One of the first mods many vehicle owners go for is a new, shiny set of wheels for their rig. But aside from aesthetics, there are a lot of things to think about before you click the “buy now” button.
The wrong wheel diameter, lug pattern, or backspacing can create a whole host of problems. A wheel of the incorrect size can get caught on your brake calipers — rendering them useless. Brakes are a good thing to have on a heavy vehicle, so you’ll probably want to avoid that.
Wheels with incorrect backspacing can create suspension rub, or in worse cases unpredictable steering. I think we can all agree that we want our steering to be tight and our suspension to work as intended. The easiest way to remedy these problems is to do your research before making your purchase.
Here are a few vocabulary terms to get you thinking. Please note that there will be a quiz at the end, which accounts for 90% of your grade.
READ MORE: GEAR ESSENTIALS: TIRES & WHEELS
What is Wheel Backspacing?
Wheel backspacing is the measurement from the mounting hub (where the lugs mount to the wheel studs and axle) to the outermost edge of your wheel. Why does it matter? The more backspacing you have, the more your wheel is positioned inside the wheel well, the more wheel in the wheel well, the greater the risk of the wheel rubbing on suspension, steering, or braking components.
What is Wheel Diameter?
Wheel diameter is the distance (in inches) of the face of your wheels, from one bead seat to the other. In a typical tire size for 4×4 vehicles 285/75r/16, the “16” refers to the diameter in inches of your wheel. Why does it matter? Simply put, smaller diameter wheels allow you to run a larger tire with a bigger sidewall — protecting the wheel from a direct hit from rocks or debris on the trail.
What is Wheel Offset?
Wheel offset refers to how your vehicle’s wheels and tires are mounted and how they sit inside the wheel wells. Why does it matter? Wheel offset is a determining factor about whether or not a certain wheel will fit your rig. Generally, most front wheel drive vehicles have a positive offset. So, if you want to install wider wheels than the factory size, you must reduce the offset.
READ MORE: GEAR ESSENTIALS: VEHICLE RUNNING GEAR
The next thing you’ll need to consider is wheel material. Here you’ll have a choice of steel, forged aluminum, or cast aluminum. It all comes down to weight and cost.
Steel wheels are by far the least expensive wheel type if you’re looking to save a little cash. As an added bonus, steel wheels are incredibly strong. A steel wheel will bend from a direct hit versus an aluminum wheel that will just crack. Steel wheels are (often) trail repairable with a hammer, elbow grease, and some time.
One drawback of steel wheels is weight. A similar diameter steel wheel versus an aluminum wheel can weigh up to 10 pounds more per wheel. That might not seem like a lot, but you’ll definitely notice it in fuel economy.
Aluminum wheels can either be forged or cast. Let’s get this out of the way quickly, you do not want to buy a cast aluminum wheel for any type of off-road travel. Cast aluminum wheels are less durable than a forged aluminum wheel and you’re just better off going with a forged wheel.
Though forged wheels are about as durable as steel wheels, they can crack or break under extreme stress. The cost of repairing an aluminum wheel is slightly higher than the cost of repairing a steel wheel.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of our favorite wheels for overlanding.
Method Race Wheels 704 Trail Series
Method Racing Wheels have been a favorite of ours for years – and for good reason. Made from solid A356 aluminum with T6 heat treatment, these trail-ready wheels will get you where you want to go, whether heading off to a remote campsite or hitting town for a resupply mission. Method’s patented BeadGrip® technology engages the tire bead for increased grip at low air pressures. The aggressive safety hump on their bead seat prevents further de-beading. Lower your air pressure and feel confident about your tire staying on your wheel.
The Method 704 Trail Series retails for $265 each.
BlackRhino Overland Wheels
The BlackRhino Overland Wheel is a rugged, custom wheel that covers a full range of lifted and stock off highway vehicles. These wheels are designed with large lips to provide a safe bead seat for oversized off-road tires. Finished in a Matte Black color, these wheels look stealthy while providing a solid base for your overland travels.
The BlackRhino Overland wheel retails for $220 each
American Expedition Vehicles Saverge II
Looking for the AEV Saverge wheel for your JL Wrangler or Gladiator? The Saverge II puts a modern spin on a classic AEV wheel design. This refreshed version of AEV’s original JK Savegre wheel has been updated in a number of ways to accommodate the JL Wrangler/Gladiator’s unique fitment requirements. The Savegre II features a JL/Gladiator-specific offset of +25mm, which works perfectly with the various OE fender flare styles and provides the optimal balance of tire clearance, scrub radius and handling.
Additionally, this wheel features a larger center cap bore (62.77mm) for compatibility with the Jeep JL Wrangler’s OE back-up camera and resized pockets for the larger factory lug nuts. Available in a Matte Black finish.
The AEV Saverge II retails for $260.00
Rugged Ridge Trail Runner Classic Steel Wheel
This Rugged Ridge Trail Runner Classic Steel Wheel features a gloss black finish, providing an aggressive look for your rig. The new design is hub-centric so the wheel precisely centers itself, resulting in less wheel vibration and allowing ultimate control. It also provides consistently smooth travel for even the most rugged of expeditions. Engineered, tested and certified to meet and exceed the strenuous SAE J2530 standards for wheel strength and durability.
The Rugged Ridge Trail Runner Classic Steel Wheel retails for $153.99
So there you go, a quick primer on choosing the best wheels for your rig while taking into account important measurements like backspacing, diameter, and offset. Research is the most important part of any purchase, so go get your measurements, read your info that came with your suspension, and start shopping!
See you on the trail!
Header image: Method Racing Wheels