Most of us have a hard enough time keeping track of oil changes, tune-ups, wiper changes and radiator flushes that we often forget about tire rotation. No one really talks about it, and it surely isn't one of the "sexier" car maintenance items that makes it pop out in our memory banks. But it's actually one of the more crucial aspects of car maintenance that actually has nothing to do with your vehicle's engine. Here's the skinny on why tire rotation is important and directions on how to do it. 

tire wear

Your tires are constantly moving and that much more so if you use your car for the daily commute and put tens of thousands of miles on your vehicle over the course of just a few years. And they don't actually wear the same way. Your front tires manage most if not all of the turning and also bear the brunt of your car's weight under braking, therefore they wear on the outside edges first. Your rear tires wear more evenly than the fronts since they don't do the turning in most cases.

A good general rule of thumb when it comes to frequency is to rotate them at least once a year or whenever you get your oil changed (7,500-10,000 miles). Keep in mind that you need to know if your car is front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, all-wheel or four-wheel drive and whether or not your tires are staggered or not (the fronts are sized differently than the rear tires) or unidirectional (the tires are treaded in such a way that they should only be mounted on one side of the car (front or rear) to maintain the same tread direction). See the diagram below to find out how to rotate your tires (photo: General Motors)

tire rotation

Failure to rotate your tires regularly, coupled with bad alignment or poor balancing of the tires can cause car owners to buy new tires far too soon, to the tune of thousands of miles too soon. Simple tire rotation isn't expensive (you can actually do it yourself with the proper equipment), and it can save you hundreds of dollar on new tires.

Plus, if you're unaware of the degree of your uneven tire wear, it could reach the point where you're compromising the handling and also the wet/inclement-weather capability of your tires, putting you and yours in harm's way unnecessarily. It's a wise and inexpensive way to make sure you save money and keep you out of potential danger.