. Vibrations can develop slowly. You might have a slight vibration that is now just a normal for your car. There is also the extra wear on the tires. The more a tire is out of balance, the more it can hop, and shimmy. that can cause abnormal tire wear. The only repair for abnormally worn tires is replacement.

When do tires need to be replaced.
So you have properly rotated your tires, and kept them balanced too. At some point all tires wear out. How do you know if they need to be replaced? There are a few hard rules:

  • Any tire at or below 2/32 of tread
  • A tire that is older than 6 years old(this one shocked me too)
  • Any tire with side wall damage.
  • Any tire with cords, or belts showing, or worn into the secondary rubber
  • Severely dry rotted tires
  • If the shoulder of the tire gets punctured. You can’t safely repair that.

Now those are the rules when a tire MUST be replaced. When a tire gets down to about 4/32 of tread, it’s time to get them replaced. Sure you can get a few thousand more miles out of them. But they are not as safe as they were. Is rolling the dice on your safety and the safety of other on the road really worth it?

So do you really need this?
This is one service, or 3 to be exact, that really depend on the condition of your tires. If they don’t fall into the list directly above, you may be able to wait a little while. Just remember that your tires are one of the most important safety features!

  • Rotate
    Go ahead and do it. The service is very cheap ($20 or so) service to prolong your very expensive tires
  • Rotate and Balance
    I like to balance my tires every other oil change. Again it’s a very cheap($40 or so) service. Plus driving a car with a vibration can be maddening.
  • Replacing tires
    follow the rules I posted above. If you are not sure, have your mechanic show you why you need new tires. 4/32 is the measurement that you need to really consider new tires. 2/32 is MUST REPLACE. Just for prospective, most new tires are 11/32

Now you can feel good about getting that tire rotation, balance or replacement. If you have a service you would like added to the series, please post it below in the comments.

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13 replies
  1. Uwe
    Uwe says:

    > You want to keep your best tires on the back.
    I have to disagree with this. On a FWD car (as most VWs are) the fronts will wear much faster than the rears. If you start out with a brand new set of four tires, the rears will be better than the fronts the very first time one contemplates rotating them. Following the above rule would result in never rotating them at all. Moreover, on cars with ABS and ESP, putting “bad” tires on the rear is not as problematical as it once was.

    • Charles
      Charles says:

      That is a great point about ABS. To be honest, not one that I have given a ton of thought to.

      The idea of best tires in the back come from most, if not all, tire companies. It has become something that I adopted a while back.

      For everyone else, the idea was a blow out on the rear of the vehicle could result in a roll over. An extreme tire failure on a front tire would be bad, but you could still steer the vehicle.

    • gary
      gary says:

      The main reason for putting the best tires on the rear is to avoid a spin out in harsh weather conditions such as snow. If your front tires have a lot more traction you could take a turn and your rear end (with less traction) will slide out causing an accident. In the summer it does not matter as much, I hope this helps you and yes I am a current auto technician.

    • gary
      gary says:

      Also uwe if you rotate regularly (6000 miles) your fronts will never be too far off from your rears this really applies to people who get say 2 new tires and the other 2 are half worn, then the traction difference is significant

  2. Nathan
    Nathan says:

    I recommend rotating your tires every 5,000 miles or if you change your oil every 3,000, rotate them every other oil change. Tires are expensive, so keeping them rotated consistently is a great way to get the longest life out of them. Also proper inflation. Great post!

  3. Heather
    Heather says:

    What are your thoughts on cars with bent wheels? These older cars pretty much all have wheels that at least have 1 or 2 bends.

    We usually put the bent wheels, or wheels that take a lot of weight in the rear of the car to minimize vibrations in the front end which would be more noticeable. This proposes an issue with rotating of course.

    • Charles
      Charles says:

      Thanks for the comment. That is what I try and do too. A slight bent generally doesn’t pose an issue, but I try and put them on the rear.

      Luckily we have a service that can remove small bents from alloy wheels.

  4. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    My VW dealer just rotated my “better” tires to the front, not the rear… should I be concerned? Mind you, all of them need to be replaced and will be soon, hah.

  5. lightning mcqueen car
    lightning mcqueen car says:

    It is highly recommended to rotate the tires every 6,000 miles.
    A little time and money spent on periodic maintenance can help you avoid expensive repairs at a
    later date. An online automotive course only truly
    works well for the hobbyist who has the option of doing hands-on work at home or at a friend’s garage.

  6. Henry Killingsworth
    Henry Killingsworth says:

    Thank you for helping me to understand that it is important to make sure the wheels on your car are balanced so that your steering wheel doesn’t shake. My car has been pulling to the left recently. It seems like it would be a good idea for me to take it to a mechanic so that I can have it balanced.

  7. Iris Smith
    Iris Smith says:

    Thank you for mentioning that it’s time for new tyres when your old ones are worn out. My grandfather’s truck tyres are worn. I’ll advise him to visit a tyre store to buy a new tyre.


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