If you want to take your Jeep Wrangler off road, then you should invest in large tires. But, if you have a stock Jeep Wrangler, your Jeep probably hasn’t been lifted and it probably has standard tires. The newer models usually have tires around 255/75R17. Most Jeep Wrangler Unlimited models have tires that measure somewhere between 15 and 18 inches.
When you add larger tires to a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, you have to factor in a lift-kit. Unless you decide to spend between $1000 and $10,000 just to lift the Jeep, it might be wise to buy tires that will fit on a stock Jeep without the lift.
What Are the Largest Tires You Can Have Without Adding a Lift?
Depending on the model you have, most Jeeps need lifts for tires that are 33” or larger. But, this doesn’t mean that your stock Jeep Wrangler Unlimited will be okay with 32” tires. If the tires are too wide, they will rub against the fenders.
If you are considering buying new, larger tires, you have to consider the rims. If you are using stock Jeep rims, then you have limited choices for tire width. But, if you add new rims, a larger tire might rub against the fender.
All-in-all, the largest size tires you can have without adding a lift on a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited depends on the model:
- LJ: 31”
- JKU: 33”
- JLU: 33”
But, before you rush out and buy bigger tires for your stock Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, there are a few things to take into consideration.
How Are Tires Sized?
Tires have a unique sizing structure. While we usually refer to tires as being a certain inch size, they actually have three distinct size numbers.
For example, your stock tires might be 255/75R16. Most tires in the United States use this size description.
- The first number is the width of the tire in millimeters. In the example, the tire is 255mm wide.
- The second is the sidewall aspect ratio in millimeters. The example has a 75mm sidewall in height and width.
- The “R” stands for radial tires. Some tires might have a B for bias ply, and this is usually used with truck tires.
- The final number refers to the tire’s wheel diameter in inches.
Sometimes tires are measured fully in inches, so your largest Jeep Wrangler tires might measure 33x12R17.
The first number is the diameter of the tire from the top of the tire to where the tire meets the ground.
The second number is the width, and the third number is the diameter. All of the numbers are in inches.
What Are The Benefits of Bigger Tires on a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited?
Bigger tires will affect the way your Jeep Wrangler Unlimited drives. It will improve your Jeep’s performance and off-road capability.
You will have more ground clearance, but since 33” tires aren’t much bigger than the standard size, you won’t need to rush out and buy new step rails or running boards.
If you are looking to increase tire size without adding a lift, the biggest benefit is the improved appearance.
A Jeep simply looks better when it has bigger tires. You might get slightly better traction on the road, but probably not enough to notice.
What’s the Downside to Bigger Tires on a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited?
If you aren’t getting a lift kit, then there aren’t many downsides to buying 33” tires. The only one you might notice is a slight decrease in fuel economy. You might lose a mile or two per gallon.
However, if your Jeep is older or has a ton of miles on it, you might notice issues with the suspension.
If your suspension feels wobbly, then you should have someone look at your springs. All four tires need to be level for the suspension to stay tight.
If you do decide to put 33” wheels on your Jeep, when you are off-roading, you actually lose clearance between the wheel and the vehicle.
This could damage your Jeep. Some people avoid this problem by installing a leveling kit or a small lift called a budget boost to increase clearance.
What Type of Wheels Should You Put On Your Jeep?
If you want to upgrade the size of your tires, you might have to upgrade your wheels. Be prepared for the tire company to try to sell you a full set of new tires and wheels.
You have two choices, aluminum-alloy or steel wheels. Aluminum wheels come in several designs and look great.
Steel wheels are inexpensive and generally come in one style. The type you choose depends on the type of driving you do.
Steel wheels, or steelies, are good choices for winter tires, because they are so inexpensive.
If you do a lot of off-roading, steel wheels are a good choice, because they can be repaired if they bend. If you don’t like the way they look, you can add hubcaps to improve their appearance.
If you do decide to put steelies on your Jeep, you should know that they can rust. They are also heavier than alloy wheels, so they decrease fuel economy.
They will negatively affect your Jeep’s handling, too. But, they do not crack easily, which is why they are so good for off-road treks.
Aluminum Alloy Wheels
Aluminum alloy wheels are lighter than steelies, and they are better suited for daily driving on roads and highways.
You can drive alloy wheels on dirt, but if they bend or crack, you cannot repair them. Because they are lighter than steelies, they handle better, and they improve fuel economy.
If you have alloy wheels on your Jeep, be careful with the cleaners you use, as some can scratch the finish. Fortunately, aluminum alloy wheels are unlikely to rust, so they look better over time when compared to steelies.
You stock Jeep Wrangler Unlimited will most likely come with aluminum alloy wheels.
What Type of Tires are Best for a Stock Jeep Wrangler Unlimited?
When you buy your new tires, you will have to choose between all-terrain and off-road tires.
A stock Jeep will come with all-terrain tires, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep them on your Jeep.
These tires are designed for daily driving with some off-road use. You’ll find the quiet on paved roads, and they last a long time – sometimes over 60,000 miles before needing to be replaced.
All-terrain tires will provide decent traction on snowy roads and wet roads, but the traction decreases on mud. The tread pattern is designed to channel water so your Jeep won’t hydroplane.
Jeep all-terrain tires can wear unevenly, especially if your Jeep has suspension issues. Many Jeep owners have their tires rotated with each oil change to keep wear evenly spread.
If you plan to drive on sandy trails, all-terrain tires should get the job done because of the close channel gap. However, if you want to take your Jeep mudding, then you will want the off-road option.
Off-Road or Mud Tires
Off-road tires have larger channel gaps which makes them better for muddy off-road expeditions.
While most Jeeps come with all-terrain tires, some stock Rubicons and other special edition models might have mud tires instead. While they are designed for off-road use, you can drive off-road tires on paved streets.
If you have recently switched from all-terrain to off-road, you will notice that the off-road tires are louder on paved roads. That noise is from the large tread on the paved road.
Along with an increase in noise, off-road tires will also increase your fuel usage. If you do more driving on paved roads than muddy roads, off-road tires might not be the wisest choice.
However, if you live in a part of the world where the snow piles up, you might want two sets of tires: all-terrain for the warm months and off-road for the winter. The large treads get better grip on snow-covered roads.
Keep in mind that off-road tires do not last as long as all-terrain, simply because the large tread wears out quickly.
In the winter, wide tires will always perform better in deep snow when compared to skinny tires. Many winter drivers will air-down their tires to create a bigger footprint in the snow.
The same goes for driving in the sand. If you are taking your Jeep into dunes, you want to air them down and be sure to never spin them.
If you give your Jeep too much gas, the tires will dig into the sand, not stay above it. Wider tires will help here, too.
When you are ready to put new tires on your Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, you should take into consideration where you drive your Jeep.
If you stay on paved roads, smaller tires are better choices than large ones. If you take it on mud, then you should consider a lift and larger, wider tires.
But, if you do not want to invest in a lift, then the largest tires you can put on your JK or JL are 33 inches.
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