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The Ultimate Guide to the Best Off-Road Wheels

The Ultimate Guide to the Best Off-Road Wheels

Off-roading pushes your vehicle’s limits beyond the tarmac. It’s a true test of craftsmanship and sheer driving skills. And in the true spirit of adventure, your truck should drive and look good off-road. In this article, we guide you to the essentials of picking the right off-road wheels.

The simplest way to put it, off-roading is driving a vehicle on unpaved ground with limited traction. It is common among enthusiasts who live in close proximity to dirt roads and nature trails.

Off-roading is the opposite of closed-circuit racing where speed on straights and turns is the key to winning. Vehicles would rather crawl steadily to cover as much ground as they can. And while there can be competition, no one is left behind

Navigate your way through the article here:

What's a Typical Off-Road Landscape?
Serious Off-Roading Needs Prepping
What Kind of Tires are Good for Off-Road?
Matching the Gear Ratio to Bigger Tires
Lifting for Ground Clearance and Bigger Tires
Putting on Off-Road Wheels
How Does the Right Material Affect Off-Road Performance?
What’s on the Market?
Editor's Pick: Pro Comp 51 Series
Happy Trails!

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What's a Typical Off-Road Landscape?    

Off-roaders favor the natural, unpaved terrain in their localities. It could be anything from fields, riverbeds, mountainsides, and beaches. These places can have gravel, mud, sand, loose soil, and water.

Landscapes offer a unique off-roading experience. Some have a beautiful natural scenery filled with a rich ecosystem around. On the other hand, there are other trails that appeal more to the technical challenges that go with the discipline.

Ideally, the natural terrain is uneven and can be unpredictable in varying degrees. A trail that is fairly easy on dry weather can turn out to be difficult once rain or snow sets in. These challenges add to the thrill and are welcomed by off-roaders.

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Serious Off-Roading Needs Prepping

Driving off-road can be really fun and exciting with a properly modified vehicle.

The reliable picks happen to be trucks and SUVs. These machines have enough ground clearance, tough suspension, and capable powertrain.

However, stock tuning usually works best in light to moderate trails. Taking on technical courses requires upgrades and tuning suitable to specific applications. It also doesn’t mean that going all out on modifications always guarantee the best performance on the trail.

The key is modifying your vehicle with the right parts for the job.

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What Kind of Tires are Good for Off-Road?

Stock road tires are one of the first things that get swapped out when setting up a vehicle for off-road duties. Upgrading to the right tires for your specific applications and terrain can bring in significant improvement to your vehicle’s performance.

The all-terrain tire is recommended if your vehicle spends an equal amount of time on and off the road, or maybe more frequently on highways. It provides ample grip on the trail without taking away the much-needed grip for asphalt roads.

Most all-terrain tires come in rugged designs with moderately aggressive tread patterns. This is the best choice for balanced performance and durability. Reliable all-terrain tires include BF Goodrich KO2, Cooper AT3, and Goodyear Wrangler A/T. 

The mud-terrain tire is recommended for serious enthusiasts who drive their vehicles off-road at least 75% of the time. It is made with extremely aggressive tread patterns and tough materials to take on the harsh conditions on the trail.

These tires can offer maximum grip on the trail if they are deflated to the recommended tire pressure. However, they don’t do too well on paved roads, especially when slippery.

Switching to big and chunky tires can help you overcome huge obstacles on the trail. But there are also a few trade-offs.

Your vehicle’s ride quality, acceleration, fuel economy, and braking can drastically change, especially if you keep other parts stock. These can be compensated by tuning your vehicle’s gear ratio and suspension accordingly.

Watch this video to see what we're talking about:

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Matching the Gear Ratio to Bigger Tires

Gear ratio pertains to how many rotations the driveshaft has to make before the wheel completes one rotation. The factory gears are meant to work with the stock tires and wheels your vehicle came with.

Without proper re-gearing, the engine has to work extra to turn bigger wheels.

It can also improve your vehicle’s off-road crawling power at the expense of reaching highway speeds easily. Shorter gears effectively send more torque to the wheels.

Hence, you have more control during steep descents and ascents, as well as through loose terrain.

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Lifting for Ground Clearance and Bigger Tires

Increasing your vehicle’s tire size substantially can improve its off-road capabilities, as long as it’s not monster truck proportions.

Vehicles that have spacious wheel wells can normally accommodate wheels and tires that are a size or two up.

However, stock suspension might limit the axle articulation once you have gone off-road. Worse, the bigger tires might hit the fenders leaving the tires cut or fenders dented.

By installing aftermarket suspension lift kits, tires will not have to scooch in tight fenders anymore. With the increased height, the bigger tires have more space to fit into and can benefit from the longer suspension play.

More than that, aftermarket suspension kits can be tuned to suit your applications. This can make  your vehicle more responsive on the harsh trail conditions.

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Putting on Off-Road Wheels

Aftermarket off-road wheels can make trucks and SUVs look extremely rugged no doubt. It adds flare to your vehicle and complements all the other upgrades you already installed.

Aside from aesthetic improvements, a new set of wheels can also change the vehicle’s stance and handling. They can come in with aggressive offsets that match the chunkier off-road tires.

Lastly, the material construction also affects the wheel's longevity and off-road capabilities. The next paragraphs discuss the value of knowing which material you should choose for your applications.

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How Does the Right Material Affect Off-Road Performance?

True off-road vehicles are built to be driven through punishing terrains rather than being eye candies in car shows. This is why choosing the right wheels for build is critical.

You have to understanding what off-road wheels are made of.

The most common options are made from steel and forged alloy. There are also cast alloy wheels that might be passed off as off-road wheels but you should think twice if you are serious about off-roading.

Here, we lay out what material makes or breaks an off-road wheel:

Cast alloy wheels are NOT for hardcore off-roading. They look rather nice and sporty but they are better off used on the street only.

They might be appealing to truck and SUV owners because of their affordability and the variety of designs to choose from. Cast alloy wheels are also lightweight, making vehicles easier to steer on the streets.

However, these street wheels won't be good on the trail. They are highly prone to cracks and substantial damage if used off-road. 

Steel wheels are the staples of off-roading. They are pretty much bulletproof on the trail and come in affordable price tags. Its solid construction and unsprung weight give you confidence as you drive through rocks, mud, and other loose terrain.

On the downside, these wheels feel heavy on paved roads. They can make your vehicle drive like a tank, limiting your top speed and causing inefficient fuel consumption. Steel wheels also tend to retain heat longer which can work against the brakes during long drives.

Maintenance wise, these wheels can be repaired and its dents straightened out. You just have to clean it regularly to prevent any rust build-ups.

Forged alloy wheels combines the lightness and style of cast alloys with the strength of steel rims. They are made by applying extreme heat and pressure on the raw metal and shaping them into the desired form.

While its wheel strength is highly desirable off-road, trail veterans might find the lack of weight working against them. They believe heavy wheels can help them maintain control when they need it the most.

Among the three, the forged alloy wheels are the most expensive because of the method and materials that go into manufacturing them. But if you want a good off-road vehicle that still feels comfortable driving on the paved roads, then this is something you might want to consider.

This video illustrates the differences between the two with the help of a hammer: 

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What’s on the Market?

Picking the right wheels for your vehicle should be done carefully if you want the best for your vehicle.

There are a lot of brands that have come out in the past few years. Having these in the market broadens your options for a build – from classic to modern designs.

Here are some of the best off-road wheels that you might want to consider:

Pro Comp 252 Series

Steel | Starts at $440 per set of 4

The Pro Comp 252 Series has a timeless vibe with its round slots. This classic steel wheel is fit for off-roaders of all generations.

It only comes in black but gets an extra flare from the studs on its outer lip.

Popular with: Toyota Tacoma, Toyota 4-Runner, Toyota Landcruiser, Ford Ranger, Jeep Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler

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Pro Comp 51 Series

Steel | Starts at $272 per set of 4

The Pro Comp 51 is another no-frills steel wheel. It works well with off-road rigs built to for extreme conditions.

The wheel is best known for its black finish and bell-shaped slots, and looks best with an aggressive mud tire. 

Popular with: Toyota Tacoma, Toyota 4-Runner, Toyota Landcruiser, Ford Ranger, Jeep Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler, Toyota FJ Cruiser

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Pro Comp 97 Series

Steel | Starts at $268 per set of 4

The Pro Comp 97 Series is easily associated with both old and new off-road vehicles.

Its clean appearance is complemented by round slots that complete its spartan vibe. Throw in good off-road wheels on a set of this wheel and you're ready to go.

Popular with: Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, Jeep Wrangler, Dodge Dakota, Chevrolet Colorado

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Black Rhino Reno Beadlock

Forged Alloy | Starts at $1,760 per set of 4

The Black Rhino Reno Beadlock is a very modern take of a sporty off-road wheel.

The design has six stylish stubby spokes and slots along the barrel. A distinct bead lock completes its aggressive look.  

Popular with: Jeep Wrangler, Toyota 4-Runner, Toyota Tacoma, Ford F150 Raptor, Toyota Tundra

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Black Rhino Primm Beadlock

Forged Alloy | Starts at $1,720 per set of 4

The Black Rhino Primm Beadlock seems to be inspired by traditional steel off-road wheels as seen with its bell-shaped slots.

It also has smaller slots formed around the barrel. The stepped lip and bead lock completes its modern off-road look.

Popular with: Jeep Wrangler, Ford F150 Raptor, Ram 1500, Toyota 4-Runner, Toyota Tacoma

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Vision Off-Road 111 Nemesis

Forged Alloy | Starts at $896 per set of 4

The Vision Off-Road 111 Nemesis looks like a European-inspired race wheel on steroids.

It's the kind of wheel that looks the part on car shows, streets, and off-road trails. What's nice is its price tag is more affordable than other alloy wheels.

Popular with: Toyota Tacoma, Toyota Tundra, Toyota 4-Runner, Jeep Wrangler, Chevrolet Silverado, Ram 1500, Ford F150

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Vision Wheels Manx

Forged Alloy | Starts at $736 per set of 4

The Vision Wheels Manx is an affordable off-road wheel that suits modern rigs best. 

It comes with six stubby spokes with slots in the middle of each. The thick outer lip has studs that resemble a bead lock.

Popular with: Toyota Tacoma, Toyota 4-Runner, Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Cherokee, Ford F150, Ford Ranger, Ram 1500, Chevrolet Silverado

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Editor’s Pick: Pro Comp 51 Series

Off-roading was never meant to be a pretty fanfare for truck and SUV owners.

You sign up for an adventure unlike any other. In a classic off-roader fashion, fun begins when there is mud, ruts, and all other challenges.

The Pro Comp 51 Series is perfect for the gnarly spartan task. The no-frills steel wheel won’t make you worry too much about gashes and dings. It will hold itself together through the toughest of terrains.

Even if it only comes in black, the 51 Series can easily match pick-up trucks, SUVs, and Jeeps set-up for the trail. It will look especially aggressive when you put chunky off-road tires on it.

The best part about it is the affordable price tag. You can easily buy a set of two of these off-road wheels without breaking the bank.  

 

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Happy Trails!

Off-road vehicles are tough. They can take you to places where any other vehicle can’t simply drive to. Proper off-road upgrades will add a significant performance boost at the expense of comfort and fuel economy.

The key to achieving your desired build is doing your research well. All the parts that you choose should be part of a cohesive build, including the wheels. Take into account what you realistically want to achieve out of your vehicle.

Find a balance between performance, comfort, and style. At the end of the day, you won’t enjoy driving a vehicle that is too stiff and heavy for miles ahead. Having said that, we wish you a lot of happy trails. Stay safe out there!

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