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How To Rotate Asymmetrical Tires

There is often confusion with asymmetrical tires, especially when it comes to tire rotation patterns.

Asymmetrical tires are actually a lot more forgiving that you might have realized. Not only can they be rotated in all the same ways that a symmetrical tire can, but they are usually superior in performance as well.

Let’s cover all of the details regarding rotating asymmetrical tires and what is most important for you to know.

How To Rotate Asymmetrical tires

Asymmetrical tires have no limitations on how they can be rotated. The only concern is ensuring they’re mounted properly.

Asymmetrical tires must have the properly indicated sidewall facing outward. Rotating tires will not affect which sidewall will be facing outward so asymmetrical tires have no unique tire rotation requirements.

Asymmetric tires are sometimes confused with directional tires but they don’t have the same limitations a directional tire requires.

Asymmetric Tire Tread Pattern Example

The tread of an asymmetric tire is not a mirror image from one side to the other. It is completely different which allows tire designers to create a tire that can adapt better to a wider variety of road conditions.

245/40R20 Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymetric AS Run Flat V Tire

Asymmetrical Tire Rotation Patterns

Symmetrical tires and asymmetrical tires have the widest variety of tire rotation patterns available to choose from. However, not all of the available tire rotation patterns can be used on any car or truck.

Let’s cover all of the rotation patterns and when to use each of them.

Forward Cross Rotation

Forward cross tire rotation is designed to maximize tread life for front wheel drive vehicles. It shouldn’t be used on other drive configurations.

Forward cross tire rotation involves moving each front tire backward to the same side of the vehicle. The rear tires will move to the front axle but will switch to the opposite sides of the vehicle.

Rearward Cross Rotation

rearward cross rotation pattern diagram

Rearward cross tire rotation is designed to maximize tread life for rear wheel drive vehicles. It is a little more flexible than the forward cross pattern though. The rearward cross can also be used on all wheel drive vehicles and 4×4’s.

The rearward cross tire rotation pattern is very similar to the forward cross. The difference is that it is the reverse of the forward cross.

Each rear tire will move to the front axle and remain on the same side of the vehicle. Each front tire will move to the rear axle but will switch to the opposite sides of the car or truck.

X-Pattern Rotation

x-pattern rotation diagram

The X-pattern tire rotation is the most flexible pattern and can be used on any drive configuration:

  • Front Wheel Drive
  • Rear Wheel Drive
  • All Wheel Drive
  • 4×4

The X-pattern is also the simplest pattern. Each tire is moved from its current corner, to the opposite corner. The driver side rear tire is swapped with the passenger side front tire. The passenger side rear tire is swapped with the drivers side front tire.

5-Tire Forward Cross

forward cross 5 tire rotation pattern diagram

For front wheel drive vehicles with a full size spare tire, the 5-tire forward cross incorporates the spare tire in the rotation pattern.

This method of tire rotation extends the overall life of all 5 tires and ensures that the spare tire doesn’t go to waste before it experiences dry rot.

The five-tire forward cross is identical to the normal four-tire forward cross, however instead of the front passenger side tire being moved to the rear passenger side location, it is moved to the spare tire location and the spare tire moves to the rear passenger side of the vehicle.

5-Tire Rearward Cross

rearward cross 5-tire rotation pattern diagram

Like the 5-tire forward cross, the 5-tire rearward cross is designed to incorporate a full size spare tire into the rotation pattern. 5-tire rearward cross rotation patterns can be used for rear wheel drive, all wheel drive, and 4×4’s with a full sized spare tire.

Also like the 5-tire forward cross, the 5-tire rearward cross is very similar to the standard rearward cross.

The pattern of rotation is identical to the rearward cross with the exception of the front driver’s side tire no longer being rotated to the passenger side rear location. It now moves to the spare tire location and the spare tire moves to the passenger side rear.

Staggered Asymmetrical Tire Rotation Pattern

side to side rotation pattern diagram

Staggered wheels or tires are when the wheels and/or tires on the front and rear axles have different widths. This is a common occurrence with rear wheel drive sports cars. Wider tires in the rear help improve rear traction which increases cornering grip and acceleration.

Staggered wheels and tires significantly limit tire rotation options and make it much more difficult to prolong the life of the tires.

A staggered tire rotation pattern requires that the front tires be swapped left to right and the rear tires be swapped left to right. Since the width of the tires is dependent on the front or rear location the tires need to remain on the same axle.

Do You Need An Alignment After Rotating Asymmetrical Tires?

Tire rotation does not have any affect on tire alignment. You shouldn’t need an alignment simply because you had your tires rotated.

Tire alignment can drift over time due to hitting curbs and pot holes that alter the position of, or even damage suspension components.

If you notice alignment problems after a tire rotation, it’s more likely due to the fact that the feel of driving your car or truck is different and the alignment problem that was likely present before, is either more noticeable, or you simply didn’t notice it because the change in tire feel caused you to focus on all of the tire issues.

Occasionally having your car aligned is a good idea so if you’re considering having it done while you are having your tires rotated, it is a good time to do so.

Ensuring you have proper tire alignment will help extend the life of your tires and help prevent unusual wear patterns that can cause noise and vibrations.

Typically, cars and trucks don’t need frequent realignment. I recommend having an alignment performed whenever new tires are purchased.

If you’re one of the lucky ones that have good driving habits and a vehicle that doesn’t aggressively wear down your tires, you may need to consider having an alignment performed before it’s time to replace your tires.

Asymmetric Tires Vs Directional Tires

Asymmetrical tires differ from symmetrical tires by having the outside of the tread pattern designed differently from the inside. The requires one sidewall to be facing outward but it doesn’t limit the direction the tire spins.

Asymmetrical tires will have an indication on their sidewalls as to which sidewall should face outward and which should face inward.

Directional tires feature a tread pattern that is optimized to spin in one direction only. This means that the tires must always spin in one direction or you could experience extremely poor performance.

Directional tires will have an indication on their sidewalls as to which direction the tires should spin. This direction of spin means that the tires can not be rotated from side to side and must remain on the side they were originally mounted on.

Directional tires can be removed from the rim, flipped around and remounted if you would like to move them to the other side of the car or truck.

Directional Tire Tread Pattern Example

MICHELIN CrossClimate2 All-Season Radial Car Tire for Grand Touring, 205/55R16 91H

What Are Asymmetric Tires

Asymmetrical tires are a type of tire design that helps better utilize the entire width of the tire tread to handle a wider variety of road conditions.

Asymmetric tire tread will have one style of tread pattern on the inner side and a different style on the outward-facing side. This allows the tire to maximize dry traction and wet traction with the same tread pattern.

Asymmetric tires are used in winter tires as well to allow them to work well in dry conditions as well as be able to have better snow traction.

Rotating asymmetrical tires is also not a problem, unlike directional tires.

Asymmetrical Tires Pros & Cons

The advantages of asymmetric tires are plenty. The tread pattern is able to maximize grip better than symmetrical tires without limiting tire rotation patterns.

Tire designers are able to tune one half of the tread pattern to one set of road conditions while tuning the other side of the tire tread to deal with a very different set of road conditions. This flexibility creates a tire that is superior to symmetric tires in almost every way.

There are very little disadvantages to asymmetric tires. The only consideration is to pay attention when mounting the tires on the rim. This will be done by a trained professional usually so the chance of this being done incorrectly is very low.

Are Asymmetric Tires Directional?

Asymmetric tires are not directional. They are designed to be able to spin in either direction. As long as the proper sidewall indicated on the tire is facing outward, they can be placed on either side of your car or truck.

Directional tires may have asymmetric designs, but are not marketed as an asymmetric tire. The defining characteristic of directional tires is the necessity to only spin in one direction.

Final Thoughts

Fortunately, asymmetrical tires don’t have the same problems you would experience with a directional tire. Directional tires can’t be moved from side to side and must only be rotated front to back.

Asymmetric tires can be rotated in the same ways that normal symmetric tires can be rotated. The only concern you should have is how to rotate tires properly based on what wheels are driving the vehicle forward and whether you have a staggered wheel set.


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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