Tire Alignment vs. Tire Rotation: What’s the Difference?

tire alignment service being performed

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As a responsible driver in the Dallas-Fort Worth, TX area, you know how vital auto maintenance is when it comes to keeping your car in good shape— and you know that tire maintenance is an integral part of that process. But even with that knowledge, you might not understand the difference between wheel alignment and tire rotation.

While any reliable tire shop will handle these tasks as part of their tire maintenance service lineup, you’ll want to know what this involves. Keep reading for a closer look at wheel alignment, tire rotation, and what sets these vital services apart.

Tire Rotation & Alignment

All About Wheel Alignment

When a service is called “wheel alignment,” you might assume it involves adjusting the angles of your tires. This task does focus on changing the angles at which your wheels meet the road, but the mechanics handling this work won’t adjust your tires directly. Instead, they’ll make tweaks to the system that connects your wheels to the body of your vehicle — your suspension.

Over time, your suspension can drift away from its original settings, causing alignment issues. When these problems arise, you could experience the following:

  • Unusual tire wear. Correctly aligned tires should wear at the same rate (assuming you also schedule regular tire rotations, which we’ll get into later). Moreover, your tires should wear down the center — that’s the area designed to make the most contact with the road. Unexpectedly rapid tire wear or tire wear in unusual patterns can point to alignment problems.
  • Trouble keeping your steering wheel straight. What happens if you let go of your steering wheel while driving in a safe location? Under normal circumstances, it should stay straight. A steering wheel that pulls in one direction or another could be a sign of alignment issues.
  • Steering wheel vibrations. Your steering wheel shouldn’t vibrate while you drive. But poorly aligned tires can cause vibrations in your steering wheel, particularly when you travel at high speeds. Since those vibrations are tied to your wheel alignment, this issue won’t disappear if you ignore it.

What Is Tire Rotation?

You might assume tire rotation is another name for wheel alignment since it sounds somewhat similar. However, this is an entirely different form of maintenance, and you’ll need to keep up with both services to protect your tires.

As we discussed, wheel alignment deals with the angles of your car’s tires. In contrast, tire rotation focuses on their actual position on your car — that is, which axle each tire is attached to. Since tires that operate frequently work harder, they tend to wear down at a faster rate. To prevent uneven tire wear, drivers should rotate their tires on a regular basis.

Following a predetermined pattern for tire rotation is the key to making this service successful.  Depending on the type of drivetrain your car uses, your tire rotation will likely follow  one of these three patterns:

  • The Forward Cross pattern focuses on moving the tires on a car’s front axle to the matching spots on the rear axle. Then the tires on the vehicle’s rear axle will be moved forward diagonally. This pattern is most often used with cars that have front-wheel drive.
  • The X-Pattern involves diagonally moving each tire on your vehicle  — every tire will switch both sides and axles. Like the Forward Cross pattern, this pattern is ideal for cars with front-wheel drive.
  • The Rearward Cross pattern is effectively a backward version of the Forward Cross pattern. In this pattern, your rear tires will move up to their corresponding spots on the front axle, and your front tires will move diagonally and backward. Vehicles with front-wheel, all-wheel, and rear-wheel drive can use the Rearward Cross pattern.

Get Tire Rotation and Wheel Alignment From a Trustworthy Tire Shop

As is the case for most auto maintenance services beyond replacing windshield wipers, Dallas and Fort Worth car owners shouldn’t tackle tire alignment and rotation on their own. These services should be handled by ASE-certified mechanics who know exactly what your vehicle and its tires need. Consequently, it’s best to find a tire shop that can handle other tire-related services, like tire balancing and custom tires.

If you’re a Texas driver looking for a local auto shop that can align and rotate your tires, look no further than Driver’s Edge Complete Tire & Auto Service. Our qualified mechanics can take care of these services and a wide range of other auto maintenance and repair jobs. Get started by scheduling an appointment at Driver’s Edge today!