It seems like everywhere you go you see custom wheels. Big trucks, little cars, mini-vans – it doesn’t matter, people are expressing themselves with custom wheels. Some people want smaller tires and wheels – some want larger – and some want them enormous. So where do you start if you want new wheels?
We suggest you start with your budget. We know, that sounds so practical. But if the look you’re after goes beyond just new tires and wheels and enters into the world of suspension modifications, you need to be prepared for the additional cost.
Let’s start with something easy – you want to give your ride a unique look and the stock wheel size is just right for you. One of the concerns you will have is that the new wheels have the same offset as your factory wheels.
First, what is offset? The wheel bolts onto the hub on the car’s axle. The distance from the inside edge of the wheel to the point at which it bolts on, is the offset. If the new wheel has a different offset from the factory, the tires may rub on the inside or outside of the wheel well. That could lead to catastrophic tire failure.
Your tire and wheel professional can help you find the right size wheel – or install adapters to make your new wheels fit. All you have to do is pick from the hundreds of styles available.
So, what if you want to upsize? Well, if it is just bigger wheels you want, but you want to keep the same overall tire diameter, that’s pretty easy. The same offset concerns apply. You need to know that the tires will likely be a little bit wider than the originals and could rub when you make sharp turns. Your tire profession will help you avoid this.
It is also important to keep the same overall tire diameter because changing the rolling diameter can mess with your anti-lock brakes and stability control systems. Are you starting to see why you want to consult with a tire and wheel expert?
Is “super-size me” your motto? If it is, you are going to have to lift your vehicle to make room for those huge tires. A mild lift doesn’t require extensive modifications. An extreme lift means a lot of new hardware under the vehicle. It also means a lot of stock electronic systems need to be recalibrated to the new tire size. For example, your speedometer and odometer will give false readings if they aren’t recalibrated.
You should also be aware of possible performance issues. Bigger tires and wheels weigh more. Experts refer to this as unsprung weight because it isn’t held up by your suspension system. Increased unsprung weight affects performance in different ways than an equivalent amount of groceries or little soccer players in the passenger compartment. Acceleration is negatively affected. Stopping distances may also be increased – sometimes dramatically. If you want really big tires and wheels, you might need to upgrade your brakes to compensate.
Heading the other direction, some folks like to run smaller than standard wheels and lower the suspension. All of the same fitment issues still apply as well as calibration issues. Don’t think that suspension modifications are a bad thing. Many systems actually improve ride, function and performance over the stock set-up.
Regardless of your budget, you want your vehicle to continue to do all the things you need it to do. Some of those show cars and trucks you see on TV look fantastic, but have been modified in ways that may not suit your needs. For example, if you put large rims on your SUV with low profile tires, you may be in for busted rims if you go off-roading a lot. There just isn’t enough sidewall to absorb the impact of thumping over rocks.
Some people stuff the largest tires and wheels possible in their vehicles but have to severely restrict suspension travel so that the tires aren’t rubbing all day. That can lead to a very harsh ride. Again, talk with your wheel professional about all of these things: how you drive, what look you are going for, your budget and what compromises you are willing to make.
At the end of the day, you’re going to be rollin’ out of there with one sweet ride.