Editors’ Choice: Overland Wheels

Photo By: Fifteen52

Wheels are the most common modification on any overland vehicle build. But, while most wheels are an aesthetic upgrade, the most important part of choosing the right wheel isn’t about looks; it is about avoiding some common problems that can affect the safety, ride, and handling of your vehicle.

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. I think we can agree that brakes are a good thing to have – especially on a heavy vehicle – so you’ll probably want to avoid the wrong-sized wheel. Wheels with incorrect backspacing can create suspension rub or in worse cases, unpredictable steering.

With so much on the line, it is extremely important to do your research before clicking the “BUY NOW” button.

Here are a few vocabulary terms to get you thinking.

Common Wheel Vocabulary

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, and the more wheel in the wheel well, the greater the risk of the wheel rubbing on suspension, steering, or braking components.

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.

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.

Simple, huh?

Wheel Material

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

Photo by Rick Stowe

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

Black Rhino Overland Wheels on a Jeep Gladiator
Photo by Black Rhino

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. 

Read More: Fifteen52’s All-New Off-Road Wheels

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.

Some of Our Favorite Overland Wheels

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 Race Wheels 704s on a Toyota Tundra
Method Race Wheels 704. Photo by Method Race Wheels

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 – allowing you to lower your air pressure and feel confident about your tire staying on your wheel.

The Method 704 Trail Series retails for $265 each.

Black Rhino Overland Matte Black Wheels

Black Rhino Overland Wheels on a Toyota 4Runner
Black Rhino Overland Wheels on a Toyota 4Runner. Photo by Black Rhino

The Black Rhino 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 Black Rhino Overland wheel retails for $294.00 each

Fifteen52 Analog HD Wheels

Fifteen52 Analog HD Wheels on a Jeep and a Mitsubishi Montero.
Fifteen52 Analog HD Wheels on a Jeep and a Mitsubishi Montero. Photo by Fifteen52

We love the classic “steelie” look of the Fifteen52 Analog HD, but under the throwback exterior is a fully modern wheel with all-aluminum construction to reduce unsprung weight, a dimensional center section to channel airflow into the braking system, and reinforced flanges. Available in 16″ and 17″ diameters, Fifteen52 has wheels for the Ford Bronco, Toyota Tacoma, Toyota Tundra, Jeep, Toyota Land Cruiser, and many more.

The Fifteen52 Analog HD retails for $334.80

Read More: Tales from the Trail: McGrew Trail

ICON Vehicle Dynamics Rebound Pro Wheel

ICON Vehicle Dynamics Rebound Pro on the 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X.
ICON Vehicle Dynamics Rebound Pro on the 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X. Photo by Nick Jaynes.

We were so enamored with the ICON Vehicle Dynamics Rebound Pros, that we put them on our 2022 Ultimate Overland Vehicle Build, the 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X. Developed with patent pending INNERLOCK Technology, the Rebound Pro utilizes a robust bead retention system that keeps the tire bead secured to the wheel – while also being fully DOT compliant. The Rebound Pro was engineered to maximize caliper clearance and optimize wheel position for unhindered suspension travel and steering function.

The ICON Vehicle Dynamics Rebound Pro Wheel retails for $314.49

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 the info that came with your suspension, and start shopping!

See you out on the trail!

Photo by Brett Willhelm

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