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How to run your tires and why it is important

  2019 Volvo XC40 first disc review front right
Ronan Glon / Digital Trends

Turning your tires is a must if you want them to last as long as possible. There's no reason not to do that: it's easy, it doesn't require any special tools, and it only takes a few minutes. This is why you need to change your wheels every now and then and what you need to know before putting a jack under your car.

Why rotate?

Spinning tires is one of the simplest car maintenance tasks ̵

1; and it is also one of the most essential. Tires wear at different speeds and periodic change of position makes them wear more evenly. That means you don't have to buy new tires prematurely. If tires all wear out at the same speed, it also means they will respond in the same way, keeping your car's handling characteristics safe and consistent.

Tire rotations should be performed once every 6,000 miles or so, and it is a good idea to check the tread and pressure while you are working. You can time tire rotations to match other maintenance, such as changing the oil, and have it done while the car is in the shop. That's probably the easiest route for most people, but getting your own tires running at home is a snap.

Know Your Tires

The way tires are turned varies by vehicle, so refer to the owner's manual for the exact procedure. You may want to mark the tires with chalk to keep track of them too. Write "left front" or "right rear" on the inner part of the tire to find out what angle it comes from.

Assuming all four wheels are the same size and the tires are non-directional, you want to rotate the tires in a "backward cross" pattern for rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive cars / four wheel drive. In this pattern, the front tires move diagonally, so that the left front tire is mounted in the right rear position and the right front tire is moved to the left rear position. The rear tires are moved forward, but remain on the same side.

The pattern for front-wheel drive cars is the opposite. You do a "forward crotch" where the rear tires are moved forward and change sides. Alternatively, you can shake the tires in an "X" pattern, moving each tire diagonally regardless of which wheels are driven.

Some cars have directional tires (you can usually tell by the V-shaped tread pattern), and they can only be rotated front to back, front to back, not left to right. If your car's front and rear wheels are different sizes, you can only turn side by side. If your tires are directional and the wheels are different sizes, the tires must be removed from the rims and reassembled, which is not really something you can do at home unless you have a tire mounting machine. [19659006] Most modern cars have four full-size tires and a compact spare wheel, commonly referred to as a donut or a space-saving tire. That donut tire should only be ridden in an emergency, but you can use it as a placeholder while turning your tires. If your car has a full-size spare part (which means it's identical to the four tires you drive on), you may want to set a five-tire rotation so that it wears out as fast as your other tires. Make sure it is not old.

Finally, double pickups – which have two sets of rear wheels – have their own rotation pattern. Again, this can vary if the front and rear wheels are different sizes, so check the owner's manual for specific details.

Step 1: Loosen the wheel nuts

First prepare to jack up your car. Find a flat piece of land to work on, apply the parking brake, make sure the car is in the parking position if it is an automatic or in a gear if it is a manual. Also place blocks in front of the front wheel and behind the rear wheel on the opposite side to what you are working on (the wheels on that side will be off the ground).

Before jacking up the car, I want to unscrew the wheel nuts without completely removing them. The soil provides resistance, making it easier to remove them. If you try this while the wheel is in the air it will be much more difficult and since the drive wheels can rotate freely you could put a strain on the transmission.

Most modern cars have a five-cam cartridge. The correct way to loosen them is in a star pattern, which means starting at the top and loosening them in a pattern that draws a star. This prevents the rims from warping and is especially crucial for aluminum or magnesium wheels, which are more vulnerable than steel rims. If your car has a four-cam cartridge, loosen the nut diagonally from the nut you just unscrewed.

Wheel nuts can be difficult to loosen. One trick is to place your foot on the wrench handle and kick it once to crack the lip and then loosen the rest of the way in a normal way. You can also use a break bar to facilitate the process.

Step 2: Jack up your car

With the cams loosened but still on their threads, place the jack in the correct position under the car. Each car has specific locations where a jack can be placed safely. Consult the user manual to find the jack point and do not simply place the jack in an old place. A seemingly sturdy surface may not be able to support the weight of the car or may cause the car to slip off the jack. You don't want the jack to crush the bottom or your rib cage.

You need something to hold up the car while you move the tires. Jack stands are the simplest solution, but you can also mount the spare wheel on any hub that lacks a tire as a placeholder. If your car has a full spare, you may want to run it anyway.

Step 3: Remove and Install the Wheels

Once the tire you want to remove is in the air, you can remove the wheel nuts with your fingers. If you are using the spare wheel as a placeholder, have it fitted. Two wheel nuts that are tight enough to hold the wheel on the hub should be enough because you will not be riding on it. Continue to the next wheel and repeat the process.

If you are really reinstalling a wheel, reassemble all the wheel nuts and tighten them enough to allow the rim to sit on the hub. Then lower the car back to the ground and tighten it even more. Strictly speaking, you must use a torque wrench to ensure that the cams are tightened to the specific torque specifications stated in the owner's manual. But doing it by feeling with a conventional key should work fine. Tighten the cams until the resistance level increases sharply. Do not overtighten them as this may damage the rims. Again, this is especially important for aluminum or magnesium rims, which are fragile and expensive to replace.

Once the tires are in their new places, you are done. Since you are already playing with your tires, this is a good opportunity to check the tire pressure and tread depths.

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