Wheel and Tires 101

Wheel and tire upgrades are often the first modification made to Trucks, Jeeps and SUV’s.   Not only do they make the most noticeable change to the look of your vehicle, but they can also enhance performance, on or off-road.  However, selecting the wheel and tire package that looks “just right” takes a little bit of planning and consideration.

 

Before we get to the steps of selecting the right wheel and tire package for your vehicle, let’s quickly review how they are sized.

 

The wheel and tire industry typically combines both Metric (millimetres) and Imperial (inches) units of measurement when labelling sizes.  This can make things confusing, so let’s look at some examples:


2017 Ford F-150

Typical stock tire size: 265/70/17

265” = width of tire in mm

70” = profile of how thick the sidewall is (70% of the width)

17” = diameter of the wheel in inches
Common upgrade tire “Plus Size”: 305/55/20 (requires a 2-3 inch level-lift to fit on an F-150)

305” = width of tire in mm

55” = profile of how thick the sidewall is (55% of the width)

20” = diameter of the wheel in inches

Just to make things a little more confusing, the off-road community sometimes refers to a tire size only in inches.  For example a 33″x12.50″x20 is identical in size to a 305/55/20.  Other popular off-road tire sizes are 35×12.50×20, 37×13.50×20, and so on.  The 12.50 and 13.50 in these tire sizes refers to the width in inches.

Now let’s get back to the steps of selecting the right tire and wheel package for your vehicle:

#1 – TIRE SIZE

  • decide if you want to keep the same size tire, or add larger overall diameter tires ?  If you would like to go bigger, you may need to add a level-lift or lift kit
  • there are many free Tire Size Calculators online…one of my favorites is https://tiresize.com/calculator/ that allows you to compare tire sizes:

#2 – TYPE OF TIRE

There are 3 main categories of tires for Trucks, Jeeps, and SUV’s:

All-Season (Street/Highway friendly, least aggressive looking)
All-Terrin “AT” (aggressive looking but still street/highway friendly, sometimes available in Snowflake rate All-Weather)
Mud-Terrain “MT” (very aggressive looking, a little noisier on the street/highway)

#3 – WHEEL SIZE

  • Do you like the look of tires with thick sidewalls, or a lower profile “thinner” sidewall?
  • Do you like the look of big diameter wheels?
  • Do you want both?

 

 

#4 – WHEEL FINISH, COLOR, and STYLING

Wheels have come a long way since the days of steel “chrome Cragar” and alloy “five-star” wheels.

Black, Grey, Chrome, Machined, and Polished are some of the popular finishes on today’s trucks.   Combined with a Gloss, Satin or Matte effect that really help to personalize the look you want.

 

#5 – WHEEL & TIRE FITMENT (do they stick in, stick out, or sit flush)

Getting that wheel & tire package to look just right on your ride has a lot to do with how far in or out they sit on your vehicle.  Let’s have a quick look at what determines this:

  • Wheel “Offset” and “Backspace” are two measurement terms used in the wheel and tire industry to determine how far your wheels stick in or stick out
  • Offset is the more common term used in recent years, and is always referred to in millimeters
    • The lower or more negative the number, the more it will stick out.  For example a wheel with a negative offset (example “-15”) will stick out more than a wheel with a “0” or positive offset (example “+20”).
  • Backspace is still used somewhat in the off-road community and is always referred to in inches
    • The lower the number, the more it will stick out.  For example a wheel with a 5″ offset will stick out more than a wheel with a 6″ offset.

 

The experts at North Shore Off-Road can walk you through the process of selecting the wheel and tire package that’s just right for your Dream Ride!

 

Steve Hagopian – Managing Partner