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I've been taught (at some point) that when switching tires, you should take care to keep each tire on the same side of the car throughout its life. So if a tire starts its life at rear left, then moving it to front left is okay, but moving it to the right side (either front or rear) is a bad thing. Presumably this is due to the direction of rotation; taking a left-hand tire and putting it on the right-hand side of the car, or the other way around, without taking additional steps, would reverse its direction of rotation.

Yet, this highly voted answer to Tire blew out at 15K miles, should I replace just one tire or a pair by a high-rep user includes the following (un-sourced) graphic showing "recommended" tire change patterns:

This seems to indicate that moving tires between sides of a vehicle is not only acceptable, but outright encouraged.

What gives? Is moving tires between sides of a vehicle good or bad, and why?

Let's assume that the steering is balanced, so that there is no significant uneven wear on the respective sides which would require special consideration.

  • The Googles seem to think that the rotation guide you posted is from: Tire Rack. They have other charts for different cases as well. – JPhi1618 Nov 7 '17 at 21:25
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There is some history to the answer.

The popular type of tire used to be what is known as "Bias Ply" tires, named for the way the layers of the tire were constructed. Once these tires were installed and driven on for a while, they were not supposed to be reversed. Running them in the opposite direction was bad and could lead to tire failure (Citation needed. This is hearsay passed on to me.). Rotation was therefore done only front to back and not left to right.

Now most tires are steel belted "radial" tires. They don't have the same construction, and it is safe to change their direction of travel. It's safe to swap them left to right, so that is recommended to move the tires all around the car over the course of a few rotations to even out the wear.

The caveat of that, is that we also now have a lot of tires with a directional tread pattern. These treads are designed to move water or provide traction better when they are rotated in a certain direction. There's no structural reason that you can't change direction, but you will mess up the handling of the tire. So, if your tires have directional arrows on them, they should only be rotated back to front.

The chart listed in the other answer would have been used with non-directional tread patterns in mind.

This image from Khumo Tires explains a little more:

enter image description here

http://kumhotireusa.com/tire/basics/tire-rotation

  • Are you sure you don't have this backwards? To my knowledge, bias was good with crisscross and radial not. I'm sure you're going to hear it both ways, but this has always been my understanding. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Nov 8 '17 at 1:20
  • I suspect reality is that early radial tires had this issue, or people thought they might have this issue. I have to think if modern (non directional) radial tires could not be reversed the tire manufacturers would be clearly warning about it. They may as well make them all directional for that matter. – agentp Nov 8 '17 at 16:04
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It's good to have evenly worn tyres, so I do circulate them. I even use my spare tyre in the circulation, since I have a full-size spare. That way, you keep all tyres in the same condition, and your driving experience will be consistent.

But keep in mind that while some tyres can rotate both ways, some are meant to rotate only one way. That's marked on the side wall if that is the case. If so, you can't change left tyres with right tyres.

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