If you’ve got a Jeep Wrangler, then there is a good chance you will do customizing to it. Many people choose to put new tires and wheels on their Wranglers. But, before you invest in a new set of wheels for your Wrangler, you’ve got to be sure they will fit, especially regarding the lug pattern.
So, Do All Jeep Wranglers Have the Same Lug Pattern?
Yes and no. All Jeep Wranglers have five bolts that hold the wheels in place, but the different models have subtle differences in the measurements between the bolts. All JKs and JLs have the same lug pattern and hub center bore, but there are some subtle measurement differences in the stud sizes. And, if you have a Jeep Gladiator, it has the same wheels and lugs as the Wrangler JLs. But, things change drastically when moving into the TJ, YJ and CJ models.
Unfortunately, this all means that you can only put wheels for your specific model on your Jeep. You can’t put vintage YJ wheels on a new JL.
How Do You Know What Lug Pattern to Use?
The easiest way is to look at your owner’s manual. But, if you want to have a little fun, you can measure them yourself. You begin by counting the bolts, and there should be five of them. Unfortunately, the fact that there are five holes makes the next process a bit more daunting – it would be much easier to measure the pattern if Jeep made the pattern an even number.
So, pick the bolt that is just to the right of center at the top. Put your ruler at the outer edge of the bolt diameter, then extend the ruler over the center of the hub, skipping a bolt and measure to the center of the next bolt hole.
That measurement is the pattern circle diameter, and it should come to five inches on a JL or JK. On the older Jeeps, the diameter should come to 4.5 inches.
You then call the pattern 5×5 on the JL or JK and 5×4.5 on the older models. The first number is the number of bolts, the next is the diameter.
Why Are Bolt Patterns Important?
Wheels are expensive. Unless your Jeep dealership puts custom wheels on your Wrangler, it will come with stock wheels. If you want to customize your Jeep, you might order a set of wheels with five lug, expecting they will fit. Unfortunately, just because there are five lugs on a wheel doesn’t mean they are all spaced the same.
The bolt pattern tells you what the space is between each lug. If you buy wheels that have a different pattern, they will not fit. So, knowing your lug pattern will save you both money and time.
Are the Lug Nuts the Same on All Jeep Wranglers?
No. Lug nuts are the covers that go over the lug and keep the wheel in place. It is vital that you have the correct ones, or the wheel will not stay on.
The lug nuts on Jeep Wranglers changed when the JLs were released. Every model until the JL had the same lugs. So, if you have a JK, TJ, or YJ, your Jeep should have lugs that measure 1/2×20. But, if you have a JL, the bolts now measure 14mm x 1.5.
Is There a Special Way to Put Wheels on a Wrangler?
If you are putting wheels on yourself, then you should follow a specific torque pattern. You shouldn’t put your wheels on with any old wrench, but instead, you need a lug wrench.
Once the wheel is one the lugs, you put the first lug nut on and tighten it to the torque listed in the owner’s manual. Then, moving to the clockwise, skip the next lug nut and tighten the one after that.
Keep moving clockwise, skipping the next nut and moving to the next. Then, go back and tighten the last two, moving clockwise around the wheel. As you tighten the nuts, do not overdo it.
Each model Jeep has a torque specification, and you shouldn’t over do it. If you do go beyond the torque specs, you could create problems that could cause your lug nuts to sheer off of the car.
It is always good to check your lug nuts after driving 20 miles, then again after 100 miles. You want to be sure the wheels are staying in place.
How Do You Choose the Best Wheels For Your Wrangler?
Along with buying wheels with the right lug pattern, you should also buy wheels that fit the way you drive your Wrangler. Not all wheels are built for the same type of driving, and not all wheels are created equally.
You don’t want to put dedicated street wheels on your Jeep if you love to take it off-road. And, some wheels are not built for daily driving, especially if you live in a part of the world where the roads are salted when the weather gets chilly.
You’ve also got to consider whether or not you need to lift your Jeep. The standard Jeep Wrangler wheel is only 17 or 18 inches. So, anything much bigger will scrape the wheel well and will affect the way our Jeep drives. Keep in mind that lifting your Jeep could substantially increase the cost of adding new wheels and tires.
The way you drive your Jeep will determine the best finish for your new wheels. Chrome is beautiful, but not durable; especially if you plan to drive off-road. You can buy attractive wheels with machined finishes that will last on the street and on the dirt.
However, if your Jeep is your daily driver, then all-season or all-terrain tires will work. Some Jeep drivers prefer to put snow tires on their Wranglers in the winter.
What If I Want Bigger Tires and Wheels?
There’s no doubt that Jeep Wranglers look amazing with big wheels and tires. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as just putting the wheels and tires you want on your Jeep. You’ve got to be sure that your wheels and tires will clear the well. And, after that, you’ve got to be sure that you backspace and offset.
In a nutshell, there’s a bunch of math involved in putting bigger tires and wheels on your Jeep Wrangler. And, with all that math, you still have to get the right lug pattern and use the correct torque.
What is Offset and Backspace?
They are actually very similar things, as they both measure the way the wheel fits on your Jeep.
Zero, Positive, and Negative Offset
Offset involves where you put the hub of the wheel, which determines where the wheel is when it attaches to the Jeep.
A positive offset puts the hub near the outside of the wheel. Negative puts it deep into the wheel, and zero means it is in the middle of the wheel.
With a positive offset, the wheel goes deeper into the well, because lug nuts are on the outer edge of the wheel. So, a positive offset is not a good idea if you take your Jeep off-roading regularly.
As you move closer to a negative offset, more of the wheel will stick out from the wheel well. If you have large tires, zero or negative offset is usually recommended.
Increasing and Decreasing Backspace
Backspace involves where the wheel sits in relation to the wheel well. As you increase backspacing, more of the wheel sits in the well. As you decrease it, more of the wheel sits outside of the well.
A decrease in backspacing means that your wheel will stay farther away from the brakes and suspension, because less of the wheel is in the well. But, as you move the wheel farther back into the well, you have more of a chance of the wheel touching the brakes or suspension.
When you are planning for offset and backspace, consider how and where you drive your Jeep. If you regularly use your Wrangler to tow or you put a bunch of stuff in it, you will want to be sure you have more backspace than you think you need.
As you fill your Jeep, or you tow a heavy item behind it, the body will sink closer to the tires, thus increasing the need for backspace.
No part of your Wrangler’s wheel should touch the well, the suspension, or the exhaust. You should always be able to turn the wheels freely, without any obstacles.