Dave Scribner, contributing writer
Every shop performing tire service offers tire rotations, but how do you use it to “hook a keeper customer” and have them return again and again for all their rotations and additional services? Use the Rule of 3X Tire Rotation that goes like this: On all vehicles, first rotate the tires front to rear, with front crisscrossed to rear, and rear parallel to front; on the second rotation, crisscross the tires in an X-pattern; and, on the third rotation, rotate the tires front to rear and crisscross them rear to front.
Exceptions are a staggered set of tires that are different sizes front to rear or directional tires. However, you cannot over-rotate tires to get the longest life.
Inform customers that if they want to get the best mileage out of their tires, only you will do this for them, so they should get in the habit of coming back for this service. Explain that if they take it somewhere else, the 3X cycle will be broken. This is the easiest way for the consumer to remember to rotate their tires; all they must do is remember to come back to you.
In hot weather, tires wear much faster so it is especially important to rotate tires at every oil change or at least every 8,000-10,000 miles.
Many consumers are not aware that road crown causes steering corrections more often to the left, causing the right front tire to toe-in most often and wear faster than the left-side front tire.
Replacing Tires During Rotations
Explain to your customers that in order to obtain maximum tread life, tires must be rotated. Rotate tires every 8,000 to 10,000 miles or as specified by the vehicle manufacturer, whichever occurs more frequently. Replace tires when they get down to 2-4/32-in. Inspect them monthly for possible punctures or abnormal tire wear.
When rotating tires with a directional tread pattern, observe the arrows molded on the sidewall that show the direction in which the tire should rotate. Care must be taken to maintain the proper rotation direction.
TPMS Service During Rotations
Some TPMS systems may not recognize that a tire has been moved to a different position on the vehicle. Make certain the TPMS system is reset to correctly identify the location of each tire on the vehicle. Determine whether rotated tires require tire inflation adjustment because front and rear tire pressure may vary according to the vehicle manufacturer’s specification, due to the actual load on that wheel position. Some vehicles may have different-sized tires mounted on the front versus the rear axles, and these different tires have rotation restrictions.
Keep in mind if the vehicle has more than 100,000 miles, the TPMS batteries may trigger a light and fail shortly after the rotation. Reprogramming puts a “load test” on the sensors and often this causes battery failure and the need for sensor replacement after the customer drives away. Customers should be informed of this before a reset is conducted. If you notice a significant difference in tire pressure, suspect that the tire has a leak and check and repair it, if necessary.
Checking Tire Tread During Rotations
When inspecting tires for optimal tread depth, always check the tires at 360 degrees for cupping, flat spots and debris that could damage the tire. Cupping and flat spots can be the result of an out-of-balance condition, worn suspension parts, misalignment or internal tire defects. Many tires can come apart internally (belt separation) when the vehicle is driven at high speeds in hot climates. The internal tread or belt delamination quickly expands and exhibits accelerated wear during high-speed rotation. It then shows up as a pronounced flat spot and produces a low-speed vibration when the tire is rotating slowly. Ideally, all vehicles receiving any tire service should be road tested to expedite the inspection process.
A single tread depth check is never sufficient to make a claim that the tires are in good condition. If the tire looks good at 360 degrees, then take the flat of your hand and wipe it across the tread and do the same in the opposite direction. The tread blocks should feel the same as you check the tires in both directions. What you can’t see but can feel with the palm of your hand may be another indication that the alignment and or suspension parts may be worn and are in need of replacement.
Most importantly, remember to sell The Rule of 3X Tire Rotation — a proactive approach to retaining customers for life.
The above is an example of a tire void defect (aka delamination) taking place between the tread rubber and the steel belt. The rubber is not adhering to the steel belt below it. At high speeds, the void expands under centrifugal force creating a high spot that quickly grinds off the tread rubber. At rest, the void collapses and shows as a low spot. The tread is untouched around the flat spot, thus proving that the tread rubber is coming away from the belt. Tires with a delaminating belt show a different type of wear, such as isolated flat-spotting across the entire tread area.