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Thinking About Upgrading Tires on Your Pickup? Pros and Cons of Big Rims

By Tire Agent Staff

May 16, 2022


In this post, we answer common questions about upgrading your truck's tires, including:

  • Can I put bigger tires on my truck? (Yes, but ...)
  • How big of tires can I put on my truck?
  • Will oversized tires affect transmission and other components? 

Are Bigger Wheels Better?

Your truck's tires harness the power of the engine, help the brakes to perform correctly, and influence how well your vehicle handles corners, whether you're pulling into a parking space or speeding (safely, of course) around a freeway.

When it's time to replace your light truck tires, you can go with what came installed, or you can upgrade your wheels and tires, especially if you want to improve your truck's performance and appearance.

Before you upgrade those tires on your pickup, there are a few things that you need to know. 

Big wheels keep on turning ... 

The first question you might have is, do you need to buy OEM tires when upgrading? We recently wrote about OEM tires and answered that question and others about brands, tread types, and more. Tap or click to read our article about tire brands and mismatched tires.

For this report, let's start with wheel and rim sizes. More specifically, is it OK to upgrade to larger wheels and rims, and why would you want to?

Pros of Upgrading to Larger Wheels

One of the most common reasons some upgrade to bigger tires is they look so much cooler. When you have a pickup or SUV with a raised suspension, big tires for trucks can look stunning.

But style is just one factor. There are actual benefits to having bigger wheels and tires, primarily if you want to take your truck off-roading. Here are some advantages of bigger wheels:

Larger wheels are easier to navigate rugged terrain

Rugged terrain is easier to navigate with larger wheels and tires. Especially if you consider the benefits of wider tires, these increase the surface area of the rubber that comes into contact with the ground. Increased surface area grips the ground better.

Increased clearance to protect your chassis

Getting bigger wheels and tires raises your truck or SUV's height. As a result, the vehicle's ground clearance increases. This is a big deal for off-roading.

It helps keep your under-chassis and other components from colliding with obstacles like rocks and brush. If these elements crash into the vehicle's undercarriage, they can cause severe damage that can be costly to repair.

Better traction with wider tires

Your tires' weight and surface area are important factors in sustaining traction. Larger tires grip the pavement better than smaller ones. This improves vehicle stability, control, and handling, especially on rugged terrain.

Easier to drive through flooded streets

This benefit goes hand in hand with increased clearance. After an eighth of an inch of rain, you know how easy it is for streets to flood if you've ever driven in Phoenix, Arizona.

Larger wheels and tires add height to the vehicle, making it easier to get through flooded streets than stock wheels. Keep in mind that driving through flooded roads is still risky, as it can cause damage to your vehicle, and you could potentially lose control.

But having larger and heavier tires gives you a better chance of making it through floodwaters without damage. The extra height can help keep water out of your exhaust pipes and cabin. Larger wheels are typically heavier, which can help keep them in contact with the road. Bigger tires also have deeper tread patterns, allowing water to scatter better and prevent hydroplaning.


Cons of upgrading to larger wheels

Now that you know some benefits of upgrading to larger wheels, let's look at potential adverse effects. These primarily relate to performance.

Oversized tires reduced fuel efficiency

This is a huge factor when considering upgrading to larger wheels and tires. Especially nowadays.

Your engine has to work harder to keep your wheels and tires moving because of the added weight resistance and drag. To get your truck or SUV up to the desired speed, you may need to press harder on the gas pedal. As a result, you may notice reduced fuel economy when upgrading to larger wheels and tires. Bottom line: The biggest wheels on a truck aren't the best for fuel efficiency, but dang they do look cool.

Big tires cause slower acceleration

Vehicle acceleration will be reduced because of the extra weight and tire grip. More drag and friction can result from the increased surface area of rubber in contact with the ground. That means it could require more power to accelerate with larger tires. So, again, not the best option if you're seeking fuel efficiency.

Larger wheels can alter your truck's handling

When you change the size of your tires, the vehicle's handling changes as well. Each tire rotates over a greater distance, making it more difficult to change directions. The added torque, weight, and grip can affect the braking distance.

Larger tires might also reduce the steering angle of the vehicle. The size of your wheels and tires in proportion to the wheel well is critical. When you steer, the tires may rub against the insides of the wheel wells, limiting the steering angle.

Let's finish this report with a couple of quick-hitting questions that we get often.

Do Larger Tires Damage Suspension?

Changing to larger tires with the wrong sidewall height can harm your vehicle's suspension system, wheels, and tires. It could also generate inaccurate speedometer readings. That's why it's best to speak with a tire professional when upgrading.

Do Larger Tires Affect Transmission or Other Systems?

Yes, increasing the size of your tire and/or rim changes the ratio of all the components involved in stopping and starting. This includes the drivetrain, transmission, brake system, and associated parts. 

Your next question is most likely how much you should expect to pay for new tires and wheels. We've got you covered. Tap or click here for our guide to tire and wheel prices.

How Big Can I Go With Truck Tires?

Industry standards say that if your truck isn't lifted (more on that in a sec), you can go as big as 33 inches. But don't take our word for it: Your vehicle's owner's manual should have information about the largest tire size your truck can accommodate without a lift kit. A lift kit is just what it sounds like: It's a set of tools that lift your truck's suspension so it sits higher. Again, this has pros and cons, and your vehicle manual should cover the dos and don'ts when it comes to lifting or not lifting a truck in order to accommodate bigger tires. With a lift kit, your truck may be able to go as big as 37-inch tires.

Photo: Atturo Tire