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20 Tips, Tricks, and Products For Fitting Larger Tires - Goin' Up!

Posted in Features on July 1, 2008
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Photographers: Pete Trasborg

If even the factory can't leave well enough alone, why should we be expected to? Take the Wrangler, for example. Back in '87, a Wrangler came with little 28-inch tires. Then the TJ came along and got 29s. The Rubicon stepped it up to 31-inch 245/75-16s. And today we're seeing JK Rubicons shod with 32-inch 255/75-17s.

It's the same in the off-road world, where 31s were once commonplace, then 33s, then 35s, and now 37s. And even then, you've got to come to the table with a lot more on the plate. The bozo on the trail in front of you who doesn't know how to drive just dug you a nice 37-inch hole to claw through. So, make your life a lot easier and run 40s-or 42s. Or 44s. Or 53s. Well, we're not quite up to 53s yet. But with 40s quickly becoming a not-too-unprecedented exception to the norm, we thought it was worth the effort to bring you a few tips, tricks, and products to fit some really big rubber under your Jeep.

If you've got a TJ, American Expedition Vehicles' Highline kit will allow you to clear 34-inch tires with the stock suspension, 37s with a 3-inch lift, and 40s with a 6-inch suspension lift. The replacement front fenders extend nearly to the top of the grille for tons of tire clearance. A new hood contours into the fenders seamlessly, and the four replacement fender flares have a much larger cutout. The kit is so well designed, you hardly even notice it's not the stock body. And yes, it fits the company's Brute TJ pickup conversions as well.

Contact: American Expedition Vehicles, 406/251-2100,aev-conversions.com

This author learned this one the hard way after mindlessly mounting a set of 42s and then hitting the street. When you install your monster-diameter meats, make sure they're not going to contact the edges of your rocker protection during normal driving. Custom siping may be all the rage, but not when it's done with a blunt piece of armor bolted to the side of your vehicle. Remember that a large, bias-ply tire will grow slightly at freeway speeds. Even if they don't make contact in your driveway, that doesn't mean you won't hear some buzzing as you go down the road. Take a minute to break out the saber saw and make sure your rockers are good and clear from the tire tread. Shoot for at least three or four fingers of clearance between the tires and the edges of your rocker guards.

Yeah, by now they're not exactly breaking news, but they're still a great way to provide a bunch of clearance for big tires on a CJ, YJ, or TJ. Campbell Enterprises has been carrying these high-clearance fiberglass hoods since before reality TV ruined Thursday nights-if you can remember back that far. The hoods completely do away with the front fenders, inner fenderwell protection, and of course, the stock hood. Because of the minimal design, some relocation of the battery and other components may be necessary with most models, but if you're squeezing monster rubber under your Jeep, you probably don't sweat the little stuff like that.

Contact: Campbell Enterprises,480/782-5337, campbellent.com

You may go through a lot of trouble to relocate your axles, pushing them to the far ends of your vehicle for a longer wheelbase and more clearance between the tire and the body tub. But if you're running 40s or larger tires, there's a damn good chance those monsters are gonna reach out and grab your front bumper at full turn. To get a little more clearance and to regain your full turning radius, you'll probably have to run a shorter-than-stock front bumper. The good thing is, we think they look a whole lot better than most of the longer ones designed to protect the fenders.

Yeah, it's a weird one, but if you're trying to maintain a stock-type track width with huge tires, then chances are you'll be experiencing some tire interference on the coil buckets at full stuff. Converting to coilovers on the front, or the rear for that matter, allows you to angle the entire spring and shock assembly slightly inboard to gain a little clearance. Plus, there's the added benefit that coilovers by themselves offer a much more compact mounting package than a standard coil and shock setup.

Sometimes you just can't have your cake and eat it, too. Take a page from Editor Cappa's book and realize that sometimes to fit insanely large rubber you've got to sacrifice uptravel. Honestly, it's not as bad as you may think. Although you can kiss prerunning goodbye, limited amounts of uptravel make for a much more stable vehicle when coming down obstacles and side hilling. Plus, there's that little thing about keeping the big tires out of your fenders.

OK, if the durometer rating of a tire measures its softness, does the Durhamometer rating of a hood measure its flexability? Probably not. However, the high-clearance hoods offered by Chris Durham Motorsports aren't fiberglass like you're used to. The hoods are built from a flexible plastic that can bend up to 45 degrees before cracking for an added measure of clearance and bashability.

Contact: Chris Durham Motorsports, 864/420-1274

While there are a few others on the market, the Rubicon Express 4-inch stretch kit not only replaces the rear control arms with high-clearance radius arms for simplified packaging that allows a fullsize muffler, it also relocates the rear coil spring buckets to fully take advantage of the new rear axle's position 4 inches farther to the rear.

Contact: Rubicon Express, 877/367-7824, rubiconexpress.com

For TJ and YJ owners, Gen-Right Off Road makes it easy to stretch out your wheelbase by 4 inches for a 98-inch stance. The company's signature fuel tank accepts the factory Wrangler sending unit and makes room for the rear axle layback without the need to add a fuel cell to the interior. Plus, the company includes its rocker guards with 4 inches of extra material on the rear side and its corner guards with wheel openings that are 4 inches farther back than stock.

Contact: Gen-Right Off Road,805/584-8635, genright.com

If you're considering an XJ or MJ, be prepared that unless you're willing to mess with the body a little, you're going to need a 6-inch lift to clear tires as small as 33s. Cutting the rear wheel openings a bit will help keep the rear stance down, and adding a set of aftermarket fiberglass fenders will go a long way toward providing room for your front tires to breathe. There are several companies offering up fiberglass XJ and MJ front fenders, so your best bet is to just do a Google search for your year and model.

While they were originally a gnarly band of Viking warriors, nowadays they're a cool, larger-than-stock replacement fender for a ZJ. Icelandoffroad.com offers its line of Go Berserk fender flares for ZJs that allow a 35x12.50 tire with only a 4-inch lift. For those non-ZJ guys, that may not seem like a lot of tire, but trust us, it is. And if you're hankering for 37s on your ZJ, the company says you can squeeze 'em under with only a 6-inch lift when used with its fenders.

Contact: Icelandoffroad.com, 801/427-5998, icelandoffroad.com

Whether you do it with wheel spacers, rims with the right backspacing, or wider axles, you're most likely going to need to space very large tires and wheels away from your springs and body to prevent unwanted contact. This may mean running wheel spacers if you've already sunk a lot of money into wheels with a deep backspacing. If not, consider rims with a 3.5-inch or 3.25-inch backspacing as mandatory for large diameter tires on most Wrangler or other common Jeeps. And if you're up for it, how about throwing some fullsize 1-ton axles under there to really increase the track width?

There are a few cool YJ suspensions out there that move the axles a little bit here and there, but we were pleased with our time in Superlift's YJ equipped with the company's X2 suspension system. At 7 inches of lift, the X2 offers a lot of height for the 37-inch tires the company recommends. We say take full advantage of the front coilover conversion and heavy-duty spring-over rear springs and torque arm traction bar to run 40s or bigger. The front control arms are high clearance and are angled in for tire clearance, so there's little worry of rubbing at full lock.

Contact: Superlift, 888/299-4692,superlift.com

This is really more for the full-size Jeep crowd, but if you're dealing with an older Wagoneer, Cherokee, or especially a J-truck, you'll almost definitely need to run your springs inboard to gain a little tire clearance. On the rear, trying to fit tires bigger than a 33x12.50-15 on a 15x8-inch rim will result in sidewall-to-spring interference if the backspacing is much deeper than 4 inches. And on the front, even with the lazy turning radius of the closed-knuckle front axle, you're likely to hit the tires on the leaf springs at full turn. By relocating the front and rear springs under the frame rails, you'll open up a whole new world of tire and wheel combination possibilities.

Personally, we're not huge fans of the "comp cut" thing, but sometimes there's just no getting around the need to lose the rear of your tub in the name of tire clearance. However, rather than totally chopping the rear of your body, it may be possible to strategically utilize protective corner armor with relocated wheel openings, as mentioned elsewhere in this story. Several companies, including Poison Spyder Customs, Blue Torch Fab, Gen-Right Off Road, and others, offer the corners with modified, relocated, or completely uncut (blank) wheel openings, so shop around before you break out the saber saw.

Yet another method of adding wheelbase to a CJ, YJ, or TJ is Blue Torch Fab's rear stretch kit. The kit, PN BTF 07031 for CJ and PN BFT 07017 for YJ and TJ, utilizes new spring frame mounts and a new rear bumper with integrated shackle mounts to allow the use of XJ rear springs turned backward. The kit doesn't include provisions for brake lines, shock mounts, and so on, but it's an easy way to mount the XJ springs to take advantage of their deeply offset centerpin design to move the rear axle back 6 inches.

Contact: Blue Torch FabWorks,205/521-7333, bluetorchfab.com

Not really. In fact, do the exact opposite if you can. How, you ask? Cut, and cut some more. How much will really depend on your Jeep type and your desired tire size. The point is, it's okay to make raggedy, jagged lines in your sheetmetal as long as you go big on the rubber.





Whether you're using a simple bolt-on set from a catalog, building them yourself, or some combination of both, installing a set of tube fenders and doing away with the factory flare setup really gives a lot more room for the front tires than you might think. This is a set of ubiquitous Poison Spyder Customs Tube Fenders for a TJ, although the company has applications for everything from a CJ up through a JK.

Contact: Poison Spyder Customs, 303/777-4820, spydercustoms.com

Technically, if your rig is narrow enough and your axles wide enough, you wouldn't need to trim your fenders at all to run tires as big as you like. This YJ owner narrowed the whole shebang, much like Premier Power's Pat Gremillion did to his Bronco back in the early '90s. You are old enough to remember that, right?




If you're a JK owner, just pop off the factory plastic fender flares and saw away. We're betting you can fit at least 35s on a JK easily with no lift and maybe 37s if you go hard with the jig saw. Send photos if you do, 'cause we love to be proven right.




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