Fitting 33” tires to any off-road vehicle will enhance the off-road capability, improve ground clearance, and provide better traction on and off-road. Unfortunately, it’s not always a straightforward procedure and the fitment can become complicated, depending on the vehicle. This article will discuss how much lift is required and any additional work required to fit 33” tires to your vehicle.
Most IFS vehicles require a minimum of 2.5 to 3-inch lift with additional trimming of fender liners and body mounts to accommodate a 33” tire. A Solid Front Axle vehicle can accommodate a 33’’ tire more easily with fewer modifications.
Fitting bigger tires is the single most effective way of improving ground clearance. This is especially important for overcoming obstacles in an off-road situation. There are however a few limitations, especially when it comes to IFS (Independent Front Suspension) 4WDs, which limits your options since there are more suspension components and sensitive geometry to consider. SFA (Solid Front Axle) vehicles are a lot less complex and thus much easier to do.
Let’s now look at a few factors to be aware of before fitting 33” tires, and the minimum lift requirement necessary to successfully accomplish this.
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How Much Lift Do You Need For 33-Inch Tires?
In many instances with IFS trucks, even with a 2-3 inch lift kit, there are additional modifications necessary to make the 33” tire upgrade function 100% and allow turning at full lock without scrubbing, as well as maintaining full articulation off-road. Certain trucks have wider, bigger round arches from the factory, while others have less clearance and narrower square arches which limits you. Also, certain trucks sit higher off the ground while others have less ground clearance. All these factors play a role.
So if you go higher than a 2.5″-3″ lift on an IFS truck, your CV angles are severe, which means you’re at greater risk of destroying a CV off-road. To rectify this, you’ll need to fit a diff drop kit to lessen the angle on the CV once you go over 3″ or so. Also, your UCA angle will be very steep, limiting your downward travel while also putting extra strain on your upper ball joints, so you’ll need to fit an adjustable aftermarket UCA to rectify this. The same applies to the stabilizer links.
So you can see the higher lifts you go on an IFS, then it becomes more expensive.
Some factors to consider are:
- IFS or SFA
- Wheel Arch size
- Backspacing & Wheel Offset
- BMC (Body Mount Chops)
- Wheel Arch and fender lining trimming
- CV Angles (IFS)
- UCA angles (IFS)
IFS vs SFA
When lifting a 4WD truck, the front suspension plays a major role in determining the complexity of the upgrade. In the case of an SFA or LIVE axle, the axle is separate or not fixed to the chassis. This allows you to fit big tires and higher lifts with a lot more ease. The CV angles are not compromised since they are always in line with the diff which is housed inside the axle. This allows you to fit 3”, 4”, 6″, and even higher with not many hassles. Fitting 33” tires to a Solid/Live axle truck requires fewer additional modifications and in most cases little to no Body or arch modifications.
Unfortunately, most modern 4WDs in production are IFS suspensions. Manufacturers are more concerned about on-road performance and safety so they produce IFS trucks that appeal to a larger market. Besides, in many cases, these vehicles spend a large percentage of their time on the road.
The main problem with IFS suspension upgrades is the CV axles. The diff of an IFS truck is mounted directly against the underside of the chassis. This makes for excellent stability and cornering, however, it limits the downward travel of the wheels and places the CV joints under more stress when the vehicle is lifted too high.
It’s not recommended to go higher than a 3-inch lift kit on an IFS vehicle, and if you do decide to go higher, you’ll need additional modifications such as diff drop kits, adjustable UCA (Upper Control Arms), LCA, and Stabilizer arms.
Wheel Arch Size
Wheel arch size varies from vehicle to vehicle and will mean the difference between a light trim and a major cutting away. In most cases, when fitting 33” tires, there is only some slight trimming required, and a small BMC is necessary to prevent scrubbing at full lock. Then there are also crash bars in the case of newer Ford Ranger, F150, and other models which require cutting away or being removed completely.
Backspacing and Wheel Offset
Backspacing is the distance measured from the hub mounting surface to the inside edge of the wheel. When you decrease backspacing, you gain more inside wheel clearance.
Offset is measured in mm and generally refers to how your wheels sit inside the wheel wells. You get (+)positive, 0, and (-)negative offset wheels. When it’s positive the imaginary center line of the wheel is more towards the front and negative means the mounting surface is more towards the rear of the rim creating a deep dish effect.
BMC (Cutting Up Your Beloved Truck)
Modern 4WD vehicles like Rangers, Tacomas, and Chevy have many safety features built into the chassis which causes some complications when it comes to installing bigger tires.
In the case of the 3rd Gen Tacoma, the body mount protrudes out quite a bit which restricts you from fitting oversized tires without, either buying an aftermarket body mount or cutting, welding, and painting the existing mount. This is quite a job and if you are not familiar with grinders and welding machines, then rather leave it to a professional custom shop.
Fender & Arch Trimming
Fender trimming goes hand-in-hand with backspacing/wheel offset, as well as how wide the tire is. A wider tire will require more wheel arch clearance and room to move when flexing off-road and when turning at full lock.
When you squeeze oversized tires into a wheel arch without lifting the truck, you’ll need to trim away a lot of the inside fender and arch plastic to allow the tire to tuck behind the arch when turning and flexing off-road.
Fitting 35” tires to a 3rd Gen Tacoma requires a bit of body mount modifications as well as wheel arch trimming. You will require a minimum 2.5” lift, negative offset (-12) rims, and you’ll need to do some additional body modifications, such as cutting and welding of the body mounts and bending away of the pinch weld.
On the rear, it’s a straightforward fit with no clearance issues. You can get full tuck on the rear without any hassles. You can trim the wheel arch for improved clearance, however, you will lose your wheel arch liners.
Also, you need to remember the front wheels don’t only move left and right when turning, but there’s also some forward and backward movement. This is why you get scrubbing at full lock when turning and why it’s necessary to do CMCs and trimming of the pinch weld.
If you want to fit a larger 33” tire without a suspension lift, there is some modification needed. The Ranger T6 crash bars protrude from the wheel well and the bigger 285/70/17 tire makes contact. These will need to be removed/modified first so as not to damage the new tires. They are quite a PITA to remove so be prepared. Once removed, and a 20+ offset aftermarket wheel is fitted you should be able to get the 33” tires to fit comfortably.
33-inch tires can be fitted to a stock Jeep Wrangler JK but with minimum clearance on the front bumper and not enough clearance for full articulation off-road.
Before running out and fitting bigger tires to your JK, make sure you understand all the implications and that there are other factors that come into play such as backspacing, clearance, fuel economy, handling, and more.
To take full advantage of the Jeep’s legendary articulation, you would do well to fit a 3-4” lift before fitting 33” tires.
Not all FJ Cruisers are created equally, so certain model FJ’s might rub on a 33″’s, running a stock suspension while others won’t. What could be an influencing factor is the tire itself. So it’s also safe to say, that not all tires are created equally i.e. mold, width, etc. So they are not all made to exactly the same measurement.
So, the biggest tire you can safely fit on an FJ without body scrub or requiring any chops is usually a 275/70/17. That will be on the stock tires, stock rims, no lift, no chop, and no spacers. Anything over and above this requires a body chop and a small 2” lift.
The biggest tire you can fit on a Chevy Colorado with stock suspension and stock rims are 265 65 17’s. They will fit without any rubbing problems, and no trimming or additional modifications are required to make them function properly. A 2” to 3” lift kit is the recommended option if you are planning on using the vehicle for off-road use or Overlanding applications. You will achieve the best off-road capability, ride comfort, as well as load-carrying ability with this option, running 33” tires. Load-carrying ability is of vital importance when doing Overlanding since you are carrying gear, storage, fuel, water, and shade. Rooftop tents, recovery gear, and more.
The largest size you can fit on a Nissan Frontier with a stock suspension is 265/75/16. This tire size does not cause any rubbing or requires the trimming of fender liners. The 265/75/16 is the largest size you can fit, even with a 2.5″ spacer. It is also the largest tire that can fit on the stock wheels without any additional modifications needed. That size is just short of 32” and measures exactly 31.6 inches. If you fit an aftermarket rim with a more negative offset, you run the risk of the wheels scrubbing and hitting the fenders at full lock and full compression.
We have mentioned quite a few variables to consider before dropping a load on expensive oversized tires. You should first determine what the primary application for the upgrade is. Is it purely for aesthetics or will you need maximum practicality, and off-road ability, while maintaining maximum articulation?