Tire upgrades can be a complex subject for Jeep owners because there are a lot of factors that go into the right choice. You’ll need a tread pattern and performance tier that matches the terrain you intend to take on, for starters. It’s also important to consider other upgrades like a lifted suspension that might work better with increased wheel and tire sizes. The exact tire size and wheel upgrade that you need depends on the height of that suspension, too.
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If you are considering a wheel and tire size change, then your vehicle’s ground clearance is the most important factor. Increase the size too much and you will find your wheel does not fit the current suspension. That’s because larger wheels are built for Jeeps with higher ground clearance due to lift kits. Matching the right suspension lift and wheel upgrade is key to getting the clearance you want because the choices are related. There are both upward and downward limits to compatibility because the taller your Jeep gets, the more contact surface you need and the better idea it is to have a wider wheel base. Both gains are made with size increases to your Jeep Wheels/Tires.
The biggest reason for changing tires when you change terrain is better traction. Each tread pattern is optimized for different needs. Thick, knobby treads are made for loose material like powdery snow or sand. Deep treads with thick knobs and channels for liquid material increase your traction in wetlands and other muddy environments. The changes you make matter, which is why all-terrain tires are often the choice for starter builds and mixed terrain challenges, but not the full-time choice made by experienced off-roaders.
In the end, tires wind up serving both your suspension and drivetrain systems because they transfer power to propel the vehicle and contribute to a safe, even ride at once. That is why your tire upgrade choices should reflect not only your suspension upgrades, but also the state of your drivetrain build. The more upgraded those systems are, the more beneficial a top tier performance tire will be at this time.
Upgrade Limitations and Other Calculations
Even with suspension lift kits and other upgrades that allow you to increase your wheel and tire size, there are rational limits to what you can do. There are also real, hard limits at each stage of the upgrade process based on what you’ve already done to accommodate wheel size changes. To make things even more complex, the model and year of your Jeep determines the range of appropriate sizes from the stock build onwards because larger initial wheel bases tend to lead to greater gains in size as you go up.
All of these are reasons why your first resource when planning an upgrade path should be the Jeep Wheel Specifications Blog, which has posts detailing the best choices for wheel size and tire tread for different build types. It’s a great resource at every stage of your journey, but especially when you are in the planning phases.