Home » There Is An Answer To The Toyota RAV4’s Most Baffling Question And I Have It

There Is An Answer To The Toyota RAV4’s Most Baffling Question And I Have It

Rav4 Tirecover Top
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I know I generally tend to ignore the most popular cars out there in the world, but in my defense, I can’t help it! They’re usually boring as watching paint on a patch of drywall in a long-term records storage facility dry. And the Toyota RAV4, one of the best-selling cars here in America, is generally in that category of cars that I respect but don’t really think about very often. Well, I like the first-gen ragtop ones, but you hardly ever see those around anymore. What I do like, though, are really mundane mysteries, and the third-generation Toyota RAV4 has one: what is the proper orientation of the spare tire cover?

Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about the plastic cover that goes over the 2006-2012 RAV4’s externally mounted spare. This cover has a roughly boomerang-shaped molded-in bit of decoration on it, and the orientation of this shaped divot in the plastic is something that, if you look at all the third-gen RAV4s in the world, no one seems to know for sure. Look around; you’ll see these things in pretty much every possible orientation. Maybe it just doesn’t matter?

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

The cover doesn’t have any sort of positioning or locking mechanism on it, there’s no locating pins or tabs or even a diagram, as you can see in this video showing how to slide the damn thing on:

So, really, you can mount this tire cover in pretty much any orientation you feel like, and if you see this era of RAV4 out in the wild, pretty much every possible position is represented. Just as an example, look at these RAV4s, all from the same dealership:

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Untitled 4

Look at that – not a single one has the tire cover in the same orientation!

But is there a correct orientation?

Well, I’m hesitant to say “correct” because I don’t want to impede anyone’s self-expression when it comes to their car, but there does appear to be an orientation that Toyota prefers. You can see this orientation in official photos for brochures and various manuals. It’s this orientation:

Officialtoyota1

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Here is a picture right from Toyota’s own press images site. It’s the real thing. There are also more diagrammatic pictures from service manuals:

Tirediagram

Look at that. The little incised shape is tricky to render in line art, but you can see here that the draftsperson was quite thorough, including the hard-to-see edges as well, which shows that the shape is really sort of a side-window or sail kind of shape. But the orientation matches the press photo, with the apex of the boomerang shape pointing roughly to 10 o’clock.

If you still don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe this CG animation of a RAV4 chasing bulky attempted thieves in this old commercial:

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I’m not going to lie, I thought this was a commercial featuring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at first.

I guess the big question here is does this all actually matter? I’m not exactly sure, but I know someone who may be: our very own Adrian Clarke, a professional car designer who has worked on things just like this, spare tire covers specifically, even. It’s worth seeing what an actual designer thinks about all this, right? Of course it is. Here we go:

“This feels like the sort of bullshit that only Torch pays attention to, but in another disturbing example of mine and Jason’s thoughts aligning I can let you in to a secret: this is the sort of thing car designers lose sleep over.

As is probably well known by now, one of the cars I helped design was the 2019 L663 Defender. And was does that car have that hardly any cars have now? A tailgate mounted spare wheel. There’s so many things to think about. What will it look like? Can ham-fisted dealership chimps be trusted to mount it straight? The project leaders didn’t want a cake tin type affair because the disc part could be fitted on the squint, marketing didn’t want it because it looked cheap, and the whole thing was a nightmare because the Defender tailgate hinges were already on their weight limit, so we couldn’t make anything too heavy. Oh and because it was Land Rover there was no money.

The evaluation department had gotten a new G-Class in to see how that was screwed together. My manager and I went over and had a look at how Mercedes did it. Yep, a cheap ass cake tin: a metal band around the tread securing a disc that could end up mounted at completely the wrong angle, with a shitty little padlock at the bottom securing it. Fuck my life, I went to fancy design school for this?”

So, there you go, one of the most common and yet least-discussed automotive mysteries has been solved, just for you. What are you going to do with this newfound knowledge? Will you accost the first driver of a third-gen RAV4 you see with a non-factory-orientated spare tire cover and make them pull over and fix it, while you watch? Or will you just let them roll by, reveling in the delirious rule-breaking, and enjoy the chaos?

The choice is yours. Choose well.

 

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Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
29 days ago

I kind of like the weird divot? It adds character to an otherwise smooth lid. There’s definitely a way to put it on that looks better than other ways, though.

MiniDave
MiniDave
29 days ago

So, what was your solution for the Defender’s spare cover, Adrian?

Ecsta C3PO
Ecsta C3PO
29 days ago
Reply to  MiniDave

It looks like they used a stretchy fabric around the edge to wrap around the tire. So it should always sit flush against the wheel but nothing stopping it from being mounted crooked.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=wMJ9G8letek

FlyingMonstera
FlyingMonstera
29 days ago

Come and live in the UK and worry no more – no spare wheel on this gen of RAV4. But the door design makes the indentation bottom right to enable the door to clear the bumper when opened look much more pronounced, like someone gave the panel a good kick, thus triggering a different OCD about asymmetry.

Ford Magnet
Ford Magnet
29 days ago

My wife has this car and there is zippered flap that covers the exposed top part of the tire facing the car. Lining it up properly puts the swoosh in the correct orientation like in the Toyota ads. You can see it in the 1A Auto video in the article.

Last edited 29 days ago by Ford Magnet
Wagonsarethebestanswer
Wagonsarethebestanswer
29 days ago

This confused me initially, because my mom has a RAV like this & there’s definitely only 1 possible way to orient the spare cover: tabs at top, buckle/clasp at bottom. Is that what makes it a ‘Limited’? LOL. Beyond that, I’m gonna stand firmly in defense of RAV4’s being really good all-around vehicles.

Mac Arnold
Mac Arnold
29 days ago

Actually the correct orientation is pretty obvious if you take the cover off. There is a slit on the back edge that needs to be aligned at the bottom in order to prevent water from accumulating.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
29 days ago

Well, at least it’s not called the bZ4x, so I suggest we let that one pass 😀

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
29 days ago

> does this all actually matter

Of course it does. In this case it’s painfully obvious the OEM orientation is the only acceptable option.

Aardvark775
Aardvark775
29 days ago

Another baffling question: is it pronounced like the RAV in ravioli? Or like the drug-fueled all night dance music party?

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
29 days ago
Reply to  Aardvark775

Ravioli 100%

Beceen
Beceen
29 days ago
Reply to  Aardvark775

RAAAFO’!

MikeInTheWoods
MikeInTheWoods
29 days ago
Reply to  Aardvark775

I debaged my Rav4 and re-baged it Ravioli with letters from Amazon. People loved it, until I tried to sell it and it confused so many dumb people.

Jeep Liberty, MY LEG!
Jeep Liberty, MY LEG!
29 days ago
Reply to  Aardvark775

Ackshully (8B), it’s an abbrievation for Recreation Active Vehicle – 4 (wheel drive) so R-A-V 4 is valid as well.

FloridaNative
FloridaNative
1 month ago

The whole rear end of the latest Defender is so darn ugly I don’t think anyone has ever noticed the spare tire cover. I know I never have.

Dangerous_Daveo
Dangerous_Daveo
29 days ago
Reply to  FloridaNative

I actually looked it up after reading this. As far as wheel covers go, it’s pretty decent!

Martin Witkosky
Martin Witkosky
1 month ago

Read this and was like, “Huh?”, that’s not what my 2007 RAV4 has, and so let it be known that not all third-gen RAVs have this issue for sure enough a 2007 RAV4 Limited V6 does not have a zippered cover, but one that has a indexed top with a latch at the bottom. From the owner’s manual:

  • To remove the spare cover:
  • Open the back door. Unhook the latch handle which on [sic] the bottom of the spare tire cover.

So, it can only go on one way, and that matches the upper-leftmost RAV picture in the lead-in photo.

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
29 days ago

The Limited cover is also for 18″ wheels and is almost $1000, the standard one 16/17″ is actually an accessory and is like $200 lol

Aoife McKechnie
Aoife McKechnie
1 month ago

Torch, you are correct about the orientation here, but you’ve missed why you’re right: in the orientation depicted, the swoosh matches the line of the 4 on the RAV4 badge.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
29 days ago

Upvote this man! (I was looking for the ‘why’, too, and was disappointed not to find it in the article. Thanks!)

Dave mid-engine
Dave mid-engine
29 days ago

I’m not seeing that. Also, why? None of the lines in the badge are of any noteworthiness.

Dave mid-engine
Dave mid-engine
29 days ago

I think it’s more likely that the faint crease below the swoosh should simply be lined up horizontally.

Aoife McKechnie
Aoife McKechnie
29 days ago

the numeral 4 is set in a different colour on this gen and it has the same leaned-back angle of the swoosh when the horizontal segment is at the top, which is the kind of shit designers love (source: am designer)

10001010
10001010
1 month ago

This is why I love this site. I have sat behind these damn things in traffic and wondered about this exact same thing! You won’t find the so-called automotive “journalists” covering these important issues.

Maymar
Maymar
1 month ago

I’d like propose an alternative – apex at the bottom, pair of giant googly eyes towards the top third. Pretty much the inverse of the below;

https://www.reddit.com/media?url=https%3A%2F%2Fpreview.redd.it%2Fseen-in-the-wild-on-my-commute-this-morning-v0-4hwuyc4ljvqb1.jpg%3Fwidth%3D640%26crop%3Dsmart%26auto%3Dwebp%26s%3D9bab29fb25647b8ed44457815aa8c9474f71de5a

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 month ago
Reply to  Maymar

+1

This is what I was going to suggest

Phuzz
Phuzz
29 days ago
Reply to  Maymar

Googly eyes make most things better.

AAcarguy
AAcarguy
1 month ago

So there is another way to answer this, find a limited trim level and look how it is oriented. I had an 07 RAV4 limited. The Limited hooked on with two little clips on the top and a latch at the bottom, there is no way to put it on even slightly off angle. For whatever reason the mid and lower trim levels got the elastic style cover.

Ffoc01
Ffoc01
1 month ago

I love how Torch’s articles read like if I took my stream-of-consciousness thoughts about cars and fleshed them out into full articles.

The RAV4 spare tire cover is one of those things that has bothered me in the past, even enough to mess around with a friend’s RAV4, looking for a locating tab, but never thought anyone else had noticed. It’s good to know I’m not the only one with oddball automotive OCD.

Highland Green Miata
Highland Green Miata
1 month ago

This is also one of the those covers that is so boring that nobody has bothered to come up with some graphic treatment to customize it. Like the Simpsons sprinkle donut cover on wranglers. Or maybe it’s just that RAV4 drivers are as plain vanilla as the car.

Rob Schneider
Rob Schneider
1 month ago

I don’t know that the drivers are necessarily as vanilla as the car, but it is a basically an automotive appliance. Mine’s even white, like a washing machine or dryer. When I just want to get from point a to point b, it’s a fantastic tool for the job. When I want to drive from point a to point b, it’s time for the Miata.

Ham On Five
Ham On Five
29 days ago
Reply to  Rob Schneider

I am now envisioning the RAV4 in harvest gold and avocado …

Rob Schneider
Rob Schneider
29 days ago
Reply to  Ham On Five

You’ve welcome?

ToyotaTaxPayer
ToyotaTaxPayer
29 days ago

Depends greatly on your pov. My daughter had a 2011 base spec rav. She loved that thing. She happily bopped around town and then off to college terrorizing mailboxes, garage doors and anything else that got in her way. It took everything she threw at it. My only complaint was the non standard screw heads they used to hold mirror, door handles and such. Was pretty easy to fix once I had those.

Robn
Robn
1 month ago

Just yesterday I sat behind an old RAV4 with one of these spare tire covers and wondered the exact same thing. What a peculiar flourish to an otherwise plain Jane circular disc. FWIW, the one in front of me had theirs aligned like an increasing graph where it starts out horizontal at the bottom and makes a 45 degree turn towards the upper right. An optimistic choice.

Also, I now drive a new Defender with the aforementioned spare tire cover (thanks Adrian) and it baffles me how many others on the road can’t, won’t or don’t care about how crooked theirs is.

Last edited 1 month ago by Robn
Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
1 month ago

No one who owns this car wants to have a forced feature to prevent you from reassembling this cover on the side of the road. Slap it back onto the back in any orientation and back in the road.

But no car brand wants to have a giant swathes of flat, featureless plastic that’ll show off any/all build imperfections – so you get the little boomerang that can be mounted anywhichway to hide that.

If you put a Toyota branded badge on it, it’d look bad when it’s not straight.

Last edited 1 month ago by Spikedlemon
LTDScott
LTDScott
1 month ago

Once again I thought I might be one of the only people who noticed this as I pay attention to weird things, then Torch comes to the rescue.

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
1 month ago

This my friend is the one and only sneaky way you can personalize a general appliance for the masses. It doesn’t matter how it sits.

BubbaMT
BubbaMT
1 month ago

I owned a 2008 RAV and found it easy to orient the cover the correct way; there is a zipper on top that connects the two pieces. If you center the zipper, the indentation points the right way. I have often wondered how people get it wrong: do they zip the zipper and spin the cover around or do they zip with the cover facing the wrong way?

Andrew Vance
Andrew Vance
1 month ago
Reply to  BubbaMT

I had a 2008 as well and obsessed over getting this right after I took the tire cover off all of both times in 9+ years.

Tbird
Tbird
1 month ago

In the topmost photo you can just see a horizontal character line on the cover lining up with a body seam on the tailgate. This is very pronounced in the line drawing. Clearly this is the preferred orientation.

Tbird
Tbird
1 month ago
Reply to  Tbird

As an aside, I really like this gen Rav4 – so much usable space in a small package.

BubbaMT
BubbaMT
1 month ago
Reply to  Tbird

I once fit 3 4″x10′ sewage pipes in mine and was able to drive 20 miles home from Home Depot!

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 month ago
Reply to  BubbaMT

Man, I’ve got to get a new contacts prescription because I don’t see any design on the tire cover.

DysLexus
DysLexus
29 days ago
Reply to  BubbaMT

Man, that IS a lot of “shit” you can haul in one of those things

Acprogrammer
Acprogrammer
29 days ago
Reply to  Tbird

Yeah. I have one with the V6. Alot of space inside and remarkably capable. On the V6, it’s rated from the factory to tow 3500 lbs. That’s small RV territory. Also, some of them have a third row seat. Pretty amazing for a small SUV like that.

Tbird
Tbird
24 days ago
Reply to  Acprogrammer

Considering that my current 2005 Acura MDX has the same tow rating in a much bigger overall package I am impressed.

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