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All Wheel Drive Tire Rotation Patterns

Tire rotation patterns vary for several reasons. But the most common reason is the axle that drives the vehicle forward. In this case, both.

Most all wheel drive cars and trucks tend to have a rear wheel drive bias and when rotating tires on AWD vehicles the patterns are usually similar to rear wheel drive patterns.

All Wheel Drive Tire Rotation Pattern

There are two acceptable rotation patterns for all wheel drive vehicles. The rearward cross and X-pattern. The rearward cross is the more preferable method since it better distributes the tires around the car or truck over time.

As with most advice though, be sure and read your owner’s manual for specific recommendations from your vehicle manufacturer.

Let’s dive into all of the various AWD patterns and when they are recommended to be used.

All Wheel Drive Tire Rotation Patterns

While an all wheel drive vehicle does distribute traction to all four tires, the rear tires wear slightly more on a lot of AWD cars and trucks.

Since all wheel drive systems usually use the rear axle more than the front axle, and rotation patterns tend to focus on drive axle, AWD rotation patterns follow those of rear wheel driven vehicles.

Since rear bias isn’t always the case, be sure to check your owner’s manual for the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended rotation pattern.

Rearward Cross Pattern

rearward cross rotation pattern diagram
All Wheel Drive Tire Rotation Diagram

The rearward cross is the slightly preferred pattern of the two primary patterns for all wheel and four wheel drive vehicles.

The rearward cross moves the front tires rearward and across to the opposite sides of the vehicle. The rear tires move forward but remain on the same sides of the car or truck.


x-pattern rotation diagram
All Wheel Drive Tire Rotation Diagram

The X-pattern is an acceptable alternative to the rearward cross. Although, it does not have the benefit of eventually rotating the tires around to every position. It will only swap each tire with one other position.

The X-pattern is simple and simply moves the front tires to the rear and across to the opposite sides of the vehicle. The rear tires move forward and also cross to the opposite sides of the car or truck.

Best Tire Rotation Pattern For AWD

The best tire rotation pattern for all wheel drive vehicles is the rearward cross. It ensures that every tire will rotate to each wheel position after a few rotations. It also focuses on distributing the rear tire wear a little better by ensuring that the rear tires always cross to opposite sides each rotation.

How To Rotate Directional Tires On AWD

Directional tires are usually excellent performers in wet weather, providing excellent traction. But they have the disadvantage of not being able to be rotated with typical rotation patterns.

Once a directional tire is mounted on a wheel it can only be used on one side of your car or truck. If it is moved to the opposite side it will spin in the opposite direction that it was designed to work.

Directional tread patterns can only spin one way and if they are mounted incorrectly it can cause a dangerous situation, especially in wet conditions.

Front To Rear

front to rear rotation pattern diagram
Directional Tire Rotation Pattern Diagram

Because the tires can not cross to the opposite sides of your car or truck, the only rotation pattern available is front to rear. In the front to rear pattern, the rear wheels swap positions with the front wheels. No tires cross over to the opposite sides of the vehicle.

How To Rotate Staggered Tires On AWD

Staggered wheels and tires are those that are different sizes between the front and rear axles. For instance, all-wheel drive sports cars that have a greater than normal rear bias may have wider tires on the rear to provide better traction during acceleration and help prevent oversteer when cornering.

Staggered wheels and tires can not be rotated front and rear and must remain on the same axle. They can only be rotated side to side. Unfortunately side to side tire rotations tend to have much less benefit to tire life than front to rear rotations, but it will help even wear inconsistencies between the two sides.

Side To Side

side to side rotation pattern diagram
Staggered Wheel Tire Rotation Pattern Diagram

As the name implies, side to side rotation involves simply swapping one front tire with the other front tire and one rear tire with the other rear tire.

How To Rotate Tires On AWD With Full Size Matching Spare Tire

If you have an all wheel drive car or truck that also happens to have a full size spare tire with a matching wheel, including it in regular rotation of the tires will greatly improve the tire life of the complete set and ensure that the spare tire doesn’t go to waste before it dry rots due to age.

The spare tire will also be much more likely to be in good condition and properly inflated and holding air well if it is in regular use.

Rearward Cross 5-Tire Rotation Pattern

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

The rearward cross 5-tire pattern of rotation is the best pattern for including a spare tire into regular rotation on an all wheel driven car or truck.

As the name implies, it’s simply a modification of the rearward cross that adds the extra tire. The only difference is the driver’s side front tire moves to the spare location and the spare moves to the passenger side rear wheel position.

Do You Need To Rotate Tires On AWD

Every car or truck can benefit from tire rotations. When all four tires are being driven, the tires will wear more evenly than rear or front wheel drive vehicles, but there are still significant differences between the rear and front tires.

If you rotate your tires regularly, you can even out the wear between the front and rear wheel positions and help extend tire life.

How Often Should I Rotate AWD Tires?

All tires should be rotated according to the tire manufacturer requirements to maintain your tire warranty. This duration is usually between 5,000 and 8,000 miles.

You should check the paperwork you received with your tires to confirm the mileage requirement and look for any other requirements needed to make sure you can make a warranty claim.

Is Tire Rotation Necessary For AWD?

You need to rotate tires according to the tire manufacturer requirements to maintain your warranty. If you do not perform this tire maintenance task you will void your warranty as well as shorten the life of your tires.

Final Thoughts

Having your tires rotated can seem insignificant, but the most important benefit is the tire warranty. The second most important benefit is extending the life of your tires, which saves you real money. Tires are expensive and arguably the most important part on your car or truck.

You can usually get your tires rotated for free with other maintenance services so there is little reason not to have a rotation performed.


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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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