Just Roll With It!: 11 Tips For Choosing the Best 4×4 Wheels

One of the most popular modifications for four-wheel drive vehicle owners is replacing stock wheels with aftermarket options. Sometimes, this decision is made for cosmetic purposes.

The 4×4 owner just wants to switch up the look of their truck. In other cases, it may be done out of necessity. For example, some suspension lift kits will require you to upgrade the size of your tires.

No matter why you need to purchase 4×4 wheels, it is important to research the options to find the best-suited vehicle. All wheels represent a significant investment, which means you should learn as much as you can first.  

Keep in mind that the wrong type of wheels may result in serious issues for your 4×4. For example, choosing a wheel with the wrong diameter means it won’t fit properly over the brake calipers.

Here you can learn more about what to consider when you are ready to purchase 4×4 wheels for your vehicle. Finding the right ones will pay off and ensure you have a positive off-roading experience.

1. Buy from a Reputable Company

Make sure you are buying your off-road wheels and tires from reputable suppliers. You should never purchase off-road wheels from any company you come across online.

Research the seller’s history and experience with 4×4 vehicles. It is also necessary to consider the brands and options they have available.

If the company has a good reputation and positive reviews, you can feel confident you are getting products that aren’t defective. Make sure you put time and effort into finding a quality company. 

2. Alloy or Steel

You need to figure out if you want alloy or steel wheels. This makes a difference in performance, appearance, durability, and cost.

Alloy wheels are popular today for a few reasons. It’s clear they are more aesthetically appealing than steel options. However, they are also lighter and usually stronger.

Compared to steel wheels, alloy ones also have higher heat conduction, which is helpful in rough and tricky terrain you may encounter while off-road.

Steel wheels are much heavier, and they don’t have as much aesthetic appeal. While this is true, steel wheels are much easier to repair, which is especially important for most people who are riding off-road.

Steel wheels are strong and affordable, but they are heavy compared to alloy options. On the other hand, alloy wheels are more lightweight and resistant to corrosion. They look amazing but are more expensive than steel.

It may help to look at options on sites like https://www.ozzytyres.com.au/news/4×4-mag-wheels-for-sale/ to figure out which wheels are right for your 4×4.

3. Offset and Backspacing

When you begin looking at a specific wheel, the manufacturer will usually list the offset and backspacing numbers. To figure out the backspacing number, you should measure starting at the mounting surface of the wheel, to the outside lip on the wheel’s backside.

When the backspacing number is lower, it means the further outside the wheel well the tire will sit.

Offset refers to how far the wheel’s centerline is to the mounting service of the wheel. Offset is positive when it is to the exterior of the wheel. It is negative when it is toward the back portion of the wheel.

When it comes to offsetting, and backspacing considerations, backspacing is usually the most important number. Even a difference of half of an inch can make a huge difference on if the wheel will work with your 4×4 vehicle.

4. Wheel Size

In the off-road world, wheel sizes usually range from 15 to 20 inches. However, the bigger the diameter of the wheel is, the more impractical they will be when the tarmac turns into dust and, at some point, mud.

You can find several different sizes. While this is true, the most common sizes include 16- and 17-inch. That’s because they can maximize the sidewall of the type to help absorb shock and impact.

Tires with larger sidewalls provide more protection for the rim. As mentioned above, this is possible because of the rim’s size.

Wheels that have a smaller diameter allow for a larger sidewall tire. Because of this, it will help protect the rim from any hit coming from the sidewall profile of the tire.

If you choose a lower profile tire, there is less sidewall. This means the wheel isn’t as protected and that it is more likely to feel the full force of a hit that occurs on the wheel.

You need to keep a few other things in mind when choosing wheels with a smaller diameter, too. For example, wheels with a smaller diameter let you have a larger tire. This allows you to have a bigger contact patch.

While this is the case, there may be some rotational weight penalty from the added rubber. Having smaller wheels will also limit the brake sizes.

The question is, how do you determine the best option? The choice is usually determined by the OEM wheel size and tire size limitations.  

Another consideration is wheel poke. This refers to how much the wheel sticks out.

The higher the “poke” on your wheels is, the more you will graze them against things outside the line of your vehicle’s body.

It is also worth noting that wider fitments offer more stability and create a bigger footprint on the dirt.

5. Lug vs. Hub-Centric

Common aftermarket 4×4 wheels feature a lug-centric design. This means the holes are not at the center of the hub bore. Instead, they center the wheel.

This feature lets aftermarket wheel manufacturers create wheel lines that have larger center bores. As a result, they will fit a larger number of applications.

6. Number Considerations

Do you know what the numbers on wheels and tires mean? Use this example, 17 by 8.5 6/139 P7.

In this example, the “17” represents the wheel diameter and is in inches. The “8.5” indicates the width of the wheel in inches.

While the wheel diameter is important, the width is even more important. This is because the wider the wheel is, the more horizontal grip the wheel will offer.

Continuing with the above example, the “6” indicates the total number of wheel studs, and the “139” is the Pitch Circle Diameter, which is in millimeters.

P7 refers to the wheel’s offset from the mounting service of the hub to the middle of the wheel. It is also measured in millimeters.

7. Off-Road vs. All-Terrain Tires

When buying tires for your 4×4, you must choose between off-road and all-terrain options.

All-Terrain Tires

All-season tires begin to fail quickly if you take them beyond gravel or paved roads or put your boat in and out of the water regularly.

For vehicles that stay mainly on properly paved roads (70% to 80% of your driving or more), all-terrain tires may be fine. If you go off-road, though, you have to be extremely careful.

Tires that are not designed for off-road use are typically four-ply. This will keep your vehicle stable on the road and offer agility, cornering, comfort, and flexibility while driving.

While this is true, four-ply tires are much more likely to be damaged or punctured by sticks, sharp rocks, or other hazards that may be seen off-road. If you happen to hit a hard bump, you may experience rim contact, which will cause wheel damage.

Using these tires on the highway is smart. They offer better fuel economy and lower rolling resistance. Other benefits include good grip and minimal road noise under normal conditions.

If you happen to venture off-road with all-terrain tires, you may begin to experience some problems.

Off-Road Tires

With off-road tires, you have something that is 10-ply and tough enough to be used in deep snow, rock, gravel, and mud.

The issue is taking off-road tires on paved surfaces. Two of the biggest issues include road noise and rolling resistance.

With off-road tires, you are going to encounter reduced fuel economy. That’s because it takes a lot more power to move the heavier, grippier tires as you go down the road. Slippage resistance also reduces rolling resistance.

Since the tread is deeper, the tires make more noise when traveling at highway speeds. Sometimes, it may sound like a howl, which can cause serious problems for your driving experience. This is especially true if you plan on spending a lot of time on paved surfaces.

8. Weight Ratings

Today’s 4x4s can haul a lot more weight behind and inside than they could in the past. Because of this, it is necessary to ensure the tire and wheel combination you choose is properly load-rated for these demands.

Manufacturers of wheels will list the numbers online. However, you can also find the numbers on the wheel’s interior if you plan to purchase them secondhand.

Usually, forged wheels will have the highest weight rating. However, many cast-aluminum wheels can handle the payload demands put on today’s 4×4 vehicles.

9. Beadlock and Loaded

How much of an off-roader are you? In some cases, things such as true beadlocks can help with the ability you have to move over challenging terrain with lower tire pressure without dealing with any de-beading of the wheel.

The beadlock is a device often used for extreme or competitive off-roading. Its purpose is to secure the bead of the tire to the wheel.

In these situations, when the tire has low pressure and cannot hold the bead of the tire, the beadlock ensures the two continue to rotate together.

Usually, you will see this as a ring with bolts that clamp your tire and wheel together.

10. Spacers and Adapters

If you want to keep your stock wheels, there is a chance you can keep them if you use wheel spacers. When these are properly torqued, and they are used properly, wheel spacers are an adequate option.

When you purchase wheels with a different bolt pattern than what you have, it may be possible to use adapters to use the wheel. Just make sure you note the backspacing. That’s because the spacers and adapters can add to it a lot.

11. Load Ratings

The load rating of your wheels is the total mass your vehicle needs to support on the corner. You may hear this called axle loading.

Ideally, the mass distribution will remain equal on the four corners of the vehicle. This means a 50:50 mass distribution and that each wheel carries 25% of the gross vehicle mass.

This is a bit different for your 4×4 vehicle. Here, you need a 60:40 split. In this case, the rear wheels must carry more than your front wheels.

If you fail to adhere to the load ratings, you may void your insurance or have a vehicle that isn’t roadworthy. Also, an overloaded vehicle and wheels that have not been load-rated may pose safety issues to you and other people on the road.

Finding the Best 4×4 Wheels

If you are ready to purchase 4×4 wheels, you should consider several things. Some of the most important considerations can be found above.

When you consider these factors, it will be possible for you to get the right wheels for your needs and ensure that you have the needed traction and safety required to enjoy your off-roading experience.

Remember, safety should be a top consideration when trying to find the right wheels for your 4×4 vehicle.

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