Wheels, Tires, and Lift Kits for Trucks

Are you interested in buying a new set of wheels for your truck? We'll bet that you already spotted some cool wheels by cruising the shows, flipping through magazines, and catalogs, peeking in stores, surfing websites, and talking with your friends. You know the style of the wheel and the diameter but will the wheels fit your truck?

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By far the most useful way to determine what truck lift kits are for you and your vehicle is to consult an experienced and knowledgeable person who has worked on wheel, tires and lift kits. Questions you may have when you get started are…

  • What size tire do you want?
  • What size lift do you want?
  • What size wheel do you want?

What size tire do you want?

You can get great results by picking your tires first and choosing the appropriate truck suspension. Start by reviewing the manufacturer's recommended lift height or we can do it for you. Note that a tire size recommendation from a suspension manufacturer probably won't apply to another brand name.  There is also the manufacturer recommendation regarding offset and width of wheels.

What size lift kit do you want?

First, you will need to decide where you are going to drive your vehicle. Is your vehicle going to split time between the road or trail? If you decide trail, your vehicle will have more modifications. If you decide road, you will need to consider vehicles ability to brake corner and maneuver on asphalt. 

Suspension lift kits come in all sizes. 

  • Small lift kits consist of 1.5 or fewer inches. These will give you a little more clearance and room to run slightly larger tires. A benefit of getting a smaller lift is they are less expensive and it won't require many modifications.
  • Medium lift kits are roughly 2". These lift kits give the best tire clearance and not being used for off-roading. With a medium-lift kit you may need spacers,  add-a-leaf lifts, and sometimes need new shocks.  You will notice a change in handling and performance.
  • Large Lift Kits consist of 3"-4" or more for that aggressive look. A common lift setup consists of front coils, add-a-leaf, plus a combination of new front coils and new rear springs. The large lift kits are the most expensive but it definitely stands out from the crowd and on the road. 

What size wheel/rim do you want?

Now that you know what tire you want, you are asking yourself what wheel will fit my tire. There is no exact tire size that will fit a particular wheel size. It is more of a range. Here is a link to help you determine the correct wheel.

In order to select the right wheel, you will need to get information off the tire.  

Breakdown of Letters

In the first position, you will see either a P, LT, T or ST. The "P" stands for a passenger vehicle.  If you see an LT it stands for "Light Truck". T stands for "Temporary" and ST stands for "Special trailer".

Width

The next set is the width of the tire. The tire width refers to the measurement of one sidewall to the other sidewall.

Aspect Ratio

This number tells you how tall your tires profile is. This number is a percentage. The number is calculated by dividing a tire's height of the rim by it's width. 

Constructions

After the aspect ratio, comes the type of internal construction maintaining your tires stability. There are two types.

R is Radial

  • Radial construction means the tire's internal ply cord is oriented in a radial direction, from one bead over to the other. Essentially perpendicular to the axis.
  •  Bias-Ply / Cross Ply Tire - A Bias-Ply tire's body utilizes ply cords that extend diagonally from bead to bead. Typically laid on a 40 to 60 degree angle with successive plies set on opposing angles to form a criss-cross pattern. It is on top of these layers that the tread is applied. The ply layers generally consist of polyester, fiberglass, or steel cords embedded into the rubber itself.

Rim Diameter

This number tells which wheel can be mounted to the tire. This measurement is in inches and it is the diameter.

Load Index

Tells you how much weight, in pounds, the tire can support when fully inflated. It is can be called the load index. It does not tell you the precise number but it does relate back to an index beginning with 1 and going to 150. This index weight starts with 99 and goes to 7385lbs. 

Speed Rating

The speed rating letter corresponds to a particular speed capability based on a standardized laboratory test. 

For example, a tire with speed rating “S” is rated for up to 112 mph, while a tire rated “R” is up to 106 mph. Remember that this isn’t a recommended cruising speed. Of course, you should always follow legal speed limits on roadways.

 

You know the style of the wheel and the diameter but will the wheels fit? The backspace or offset of a wheel is necessary for determining how a wheel will fit inside of your fender. Most wheels' product descriptions include backspace and/or the offset, along with width and diameter. But, what is backspace and offset, all about?

Wheel offset is measured in millimeters and refers to the distance the wheel sticks inward or outwards in relation to the rim mounting surface.

  • High Positive Offset (+35 or +5)
    • Stick inwards to the car
  • High Negative Offset (-35 or -55
    • Stick outwards
  • Why is this important?
    • If your wheel has too much of a positive offset it could hit the suspension parts and frame.
    • If your wheel has to much of a negative offset it could hit the fender when turning.

Offset - Backspacing

The offset of a wheel is the distance from its hub mounting surface to the centerline of the wheel. The offset can be one of three types (measured in millimeters).*  The three types are zero, positive and negative offset.

 

Zero Offset

The hub mounting surface is even with the centerline of the wheel.

Positive Offset

The hub mounting surface is toward the front or wheel side of the wheel. Positive offset wheels are generally found on front wheel drive cars and newer rear drive cars.

Negative Offset

The hub mounting surface is toward the back or brake side of the wheels centerline. "Deep dish" wheels are typically a negative offset.