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Costco Tires: Free Lifetime (non)rotation
Old 12-14-2010, 01:36 PM   #1
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Costco Tires: Free Lifetime (non)rotation

I like Costco in general, and started getting tires there. My last visit for tire rotation was not fun and I'm debating calling the manager.

First, I do share some responsibility for this - I skipped getting the tires rotated last year, not sure if we were going to get rid of the vehicle anyway, so they were a bit over due. So I take them in yesterday, because I want the best tread on the front (front wheel drive) for winter driving. The fronts are worn a bit more than the rears by now, but not extreme.

Well, I return after the 1 1/4 hours I was told and the guy tells me they won't rotate them because there is more wear on the front than back, and it is their policy that the rear should have more tread than the front. He quotes some study that Michelin did that says this is best. I'm aggravated, but I decide not to argue too much, the guy's just quoting policy, I'm not likely to get too far, and I got things to do (all day).

I do some googling and find a link on tirerack.com referencing this ( Winter Tech - Where to Install New Pairs of Tires? ) , and it's all about hydroplaning and how bad it is for the back to hydroplane before the front. OK. I also look at the receipt (for non-work) from Costco, and it tells my that my fronts are worn 3/32" more than the rear, and they won't rotate if the delta is more than 2/32". Missed it by 1/32"!

OK, we rarely use this vehicle at highway speeds, it would be even rarer that I would be driving at highway speeds in hydroplane conditions, and if it is wet I would be extra-special cautious as I know the tread is worn a bit (true of any tire that is not brand new). However, I guarantee you that we will be on snow several times this season, and I know the best tread in the front is going to help traction and braking.

Seems to me the customer should have the choice, armed with this knowledge. With Costco's policy, my tires are now useless (unless I DIY or pay someone else to do it - and if what Costco says is so important, no one else should do it either) - because I supposedly can never rotate them, I can never get the wear even again. If I were to rotate them, within a few months that wear pattern would be in the range of what they would call acceptable. Seems ridiculous (other than alerting people to the matter).

It also seems that one would need to be very attentive to this, and get them in before that 2/32" limit is hit - because with FWD the fronts will wear faster, and once you hit this point you are 'stuck' with their policy. You can't get them rotated to even out the wear again. I think this should be emphasized when you buy and each time you come in to rotate. They send me email several times a week - how about a reminder that I might lose my "free lifetime tire rotation" if I delay?

Another thing that bugs me is the sign on the door says "No Appointment Necessary!" What they really mean is "No Appointments Taken - Count on Waiting". It also didn't help that the guy entered the wrong number for my cell phone, so I didn't get the message that they couldn't rotate them (and I gave him the number twice), so I wasted the entire 1:15.

Think it's worth calling the Costco Mgr? Or just DIY or pay someone else and be done with it? I just got a set for my Volvo from Tirerack.com - the only tires that Costco carried for my Volvo were very expensive and rated only slightly higher than the ones I got from TireRack. And they had a link to a local guy that was very happy to mount tires purchased at TireRack - he says they get a lot of business that way.

-ERD50
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Old 12-14-2010, 02:15 PM   #2
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Discount Tire has a similar policy. They won't touch the tires if the tread is less than a certain amount (2/32? 3/32??). Which means you can have the problem of driveable tires worn past their threshold on the front of a FWD vehicle, and they won't rotate to the back, where the back tires sit with 4/32+ and plenty of useful life. Marketing ploy to get you convinced you need new tires? CYA liability protection for them??
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Old 12-14-2010, 02:28 PM   #3
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Marketing ploy to get you convinced you need new tires? CYA liability protection for them??
Yes
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Old 12-14-2010, 02:31 PM   #4
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Seems if they disclosed that policy at the time of the sale, they win.

Still it should be customer preference, though they may want a waiver signed.

In practice I always had the better treads on the rear. Better traction if a skid starts, easier to control the tendency to swap ends. That I've done for the past 30 years or so of self service tire rotations.

I usually buy winter tires new from mail order. Prefer slightly used tires for summer. Theory being: it is cheaper, yeah I'm a cheapskate, also tires more efficient with lower tread height -less squirm, lower rolling resistance etc. etc. .

Seems this free tire rotation comes under the heading of loss leader, more options to sell the sucker customer more crap. Including un-needed tires.
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Old 12-14-2010, 02:44 PM   #5
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I am almost positive there is some verbage in that contract that suggest how often or at what mileages you need to follow. It is simply CYA, they don't want a sue-happy customer blaming them for putting "unsafe" tires back on your car.........
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Old 12-14-2010, 02:51 PM   #6
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I generally love Costco, in fact seldom shop anywhere else, however I also have less than satisfactory service with there tire department. They seem to have a large number of rules and are a stickler for them. In my case it was the speed rating.
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Old 12-14-2010, 02:57 PM   #7
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Not long ago a friend of mine tried to purchase two tires from Tirerack. They refused to sell him two on similar grounds.
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Old 12-14-2010, 03:45 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by FUEGO View Post
Discount Tire has a similar policy. They won't touch the tires if the tread is less than a certain amount (2/32? 3/32??). Which means you can have the problem of driveable tires worn past their threshold on the front of a FWD vehicle, and they won't rotate to the back, where the back tires sit with 4/32+ and plenty of useful life. Marketing ploy to get you convinced you need new tires? CYA liability protection for them??
I should add - the 2/32" and 3/32" numbers I quoted were the deltas between front and back. These tires have (according to Costco, I didn't try measuring them yet), 5/32" front and 8/32" back. I looked at the contract fine print and 2/32" is considered "worn out", at that point they won't do a Road Hazard Repair.

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I am almost positive there is some verbage in that contract that suggest how often or at what mileages you need to follow. It is simply CYA, they don't want a sue-happy customer blaming them for putting "unsafe" tires back on your car.........
I agree on the CYA, but also that there is some substance to it. I just think there should be more warning, and some discretion. I'll sign a waiver.

Well, I looked at the contract. There are limitations to the Road Hazard repairs, but nothing about them not doing free rotations based on this limit of a 2/32" delta between front/rear. So you wouldn't know until you get hit with it after the fact. So there are conditions for the Road Hazard Warranty, bit nothing on the 'free rotations' that I see. There are some 'recommendations', but nothing that says if you don't do this, they won't rotate your tires.

I think I'm going to call and complain tomorrow then - I don't think this is right.


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I generally love Costco, in fact seldom shop anywhere else, however I also have less than satisfactory service with there tire department. They seem to have a large number of rules and are a stickler for them. In my case it was the speed rating.
Yes, other places would sell me tires with a slightly lower speed rating than what Volvo uses originally. Costco would not, and the price difference is huge. I think we are talking 160mph versus 140mph. If I was doing long haul high speed driving across the desert, I might care. 99% of my driving doesn't exceed 45mph for more than a few minutes at a time. I can see where they just draw a line in the sand rather than try to make a judgement call, but these other places do it, so they will get my future business.

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Old 12-14-2010, 04:00 PM   #9
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I just went over the contract and their website. No mention that anything like this would terminate their "free tire rotation for life" offer. That's just not right. When I looked into tires from TireRack.com, I included the value of Costco annual rotations into my purchase decision (and still went with tirerack on my Volvo).

If I had made aware of this, I might not have been so lax about not getting them in last year. By not telling me about this upfront, it really has screwed me out of 'free' rotations.

-ERD50
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Old 12-14-2010, 04:10 PM   #10
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i worked in the hot arizona sun at discount tire through high school & a summer after my freshman year of college. i'm not sure what their current policy is, but i never had a tire tread depth gauge in my "tire technician" job. my rule was, as long as there were no steel cords showing and the tread wasn't down to the wear bars, i rotated it (my buddy and myself could rotate the tires, check the air pressure and torque in under 3 minutes).

there's a study for everything. discount tire does free tire rotations. or have wally world do it. or your local mechanic. write your letter.
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Old 12-14-2010, 04:12 PM   #11
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Think it's worth calling the Costco Mgr? Or just DIY or pay someone else and be done with it?
-ERD50

Aren't you retired? Doesn't helping the Costco manager do his job sound like work? Will you get paid?

Lighten up and DIY if it means that much. I do all my car work because I like doing it. I buy my tires where they are cheapest and if I feel like it rotate them myself. If I forget to rotate them and spend a few extra bucks buying 4 when I need 2 + 80% of 2 more, that's acceptable IMHO. YMMV
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Old 12-14-2010, 04:16 PM   #12
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I get the same story at walmart these days.
I guess it is the new norm, or new to me.
I gave them a hard time.
Told them I paid for tire rotation and please do the servive for me.
I said rotate and balance my tires and that I would sign a waver to release them from liability.
Not sure if it will continue to work but I was able to sign the waver and got what I wanted.
In my younger days I was always told to keep the best tires on the front.
I live in the south so very little snow and ice to worry about.
I guess we were all wrong according to these newer studies though.
Hard for me to accept but I may have to get use to it.
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Old 12-14-2010, 04:18 PM   #13
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ERD50, thanks for posting this. I was not aware of this but do know they insist that the new tires go on back.

I understand that rotation evens out the wear among the 4 tires but don't understand how you really spend less.....seems like if you don't rotate you
wear out the fronts 2x as fast but the backs last 2x as long as they would if you rotated......assumption is that wear on front is much larger than wear on back.
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Old 12-14-2010, 05:07 PM   #14
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ERD50 - thanks for posting, this is useful information. Although here we generally switch between summer and winter tires every six months, so it hasn't come up yet for me. This time I didn't check whether they properly marked the removed tires - I now see that this is very important and I will rattle their cage if they are not marked well.
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Old 12-14-2010, 05:55 PM   #15
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Seems to me the customer should have the choice, armed with this knowledge. ......Or just DIY or pay someone else and be done with it?
They are right, it isn't just hydroplaning, you do not want your rear tires to lose adhesion before your fronts, or you might find yourself going round and round.

Also, if you use dedicated winter tires on a FWD vehicle, you want them all around. If you want to DIY and circumvent their rule, who is to stop you? Might be best to wait until winter is over though.

Ha
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Old 12-14-2010, 06:55 PM   #16
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ERD50, thanks for posting this. I was not aware of this but do know they insist that the new tires go on back.

I understand that rotation evens out the wear among the 4 tires but don't understand how you really spend less.....seems like if you don't rotate you
wear out the fronts 2x as fast but the backs last 2x as long as they would if you rotated......assumption is that wear on front is much larger than wear on back.
That's basically correct, but with front wheel drive, the rear tires will dry rot before they wear out, so you're likely to extend tire wear significantly. I always put the best tires up front with FWD and I think thier policy is nonsense. Don't forget tires do decay from time as well as miles and 6 yrs is the limit, I believe. I have adopted the practice of insisting on tires that are less than 12 months old based on date code stamped on each tire.
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Old 12-14-2010, 07:07 PM   #17
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Last time I bought 2 tires at Costco, they told me the same story about the new tires must go in the rear. I did not argue with them, and just rotated them when I got back home.

The reasoning behind their refusal is sound, but being in a dry state where it rarely rains, plus the fact that the old tires were not all that bad in my view, I was willing to take my chances.
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Old 12-14-2010, 07:48 PM   #18
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They are right, it isn't just hydroplaning, you do not want your rear tires to lose adhesion before your fronts, or you might find yourself going round and round.

Also, if you use dedicated winter tires on a FWD vehicle, you want them all around. If you want to DIY and circumvent their rule, who is to stop you? Might be best to wait until winter is over though.

Ha
Well, I'm sure this is true under some specific conditions. But I've been driving Front Wheel drive cars in Northern Illinois for 32 consecutive years (after my first FWD I would not go back). There are many, many times that I wished I had better front wheel traction to accelerate and/or brake (which is mostly a front wheel thing), and at times it was a problem that it wasn't better, and I can't ever recall a time where the rear end was swinging around. IME, this is so weighted towards the front wheels that isn't even funny. If I can't get going, it makes no difference what the rear end wants to do, because it isn't going anywhere either.

With FWD (if you have the traction), you can use your power to pull the rear end back where you want it. Steer into the skid. I've practiced in parking lots.

If I was on a racetrack, trying to take turns at high speed on slippery pavement, I would be concerned about the rear end swinging out. But in snow, I just want to go (and stop), and I will go as slow as I need to feel safe, and the guy behind me can just cuss me out all he wants. I'll get where I'm going safely.

In the write up on tirerack.com, that is what they did - tested on a wet racetrack. Fine, now test them in snow and tell me which you prefer for an Illinois winter.

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Last time I bought 2 tires at Costco, they told me the same story about the new tires must go in the rear. I did not argue with them, and just rotated them when I got back home.
Yes, that is specifically on their web site. But not that they will refuse to rotate within certain specs, which means they will never rotate again unless you circumvent them at least once to get back in their (unpublished) spec.

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ERD50 - thanks for posting, this is useful information. Although here we generally switch between summer and winter tires every six months, so it hasn't come up yet for me. This time I didn't check whether they properly marked the removed tires - I now see that this is very important and I will rattle their cage if they are not marked well.
Careful if you're dealing with Costco. In researching this, people said they no longer consider switching from winter to summer tire/wheels as a 'rotation' and will charge for it. Should be the same - there is no more work taking off one set and replacing with another versus rotating the same set (this assumes you are talking about summer/winter tires already mounted to their own set of wheels.

-ERD50
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Old 12-14-2010, 07:54 PM   #19
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They are right, it isn't just hydroplaning, you do not want your rear tires to lose adhesion before your fronts, or you might find yourself going round and round.
Having been the guy living where there is no snow and almost never any ice, I always kept the better treads on the front. That led to a set of what looked like racing slicks on the back end of my Mustang GT. And that led to hydroplaning in the #1 lane at about 70MPH into a series of 360 degree spins across 6 lanes of traffic, and a couple of hundred feet of sideways skidding through the dirt (including between the posts of a highway sign.)

People stopped and applauded.

I figured that was God's way of telling me that he didn't care how much those high-speed radials cost, it was time to stop being a cheapskate and buy some new tires.

Still, it sounds to me like Costco et. al. has found a way to scam suckers into buying new tires.
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Old 12-14-2010, 08:01 PM   #20
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Well, I'm sure this is true under some specific conditions. But I've been driving Front Wheel drive cars in Northern Illinois for 32 consecutive years (after my first FWD I would not go back). There are many, many times that I wished I had better front wheel traction to accelerate and/or brake (which is mostly a front wheel thing), and at times it was a problem that it wasn't better, and I can't ever recall a time where the rear end was swinging around.
It's your car, so please yourself.

Ha
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