If you have a 4×4 truck, chances are you’re going to take it offroading as much as possible. So, ground clearance is a must. We often spend hours on the web, looking at the newest suspension lift kits for our rides. But modifications and improvements can be expensive. So, many people consider only installing bigger tires. Let’s find out if you can.
Can I put bigger tires on my truck without a lift?
In most trucks, you can fit bigger tires without a lift kit. Many manufacturers design trucks with modifications in mind, and it’s easy to fit up to 33-in tires with stock components. If it’s a tight squeeze, then you can resort to other alterations that are relatively easy. But, it’s always best to stick to the operating guidelines.
A bigger tire not only offers more grip, but it can also increase the ride height, thanks to a large sidewall. Since they are some important, it’s best to learn how to identify tire sizes, which we’ll cover in this article. And, yes, fitting bigger tires affects your speedometer and fuel consumption.
When a tire doesn’t fit, there are some strategies to work it in without investing in a lift kit. As with any modification, be sure to keep within the safe limits of your vehicle. We’ll also go through some of the alternatives in this article.
Some stock trucks work well with upgrades. Jeep understood that its customers wanted to take vehicles to the extreme.
The company built the Jeep Gladiator with modifications in mind. Its wide fenders, longer axles, and remarkable ground clearance make it ideal for bigger tires and suspensions.
There are others that, on the other hand, are deceivingly unable to fit bigger tires. Take the Ford Raptor. It has such a specific set of tires that putting any different size might affect its excellent offroad performance.
Tires are an exciting topic. So, let’s dive more into fitting bigger tires. But, first, let’s discuss tire sizes.
Understanding tire sizes
First of all, it’s important to note that there are usually two ways of referring to tires. Some people talk about tire size in inches, and others use a combination of letters and numbers known as a tire code.
When someone says: “I want some 33s for my car”, they’re referring to the diameter in inches. It’s an approximation that many people use, but it isn’t precise, as you lack vital information like the rim size.
The most precise way to know about your tire size is by using the tire code. Let’s use the following as an example:
The numbers stand for:
- 215 (in this case) refers to the nominal width of the tire in millimeters. This number indicates how wide the tire is at its widest point. The area of contact with the road can be smaller.
- 65 is the ratio of height to width (also known as the aspect ratio). This number represents how high the tire is compared to the width. In this case, 65 means that the sidewall height is 65% of the tire’s width.
- The higher this number is, the taller the sidewall is. If there’s no number, you can assume an 82% profile ratio.
- R stands for the construction. Most tires in the market today are radial (R). Other letters include D (diagonal) and B (bias belt).
- 15 is the wheel (or rim) diameter in inches. Since it’s given in inches, when the rest is in millimeters, it’s worth pointing out that this diameter is accurate to half an inch.
So, let’s use some of the Gladiator’s tire sizes as examples:
- 255/70R18: Available in the Overland and the 80th Anniversary editions. This tire is 255 millimeters wide, has a profile height that’s 70% the tire’s width, radial construction, and fits an 18-inch wheel or rim.
- 245/75R17: Available in the Sport, Sport S, and Freedom. This tire is 245 millimeters wide, has a profile height that’s 75% the tire’s width, radial construction, and fits a 17-inch wheel or rim.
So, in the end, a 33-inch tire might be a 285/75R16 or a 305/70R16. Knowing this, let’s discuss optional tire sizes.
Larger stock tire sizes
In your owner’s manual, you will find the maximum permissible size for your truck. You’d be surprised about some of the tires you can fit in many vehicles out there.
For example, the stock Ford F-150 can easily fit 32-inch tires with no issues. The Ram 1500, on the other hand, can hold an impressive 35-inch piece of rubber easily.
You might even go a size up in these two examples. But you might find that the tire rubs against the wall.
The 4×4 community refers to this problem simply as “rubbing.” As its name suggests, it’s the tire coming into contact with the body, especially when turning. Some people are okay with this, but it’s far from ideal.
The constant friction will wear the tire out unevenly. Also, the excessive vibration can accelerate the wear of some components such as the control arms and suspension. But does this mean that you have to use a lift kit? Not necessarily.
The torsion bar and how it can help you fit bigger tires
Most trucks come with a torsion bar suspension system. It’s rugged and works excellent for heavier vehicles. In principle, a bar connects with the suspension components on both the left and right sides.
One side lifts (for example, going over a rock), and the bar rotates, offering resistance and helping the tire stay on the ground. But, at the same time, since it’s connected to the other side, the torsion will help push the other side down as well.
Torsion bars are adjustable through a bolt. By turning it clockwise, you can increase the amount of load it will handle. What you’re doing here is basically tightening up the bar, which tenses it and raises the vehicle up to 1.5″. But, don’t exceed tension as the bar could suffer fatigue and damage.
This solution can quickly help you fit a bigger tire. But, by tightening the bar, you can also shorten its lifespan.
Wheel spaces and how they can help you fit bigger tires
Wheel spacers are precisely what their name says: they’re spacers that you fit to create space between the tire and body. If you install one, you will see the tires stick out. Why would you want to do this?
Well, by having the tire further out, there’s less chance it can rub against the body. But, you can only go so far. In fact, many states actually regulate how far you can stick your tires out. Plus, the spacers can affect how your vehicle handles.
Improperly balanced spacers can generate excessive vibration. It can lead to loss of control and considerable damage to your vehicle.
Leveling kits could give you clearance.
Like the GMC Sierra, some trucks have a weighty front end, which causes them to sag. Though many owners might not perceive it, once you see it, it’s hard to ignore. To fix this problem, a lot of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) have created leveling kits.
These are similar to disks that fit in the front, within the suspension, to lift the droopy nose. Since they provide some lift (about 1.5″), you will have more space to fit bigger tires. These are popular options, so there are plenty of them out there, and many of them have excellent quality, so the handling shouldn’t suffer.
Then, there are other, more creative solutions.
Cutting the fenders
That’s right. Some people want more space in their fenders to fit bigger tires and avoid rubbing. So, what do they do? They take a saw, of course.
Fender cutting is common. A lot of people do it, and you can install flares to help with the aesthetic aspect. But, it’s a permanent modification, and there’s no turning back. So, if you’re thinking about it, be sure to contact experts to help you.
Some tips for fitting bigger tires
Finally, we have to clarify that every time you’re modifying something in your truck, it will affect its performance. Bigger tires are no different.
Due to their added size and weight, friction will increase, and so will fuel consumption. But, the strain on suspension and transmission components will also increase. If your fitting tires that are too big, it’s best to either tune the transmission or upgrade, but it’s a costly process
Also, remember that the speedometer is calibrated for tires of a specific size. Whenever you go bigger (or smaller), speed will read out differently. You can have these calibrated.
Many people wonder what the biggest tires are you can fit in a truck without a lift kit. This article answers this but also provides several tips on how to do so safely.
Bigger tires are an excellent way of gaining ground clearance without having to invest in a lift kit. Most trucks can fit them without much modification.
But exceedingly big tires can rub against the frame, which leads to premature wear. So, if you want bigger tires, you might have to resort to spacers or leveling kits. There are other, more extreme measures.
Always consult an expert before doing any modifications, as key handling components can change. Modifying your truck is fun, and hopefully, this article helps you get on the right path to doing so.