Do You Know All the Steps to Change, Balance, and Rotate Your Tires?

Steven Symes

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Can you change your tires without busting a lug nut or your knuckles? Do you laugh at how long it takes Formula One pit crews to get the job done? Are you always looking at tread depth as you walk up to your vehicle? 

Even the most car-oriented people often overlook their tires. That's unfortunate, because tires make a huge impact on performance. They're the only piece of a car's equipment that actually touches the road. As a result, they directly impact acceleration, stopping distances, handling, and fuel efficiency. In other words, ignoring the tires can have a huge effect on how your vehicle drives, and not for the better. 

Properly maintaining your tires involves rotating and balancing them regularly. Staying on top of these often-forgotten items will make your tires last longer, saving you money, too. 

Even well-maintained tires might need to be changed in an emergency. Knowing how to change a tire properly can save you from being stranded, so it's a good skill to have. 

Just how much do you know about these three valuable maintenance items? Take the quiz now and find out! 

Before you start jacking up the car to change the tires, what should you do?

Initially loosening lug nuts requires quite a bit of torque, and that likely is enough to cause the jack to tip over, so it's best to do before you raise the car.

Which way do you turn the lug nuts to loosen them?

Remember that lefty is loosie or that turning the lug nuts will back them off the bolts.

When raising the car, what do you do with the wheels on the opposite end you're jacking up?

Wheel chocks are inexpensive and designed to keep the tires from rolling at all, so the car doesn't fall off the jack.

Which of the following do you not want for the place where you'll change tires on your car?

It's key that you find the right surface to jack up your car, otherwise you might have trouble with the car falling off the jack or other problems that could lead to injuries.

Where do you place the jack under the vehicle?

You can find the exact location of the jack points by looking in the owner's manual, if you're unsure.

How high should you jack up your car?

Exactly how high really depends on your vehicle and the size of the tires, but there needs to be room to remove the wheel freely.

Where is the spare tire located in most sedans and coupes?

On most cars, the spare tire is hidden under the trunk floor, so you'll have to remove everything to take it out.

On most trucks and SUVs, where is the spare tire often mounted?

This is the common placement for trucks and SUVs, although a few have the spare mounted to the back or sitting upright on one side of the cargo area.

Once you put the new wheel on the bolts, what do you do next?

You'll need to tighten the lug nuts by hand, ensuring the wheel doesn't come off when you lower the car.

Once you've lowered the car, what else do you need to do?

Some people just stomp on the tire iron to get the lug nuts all they way tightened, but if you have a torque wrench and the owner's manual, that's even better.

Before driving off, it's always a good idea to do what?

Since your spare tire has been sitting out of sight and mind, you likely haven't been keeping it aired up properly. Now's a good time to check the tire pressure and make adjustments, if necessary.

Before you balance a tire, what safety equipment should you have?

When working with a tire balancer, your eyes and hands are at risk without proper protection.

After you turn on the balancer, what must you need to ensure for accurate readings?

Exactly how you verify the balancer has been calibrated depends on the device, which you should be familiar with.

Prior to installing a wheel and tire in the balance machine, what should you do?

The whole point of the balance machine is to test if the wheel and tire are fully balanced without the use of weights.

What should you install in the wheel hub once the wheel is in the balancer?

The balancer should come with cones that will fit securely in the center of the wheel hub. You must select the correct one for your wheel hub, ensuring everything works correctly.

What do you use to secure the wheel to the balancer?

When you use the pressure cup and wing nut, you must also ensure the wheel is going on straight, otherwise the balancing reading won't be entirely accurate.

Before you start up the balancer, what safety measure must be in place?

The hood keeps debris from flying out and hitting you or someone else. Some balancers won't start until the hood is lowered.

If the wheel isn't balanced, what should you do?

The machine will indicate where the imbalance is on the wheel, so you can install weights there. But, you should always turn on the balance machine again to confirm you've balanced the wheel properly.

If the wheel is an aftermarket model or has no lip in the front, what kind of weights do you use?

Tape weights have an adhesive backing, plus they come in squares that are a quarter ounce each, so you just add the appropriate number to the wheel in a discreet location.

When putting on clips, what do you need to consider?

Unlike tape weights, clips come in a whole range of sizes, which determines how much they weigh. You must select the proper one for each wheel.

Which wheels need to be balanced?

Balancing wheels is something you need to do for all four wheels, otherwise you might run into problems with performance and tire wear.

What would prevent you from following the traditional rotation patterns for tires?

In some cars, the front and rear tires aren't the same size, so you can't swap them. Also, if your car's equipped with directional tires, you can't follow the traditional patterns.

Which rotation pattern is recommended for front-wheel-drive cars?

A forward cross pattern involves swapping the front tires to the same side on the rear, while swapping the rear tires to the front and opposite sides.

If a car is equipped with directional tires, what kind of rotation pattern should you follow?

Like the name suggests, the front-to-rear pattern involves swapping the wheels from the front to the rear and vice versa, keeping them on the same side of the vehicle.

With a car that has front and rear tires that don't match in size, how should you rotate them?

Because you can't mix sizes, this requires you to swap the left and right tires, keeping them at the same end of the car.

What about cars that have full-size spare tires?

Unless a tire is labeled for temporary use only, if it's the same size as the other tires, you should work it into the rotation by placing it on the right rear wheel.

If a vehicle has dual rear tires and all six are the same size, how should you swap them?

This is a fairly complex swap, but it's still not too bad, as long as the tires are all the exact same size.

What can happen from not rotating the tires on an all-wheel-drive car routinely?

If the tires on your vehicle have different levels of grip, that can cause the all-wheel-drive system to engage too much, resulting in different parts wearing out entirely.

When rotating studded tires, what consideration must you take into account?

You should never change the rolling direction of studded tires, which means a front-to-rear rotation pattern is necessary.

If you don't have a lift, how can you support the car while rotating tires?

Jack stands are designed to keep the car lifted up off the ground, and you can even use them at all four corners.

How often should you be rotating the tires on your car?

To keep tread wear even, it's a good idea to rotate the tires within this mileage.

When tightening the lug nuts, what pattern should you follow?

By tightening one lug nut, then tightening the next one diagonally from that, you create a star pattern that ensures you tighten everything evenly.

If you don't tighten the lug nuts evenly, what's one possible consequence?

Taking the time to ensure proper and even tightening of the lug nuts is worth the extra effort.

If you rotate but don't balance the tires, what could happen?

Not only can unbalanced tires lead to uneven tread wear, they can also cause premature suspension component failure, because the wheels are constantly moving up and down.

Which of the following would speed up the process of changing, balancing and rotating tires?

Using an air impact wrench speeds up the job big time, because you can remove and tighten the lug nuts quickly and with precision.

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