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5 Tire Rotation Patterns 

Those with a full size spare tire with a wheel that matches the other four are in luck. The most beneficial tire rotation pattern in my opinion is the 5-tire rotation pattern.

Four tire rotation is great for extending tire life, keeping tread depth even across all tires, and ensuring a smooth and quiet ride. But 5-tire rotation for the luck few that have that full size matching spare has several additional benefits for little extra effort.

5-Tire Rotation With Spare Tire

5-tire rotation is performed when a matching full size spare tire and wheel is available. This is common on some trucks and SUVs. A Jeep is a popular vehicle that often has a full size matching spare and can benefit from 5-tire rotation.

The 5-tire forward cross or 5-tire rearward cross patterns are the two recommended 5-tire rotation patterns.

Let’s dive into the details of including a spare tire when regularly rotating your tires. We’ll also address some of the more common questions that get asked as well.

full size matching spare
Full Size Matching Spare Tire

5-Tire Rotation Patterns

There are only two recommended rotation patterns for including a full size matching spare tire with regular rotations. These patterns are dependent upon which axle is the drive axle for the car or truck.

While you’ll likely be fine going with our recommendation based on which axle delivers power to the ground, we still recommend checking your owner’s manual to see if there are any unique requirements or suggestions from your vehicle manufacturer that make affect the best way to rotate your tires.

5-Tire Forward Cross (FWD)

forward cross 5 tire rotation pattern diagram
5-Tire Forward Cross Rotation Pattern Diagram

The 5-tire forward cross is a variation of the popular forward cross that is used on front wheel drive vehicles.

The standard forward cross moves the rear tires forward and across to the opposite sides of the car or truck. The front tires move to the rear axles.

The 5-tire variation on this pattern has a front tire move to the spare tire position and the spare be put into service where the front tire, that was move to the spare location, would have normally rotated.

5-Tire Rearward Cross (RWD, AWD, 4×4)

rearward cross 5-tire rotation pattern diagram
5-Tire Rearward Cross Rotation Pattern Diagram

The 5-tire rearward cross is a variation of the popular rearward cross that is used on rear wheel drive, all wheel drive, and four wheel drive vehicles.

The standard rearward cross moves the front tires rearward and across to the opposite sides of the car or truck. The rear tires move to the front axle.

The 5-tire variation on this pattern has a rear tire move to the spare tire position and the spare be put into service where the rear tire, that was moved to the spare location, would have normally rotated.

Best 5-Tire Rotation Pattern

The best pattern to use will first and foremost be the one that your vehicle manufacturer recommends. This will almost certainly be the rotation pattern that we recommend based on which axle is used to propel the car or truck forward.

There may be unique requirements with your vehicle so be sure and check your owner’s manual to be sure that you’re making the best choice based on their recommendation.

5-Tire Rotation Vs 4

5-tire rotations are very beneficial for anyone with a full size matching spare tire and require little extra effort to perform.

In fact, using a spare tire when rotating your tires at home yourself can make the job easier. By using the spare, you won’t need to have more than one jack stand and can always have a tire ready to replace the tire that you’re removing.

Spare tires often get neglected and rarely checked to ensure they’re still able to properly hold air pressure. This is a problem I experienced first hand and I shouldn’t have to tell you that it isn’t a situation you want to be in.

It shouldn’t cost any more to have 5 tires rotated than it would to have only 4 rotated. The extra effort is minimal. Usually, tire rotation is done for free when you’re having other vehicle maintenance services performed.

Even if it isn’t offered for free my your local mechanic, they usually don’t charge much for the service. I do recommend you try to have tire rotation performed while your having some other maintenance task taken care of however. This isn’t necessarily to save money on the cost of the rotation, but to save you time waiting at the shop.

How Often Should You Do A 5 Tire Rotation?

Like with regular 4-tire rotations, rotating tires with a full size spare tire should be done on the schedule required by the tire manufacturer to maintain the tire warranty.

Most tire manufacturers will require proof of regular rotation if you make a tire warranty claim. And they will usually require that the rotations be performed at or before a certain amount of mileage.

The mileage interval you will likely be required to have your tires rotated will usually be between 5,000 and 8,000 miles.

I recommend having rotations performed every 5,000 miles since this will usually meet or exceed the tire manufacturer’s requirement.

5,000 mile rotations will ensure your tires wear evenly or alert you to issues with tire balance, alignment, or suspension problems before the tires have significant uneven wear.

outer shoulder worn tire

Is 5-Tire Rotation Worth It?

4 tire rotation alone is worthwhile. But including a spare tire into your tire rotation pattern has several great additional benefits:

  • Extends the life of the entire set of tires by 25%
  • Prevents the spare tire from going to waste due to dry rot
  • Keeps the spare regularly checked for proper pressure and damage so it’s more likely to be in good shape if it needs to be used in an emergency situation
  • Helps maintain equivalent tread depths between all 5 tires which is important for all wheel drive and 4×4 systems

When Should You Not Include Your Spare Into Rotation?

If I haven’t made it clear, 5-tire rotation is only for cars and trucks that have a full size spare tire and the wheel the spare tire is mounted onto matches the other four wheels on the vehicle.

You shouldn’t perform a 5-tire rotation service with temporary spare tires. The spare tire itself should be identical to the other 4 tires.

While a matching wheel isn’t required, some economy wheels that a full size spare tire may be mounted on could have a different offset or other measurements when compared to the 4 primary wheels and tires. For this reason, I only recommend including a spare in the rotation pattern if all wheels and tires are identical.

Is A Full-Size Spare The Same As A Regular Tire?

A full size spare isn’t always the same as a regular tire. Sometimes the spare is full sized but it is a temporary use tire that is not designed to be used all the time and should only be used in an emergency situation.

If you have a full size spare but it is labeled “Temporary Use” on the side, you shouldn’t include it when you have your regular 4 tires rotated.

Should You Rotate Full-Size Spare?

If you have a full size spare that isn’t a temporary use tire and is mounted on a matching wheel, it is a very good idea to rotate it along with your other tires.

There are several great benefits of 5-tire rotation if you have a spare wheel and tire that will allow you to do so.

How Long Does A Full-Size Spare Last?

Most tires last only around 6 years before they begin showing signs of dry rot. Spare tires that don’t see use and stay hidden in your trunk or somewhere else where it isn’t as exposed to the harsh weather and sun may last another year or so beyond this before they begin failing.

DOT sidewall example

You can check the age of your tires by checking the DOT code on the sidewall of the tire. The last 4 digits will be the week they were manufactured and the year they were manufactured.

Often, these additional date numbers are only added to the DOT code on one side if the tire. If you don’t see them on the first side you check, look at the other side of the tire to see if they’ve been included there.

Final Thoughts

Tire rotation is essential for maintaining your tire warranty, but that isn’t the only reason to have rotate tires regularly. Longer tire life, smoother riding and quieter tires, and early detection of tire balance, alignment, and suspension problems are all benefits.

In addition to these benefits, 5-tire rotation increases the life of the set of tires by 25%. It also ensures that the spare tire gets put to good use before failing due to dry rot.

Including the spare in rotation also helps ensure that it is in good condition and able to properly hold air if an emergency happens and you need to use it.

It’s a shame that not only do most vehicles not come with a full size spare, but many don’t come with one at all these days.

If you’re lucky enough to have a car or truck that has one, be sure and include it when having your tires rotated so you don’t miss out on the benefits.


Below are some links you may find helpful when learning about tires

About The Author
Will Creech
Will has been an automotive enthusiast since he was old enough to make engine sounds. Formerly a member of the contract training team at Discount Tire, he is unusually knowledgeable on all things related to tires. He is now the owner of and main contributor to TireGrades.com.
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