Getting new tires is exciting. They’re bigger, better looking, more aggressive, and more awesome than stock. You can’t wait to get an order in, but then you remember you’ve got to get bigger, better looking, more aggressive, and more awesome wheels to match.
If you want to know how to pair UTV tires and wheels to get the most style and performance out of your ride, you’re in the right place.
We know sometimes ending up with your buddy’s old set of wheels is inevitable, but if you’re starting from scratch, start by choosing your tires. Picking out your perfect tire will guide you down the path of the optimal UTV tire and wheel combination.
Here are the three things to consider when you’re choosing your tires:
Your ride style dictates what kind of tread pattern you need. Mud, sand, all-terrain, rock, trail and race tires are all completely different. Choose one for the kind of riding you love.
At SuperATV, we have a selection of mud, rock, all-terrain, and desert tires that won’t disappoint.
The next thing you’ll need to decide on is your tire size. You could stick with the same size as your stock machine, but if you’re making a change, you might as well add a few inches. Bigger tires give you more ground clearance and a better angle of attack on obstacles. To go much bigger than stock, you’ll need to get a lift.
Finally, you need to decide how important the way it looks is. A more aggressive tread pattern and bigger tire size go a long way to making your whole machine look more imposing and fierce. But deciding early just how important the flashiness of your machine is will inform your wheel decisions.
Once you have the perfect tire picked out, you need a wheel that supports its look and function. There’s a lot more variety than you might think.
Is a cast, forged, steel, beadlock, or crush lock wheel right for you? Let’s find out.
Cast aluminum wheels are probably the most common wheel you’ll see. That’s because they’re affordable and more importantly, lightweight. You can find great-looking cast wheels in just about any size you need.
So if you don’t specifically need any of the other wheels we’re going to talk about, a cast wheel will serve you well.
Forged aluminum wheels are lightweight just like cast, but tend to be a little stronger thanks to the forging process. Forging uses a single piece of aluminum that’s heated and pounded into shape. That ensures that there are no impurities or voids, and it conforms the crystal structure of the metal to the part.
Altogether, that means a forged wheel should be stronger than a cast wheel and have a similar weight. Forged wheels are ideal for racers or anybody that tends to break cast aluminum wheels.
Steel wheels are another affordable option that brings excellent strength to the table. They go great in a UTV tire and wheel combination that emphasizes durability. But it comes with its own compromises.
First of all, steel is heavy—not a problem if your UTV is a work machine or you like crawling through mud, but it can really slow you down if you’re trying to speed through trails.
Secondly, steel is much more prone to corrosion than aluminum. Any chip in your perfect power coating needs to be addressed quickly or else it will rust and your paint will start to peel. There are other ways to protect your wheels from getting damaged, but we’ll talk more about that later.
Beadlock wheels, apart from looking undeniably cool, serve a very specific function. Instead of using air pressure to lock the tire’s bead to the wheel, they use a bolt-on ring to hold the bead.
Beadlocks come in single and dual beadlock configurations. Singles are more common and lock the bead only on the outside of the wheel. Duals lock them on the inside and the outside, but can sometimes interfere with your suspension.
What’s the point of locking the bead?
They’re for riders who run their tire pressure too low to reliably grip the wheel. Rock crawlers ride with low pressure to boost their overall traction. Beadlocks ensure that when the tire is wedged between two rocks, the tire still turns instead of just staying in place while the wheel turns inside of it.
If you like rocks, check out our Healy Fast Series Beadlock Wheels to get the performance you need.
Crush lock wheels are extreme wheels for extreme mud racing. They take an aggressive mud tire and flatten it between two steel plates. It’s not the most typical UTV tire and wheel pair, but nothing beats it when it comes to mud.
The combo of ultra-narrow but ultra-aggressive tires lets them grip the soggy bottom of a mud hole while slicing through the mud that’s in the way. Serious bounty hole junkies and mud racers can’t go wrong with some crush locks.
They are quite an investment. They tend to be custom, made-to-order parts and can run upwards of $150 per wheel. Compare that to about $200 for a full set of cast wheels.
They’re worth the cost if you’re serious about getting dirty—just don’t expect them to be ideal in anything but a few feet of mud.
Picking the correct wheel diameter is easy. Just read the diameter on your tire and get a wheel with the same diameter. They have to match. There’s no wiggle room here.
For help reading your tire sizes, check out our comprehensive tire size guide.
Your wheel width should not be the same as your tire width. The wheel always needs to be narrower by up to four inches. So if you have an eleven-inch-wide tire, you could run as narrow as seven inches on your wheel.
Going any narrower would make the bead more likely to pop off during a ride. Likewise, matching width with your tire puts almost no air pressure on the bead and makes it easy to unseat itself. Then you’re stuck trying to seat a bead on the trail.
When you ride with a narrower wheel than tire, it causes the tire to bulge out past the wheel. This actually helps protect your wheel from dings and damage. It’s not a bad idea for anybody that owns an off-road vehicle, but that extra protection is especially useful for rock crawlers. Dropping tire pressure gives even more protection.
So keep your wheel one to four inches narrower than your tire, and you’ll have the perfect UTV tire and wheel pair.
The final decision you have to make in your wheel purchasing journey is the offset—the distance your wheel sticks out past your hub.
Positive offset means the wheel is closer to the machine. Negative offset means the wheel sticks out further past the hub.
Having too much of either can be very bad for your machine.
Typically, off-roaders like to go with a negative offset. It makes the machine wider, adds stability, and gives you an imposing stance. If you keep the offset within an inch or two of stock, you’ll be ok.
As you increase your negative offset past two inches, you’ll start putting a lot of leverage on your suspension components and reduce your turning radius.
If you ride on width-restricted trails, remember not to make your machine wider than those trails allow.
Follow our suggestions and you’ll have a UTV tire and wheel combo that works together to make your favorite ride style that much better. The right wheel and tire pair like cheese and fine wine, or better yet, like Natty Lite and a cheeseburger.
Now that you know what you’re doing, check out SuperATV’s tire selection to take the first step. Just don’t forget to pair them with the best damn looking cheeseburger, uh wheel, you can get.