Back in the day, wheel and tire choices were limited. As time has progressed and vehicles have evolved, wheel and tire choices have more than kept the pace. A collage of options awaits the buyer. Do you need radial- or bias-ply tires? Are steel wheels better than aluminum? Is wheel offset the same as backspacing?
To make sense of the madness, we've put together a series of informational vignettes to make better sense of rolling stock.
Tires: Radial Or Bias Ply?
Two of the most popular tires for hardcore trail-riding and rock-crawling are the Interco IROK, a bias-ply tire, and the BFGoodrich Krawler, a radial-ply tire (or called simply a radial). The external differences are obvious, but there's more than meets the eye. Let's take a look at the internal construction of radial- and bias-ply tires.
Tire Tools For The Trail
Tire trouble strikes every off-roader. The minimum you should carry is a fullsize spare tire, a lug wrench, and a jack.
Steel Or Aluminum?
What's better? Like radial- and bias-ply tires, each type of wheel has advantages and drawbacks. Ultimately the answer isn't which is better. It's which is better for you.
How To Measure A Wheel
Are backspacing and offset the same thing? How do you measure rim width? What do you call the different contours of a wheel? What determines caliper clearance? We've got the answers.
Brake Caliper Clearance
Late-model vehicles tend to need more brake-caliper clearance than their older counterparts. One of the easiest ways to tell how much caliper clearance you need is to take a look at the backside of your stock wheels and compare the profile with that of the aftermarket wheels you have in mind.
If you're in doubt, the best thing to do is to arrange to try a wheel on your rig. Do this on jackstands without a tire mounted to the wheel. Once tires are mounted, you usually can't return or exchange the wheels.
The first thing to understand is that tire beads do not stretch. There's no such thing as "stretching" the bead over the lip of the wheel. A tire bead can temporarily be tweaked into an oval, but the overall bead circumference does not change.
To get the tire mounted on the wheel, you need to place one side of the bead into the wheel's drop center. Having part of the bead in the wheel's drop center creates enough clearance to ease the rest of the bead over the wheel's lip.
Reinforcing Rings And Beadlocks
We've talked many, many times about the benefits of beadlocks before. We'll do it again. Beadlocks let you run ridiculously low tire pressures without fear of unseating the bead. Beadlocks also make the lip of the wheel much, much stronger.
You may not have heard of reinforcing rings before, but they're a product that OMF has offered from its inception. Reinforcing rings are welded to the lips of the wheel. They can be welded to both sides of the wheel. What's the benefit? A big-time strength gain. Other advantages are that they don't require the same maintenance as a beadlock and that they meet the letter of the law for street legality.
Off-roading is rough on parts, and rolling stock is your rig's direct connection with terra firma.
Aluminum Wheel Repair
Even though it often makes sense to just buy a new wheel if you damage one, there are still situations where you'd be wise to get your damaged aluminum wheel repaired. U.S. Wheels Remanufacturing in El Cajon, California, showed us what's possible.