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X-Pattern Tire Rotation

Tire rotation patterns can be confusing. The X-pattern is one that can almost always be used, but it isn’t usually the best choice.

While it is a good choice and certainly much better than not rotating your tires at all, there are usually better cross rotation patterns that will better ensure your tires wear evenly over time.

X-Pattern Tire Rotation

The X-pattern of tire rotation is the standard pattern for most vehicles. The rear tires move forward and across to the opposite sides of the vehicle. The front tires move to the rear and across to the opposite sides of the car or truck.

Also known as standard cross rotation, the X-pattern is a versatile rotation pattern that can be used no matter which axle drives the vehicle forward.

Let’s cover the details of the X-pattern and the common modifications that are more optimized to create even tire wear.

X-Pattern Tire Rotation Pattern

x-pattern rotation diagram
X-Pattern Tire Rotation Diagram

The basic X-pattern of cross rotation involves moving each tire to the opposite end and opposite side of the vehicle. The driver’s rear exchanges positions with the passenger front. The passenger rear exchanges positions with the driver’s front.

Modified X-Pattern Tire Rotation

Modifications to the standard X-pattern are optimized depending on the drive axle. The tires attached to the drive axle will usually see the most wear and given them consideration will better help provide even tire wear.

Forward Cross Pattern

forward cross rotation pattern diagram
Forward Cross Diagram

The forward cross is primarily used on front wheel drive vehicles. It is preferable to the X-pattern since it will ensure that each tire will be rotated to every position around your car or truck.

5-Tire Forward Cross Pattern (Full Size Spare Tire)

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

The 5-tire forward cross is a further modification that allows you to include a full size matching spare tire in your rotation. Not only will your entire set of tires last 25% longer, but you’ll make sure that your spare tire tread is used before it fails due to dry rot, and your spare will more likely be at the proper air pressure and in good working condition.

Rearward Cross Pattern

rearward cross rotation pattern diagram
Rearward Cross Diagram

The rearward cross is a modification of the X-pattern that is optimized for rear wheel drive cars and trucks. It’s also great for most all wheel drive vehicles and 4x4s since they tend to have a rear wheel bias.

Like the forward cross, it too is preferable to the X-pattern since it ensures that each tire will rotate to every position around your car or truck over time.

5-Tire Rearward Cross Pattern (Full Size Spare Tire)

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

The 5-tire rearward cross is a further modification of the rearward cross that allows you to include a full size matching spare tire in your tire rotation. 25% longer tire set life, proper utilization of the tread of the spare, and knowing that your spare tire is in good condition are all benefits of having a full size matching spare rotated along with your other four tires.

When shouldn’t tires be cross rotated?

The cross rotating is an acceptable rotation pattern regardless of which axle drives the vehicle forward. There are however limitations to when it can be used.

Cross rotation shouldn’t be used if your car or truck has directional tires or staggered wheels.

Directional Tires

how to rotate directional tires
Directional Tire Example

Directional tires are a common limiting factor for tire rotation. Directional tires have many benefits, but a compromise for these benefits is the inability to swap a directional tire from one side to the other.

Once a directional tire has been mounted on a wheel, it will only be able to be used on one side of your car or truck. If you need to move it to the other side for some reason, you will need to remove the tire from the wheel and flip it around so the markings on the sidewall indicate that the tire will spin in the proper direction.

Staggered Wheels

staggered wheels example
Staggered Wheels Example | nakhon100CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Staggered wheels are those that are different sizes on the front and rear axles. This is less common on front wheel drive vehicles, which is when you would likely be using the forward cross, but it is possible.

Often, staggered wheels are wider in the rear to help improve traction and stability for rear wheel drive cars and trucks. Obviously, when wider wheels are used in the rear, you don’t want to try to move the wider wheels to the front axle and the skinnier wheels on the rear where the wider contact patch was designed to provide better performance characteristics.

What Is The Standard Tire Rotation Pattern?

The X-pattern is the standard pattern for rotating tires. It works well regardless of which axle drives the vehicle forward. While it is a fairly universal rotation pattern, it isn’t the best pattern to use in most cases.

Better choices are patterns that are optimize to the axle that drives the car or truck forward. Even all wheel drive and 4x4s benefit more front the rearward cross than they would simply cross rotating tires.

The additional benefit of the forward and rearward cross patterns is that each tire will rotate to every position around the vehicle. This helps create more even tire wear that simply swapping each tire between only two positions.

What Is The Rotation Pattern For An All Wheel Drive Vehicle?

The most commonly recommended rotation patterns for all wheel drive and 4x4s is the X-pattern or rearward cross. Of the two, the rearward cross is the better choice since it will better distribute the tires around your car or truck.

Final Thoughts

Tire rotation patterns are important to optimize the results you can get from regularly rotating your tires. While the X-pattern is the standard pattern that works well for most situations, it isn’t likely to be the most optimized solution for your unique situation.

Be sure and check your owner’s manual for the recommendations of your vehicle manufacturer, but picking a pattern based on the drive axle is the most common method for determining which pattern is best.

Resources

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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