Tire and wheel shopping is usually pretty straightforward…unless you’re an off-roading enthusiast considering changing your wheel size. Your key goal is to get the traction you desire plus the clearance needed for exceptional conditions. Yet at the same time, you don’t want to negatively impact performance in other ways. So how do you choose the right size for your tires and wheels? And how much lift, if any, do you need? This short guide explains what you need to know.
Choosing Your Tire Size
Many off-roaders want to upsize their truck tires and go larger than stock. But you have to achieve a balance. Go too far off-stock and you could significantly impact speedometer and odometer readings. You also need to look at a few other key factors that upsizing your tires can affect:
- Vehicle handling
- Steering response
- Tire load capacity
- Driving safety
- Suspension performance
You need your stock tire size as a starting point. Most are expressed in a certain format: 255/75R17, for example. Let’s break this down: 255 is the tire width in centimeters. The “75” is actually a percentage — the tire’s aspect ratio, being 75% of its width. The “R17” is the wheel diameter.
Once you have your stock tire size, you need to think about two things: the amount of size increase and the lift needed to accommodate it. Your OE tires are around 32 inches in diameter. Ultimately, you should look at the wheel diameter in inches when shopping. Most riders who pick 35-inch tires are riding on very rough terrain. If you need improvement on moderately difficult or lighter terrain, you don’t need such a huge size increase — a 33-inch tire may be sufficient. Depending on your needs, you may also need bigger rims.
The Lowdown on Lift and Level Kits
You may be wondering, “What does a leveling kit do?”. Both lift and leveling kits raise your truck’s body above the axles. This enables you to equip larger tires and boost your ground clearance. What a leveling kit specifically does is let you lift the front end until it aligns with the stock height of your vehicle’s rear.
Leveling kits also allow you to install larger tires on all four wheels. This can rectify a few common issues with equipping bigger tires. You can avoid a lack of sufficient clearance between tires and fenders. Leveling also prevents the front end from sagging too much if you add heavy equipment such as a plow or even a heavier winch.
If you want to go to 35-inch tires, you’ll need a significant lift — at least 4 inches if not more. As for speedometer accuracy, it will read slower than the actual speed with 35-inch tires. If it’s reading 30 MPH, you’re actually traveling closer to 33 MPH.
Where To Buy Your Tires and Wheels
Shopping for tires and wheels can be a lot of fun, but you also must understand your truck’s capabilities and performance needs. To find the best gear for your vehicle, choose a retailer that specializes in off-road components and accessories. Its professionals can help you make sense of tire, wheel and lift kit options.