What To Look For When Rotating A Set Of Tires

Are you rotating a set of tires on a vehicle? You may want to inspect the vehicle while you’re at it. Having the vehicle up in the air and the tires off makes it easy to check for certain issues. If you’re not sure what to check, we put together a list of items to look for.

1. Brake Pad Thickness

Bakre pad thickness

It’s a good idea to check the brake pads every time the wheel is off. Check the thickness of the brake pad with a brake pad thickness gauge. If it measures 3mm or less, replace the brake pads ASAP. There’s very little pad life left. That means:

  • The vehicle won’t be able to stop safely
  • There can be serious damage to the pads, rotors, and calipers

If the brake pad thickness reads 4mm to 7mm, take caution. Keep an eye on the brake pad life, but the vehicle is still safe to drive.

If the brake pad thickness reads 8mm or above, there’s plenty of pad life left.

2. Wheel Hub Or Ball Joint Play

You want to check this after lifting the vehicle, but before removing the wheel, and with the lug nuts still on. Here’s how the process goes:

  1. Put your hands at 12:00 and 6:00 on the tire.
  2. Rock the tire inward and outward.
    1. Give it a good firm shove.
  3. If there’s some play, the ball joint or wheel hub is loose.
  4. To determine which part is loose:
    1. Stand behind the tire and observe the ball joint and wheel hub while a friend rocks the tire inward and outward. Look for excessive play in both parts.

If the wheel hub is the issue, there’s usually a grinding sound that happens with excessive play. If the wheel hub bearing assembly has any play, you may have a worn out bearing. If you’re in this situation, we have some resources that may help you:

We produce high quality wheel hub assemblies and wheel bearings. If you need a replacement part, you can’t go wrong with GMB!

3. Tie Rod Or Steering Linkage Play

Tie rod

You can do this after checking for wheel hub/ball joint play. The process is generally the same with the tire still on and the lug nuts still on.

Put your hands at 9:00 and 3:00 of the tire. Rock the tire inward and outward. Be gentle; don’t rock it too hard. If it moves even a little bit, there’s play in the tie rod or steering linkage. There shouldn’t be any play at all.

4. Shock Leaks Or Damage

With your wheels off, it’s easy to see the shocks. Grab a flashlight and inspect the shocks for:

  • Leaking hydraulic fluid (shocks are always dirty, but if you see any wetness on the shocks, it’s likely hydraulic fluid)
  • Bent rods
  • Any looseness
  • Any cracks or damage

If you find any leaks or damage on the shocks, it’s best to replace them ASAP. Good shocks help maintain:

  • Ride comfort
  • Handling
  • Better control when going over bumps or potholes
  • Gas mileage

5. Tread Life

Tire tread

Check the tread life to see if your tires are still good to use. It would be a drag to rotate the tires only to find out that they need replacing soon. If there’s too little tread life left, the vehicle won’t stop well in wet weather.

If the tread life is 3/32″ or under, the vehicle definitely needs new tires ASAP.

6. Torn CV Boots

If you have a torn CV boot, the CV joint will fail shortly. That’s why it’s a good idea to catch and address the issue early on. To do this, grab a flashlight and then give the CV boots a visual inspection. Look for any:

  • Cracks
  • Rips
  • Tears
  • Punctures
  • Loose or missing clamps

If a CV boot is torn, the packing grease leaks out. Also, dirt and moisture is let in. This damages the CV joint and compromises its ability to function.

 

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