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Can Rotation Erase Irregular Wear?

Tyre rotation can be an effective method of equalizing wear. And there are some new developments in rotation that can extend tyre life even more.

In this section, we will be looking at several different options that may prove effective in your operation.


The “classic” cross-rotation pattern for trucks is just one of several tyre rotation methods.

Should we be rotating our tyres?

Maybe. Some fleets, like those that use single drive axle tractors, may find their drive tyres wear very evenly throughout useful tread life. If that’s the case, rotating drive tyres may not produce any benefit. So you might as well save the time and expense.

How do we know we should rotate our tyres?

Basically, there are several criteria. First, are you experiencing irregular tyre wear? That is, is one part of some of your tyres worn more than other parts? With certain types of irregular wear conditions, rotation can be very helpful in equalizing wear over the whole tyre. 

The second question is, are some of your tyres wearing faster than other tyres on similar positions?

For example, most fleets note that the driver’s side steer tyre tend to wear faster than the one on the other side. And tyres on tandem drive axles often wear at different rates, depending whether they’re on the front or rear axle.

When should we take action?

You probably should establish some guidelines that work for you. Some fleets rotate tyres when there’s a certain overall tread depth difference between tyres on equivalent positions. That is, if the driver’s side steer has, for example, 2mm less remaining tread depth than the other steer, they’ll swap positions. Other fleets, for convenience, base rotation on mileage and maintenance schedules. If they do maintenance every 10,000 kilometres or so, they may do tyre rotations at every other regular maintenance check, that is, at 20,000 kilometres. If you need to remove tyres for any reason, it may be an opportunity to rotate them.

Can rotation “erase” irregular wear?

Not in the sense of reversing it or correcting it. What rotation can do is change the way that irregular wear forces are applied to the tyres. In some cases, the irregularity can be “scrubbed out”. But it’s important to remember that you can’t reverse irregular wear – or cure it – by rotation. All you can do is equalize the overall wear pattern.


Tread blocks can develop excessive wear on the edge that touches the road last. Called “heel and toe” wear, changing the direction of rotation can sometimes counteract these patterns.

For example?

One common type of irregular wear is “heel and toe” wear on block-type drive tyres. Usually, the edge of the block that touches the road first (the heel) wears slowly, while the edge that touches it last (the toe) can wear much faster. The result can be blocks that are worn at an angle. Heel and toe wear is rarely a problem in itself, but can lead to more serious alternate block or “pumping” wear, a good reason for taking corrective action. 

By reversing the direction of the tyre’s normal rotation, the forces involved are reversed, and the faster wear is transferred to the other side of the block. The irregular wear forces are still there, but the overall wear is more equalized.


If toe misadjustment is causing irregular wear, swapping sides with the steer tyres may scrub out the irregularity.

What about “toe” problems with steer tyres?

If you have a slight “toe-in” condition, the outer ribs of your steer tyres may wear faster than the inner ones. There may be rounding on the outside edges of tread elements and “feathering” on the inside edges. 

By swapping sides with these tyres, assuming that you have not corrected the toe-in condition, again, you may be able to “scrub out” the irregularity in wear.

Why wouldn’t we correct the toe condition?

It might be very slight. It might not be convenient or economically feasible to correct it right away. You might be too busy to take the vehicle out of service.

What if we do correct it?

In that case, rotation might not have much effect. Since the irregular wear was caused by a misalignment condition to begin with, once proper alignment is restored, forces scrubbing out the wear irregularities may be absent or insignificant.

Are there other kinds of tyre rotation?

The most common type is cross-rotation, where tyres are swapped from one side to another of the vehicle and where tyres on tandems are also swapped between axles.

There’s also what we might call “move-back” rotation.  

“Move-back”?

With very deep drive radials, with an average of 21mm original tread depth, once these tyres wear down to about 10mm or so, you may want to please drivers by replacing them with new tyres, especially as rainy season approaches. Many fleets,reluctant to grind away all that remaining tread on the retreader’s buffer, are moving these drive tyres back to trailer positions, getting many more useful miles from them before sending them for retreading. Since many trailer tyres only have about 10 – 15mm on them to start with, it’s almost like having new trailer tyres.


Partially worn deep tread drive radials, like the Bridgestone Ml, can provide lots of extra service when moved back to trailer positions.

What if we’re using the same tyres in all positions?

A number of fleets are simplifying tyre selection and inventories by using rib radials all around. What seems to work well is to run these tyres for about 50,000 kilometres or so, then swap the steer pair with those on the left rear tandem. If an additional rotation is needed, the steers (previously drives) can be swapped with the tyres on the right rear tandem. For convenience, repaired tyres can be placed on the front tandem.

So we’d be rotating tyres from drive positions to steer?

A number of fleets have tried this with excellent results. While we don’t know exactly why this works so well, it could be that the torque of drive axles helps “break in” the tyres (a bit like breaking in a new pair of shoes, perhaps) creating a very even wear pattern – that continues throughout the life of the tyre.

Are there tyres that shouldn’t be rotated?

Not really. Even unidirectional tread pattern tyres (like the Bridgestone R227) can be rotated successfully. In that case though, you’ll need to demount, flip the tyre and remount, in order to keep the unidirectional pattern in the direction of travel, for maximum irregular wear resistance.


If you use a single rib-type design for all tractor positions, this rotation pattern can be used to equalize wear.

Remember that rotation is a technique for equalizing wear. It won’t cure or reverse an irregular wear condition. That can only happen when you find and fix the cause.

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tyres in south africa
tyres in south africa