Your Complete Guide to Choosing the Best Tires and Wheels for Your Truck
People buy pickup trucks for a variety of reasons, but they all have one thing in common: they love what they drive. Pride-of-ownership is strong with truck owners, which is reflected in how well they maintain their vehicles. Your Ford F-150 dealer is the perfect partner to help you keep your truck running great throughout the time you own it, especially when it comes time to replace tires and wheels.
Even if you’re aware of the best tire maintenance practices, when it comes time to replace them, there are a dizzying number of options and seemingly endless decisions involved that can make the process confusing. From size, material, tread, and everything in-between, selecting the ideal wheels and tires for your truck can be a complex decision.
Before you spend hours diving into an extensive google search, let us make it easier. Here’s our guide to identifying, selecting, and buying new tires and wheels. It covers the basics, including everything you need to know before you buy, and is designed to help you keep the process simple and understandable.
Most importantly, you want to have a clear understanding of how you plan to use your truck before you start looking at wheels and tires. Do you go off-roading, or are you mostly driving on roads and highways? Is appearance important? What’s your budget? Having answers to these questions will keep you focused on tires and wheels designed specifically to do the work you need them to do.
Determine the Correct Sizing
There’s an easy shortcut to determine which size tires you need: check your existing tire’s sidewall. On the sidewall, you’ll find a series of numbers. The first number represents your tire’s width in millimeters. It could be 245, 265, 275, etc., but that is how wide your tires need to be. This is often referred to as section width.
The next number is the profile, also known as the aspect ratio. It’s a little complex, but this number measures how tall the tire sidewall is as a percentage of the tire’s width. Because it’s a percentage rather than a direct measurement, this means that a 245/70 tire and a 265/70 tire actually have different sidewall heights – the first is 171.5 mm, while the second is 185.5 mm. The last number is much easier! It’s simply the diameter of the wheel in inches. So, a 17 means you’ll need 17-inch wheels.
While you can fit larger tires on your factory wheels – say upgrading from 245/70 17 to 245/80 17 tires – doing so will cause your speedometer to read incorrectly. Significantly increasing tire size can even require modification to your F-150s’ suspension or wheel wells to allow the new tires to fit. If you are considering larger tires, make sure to check with your F-150 dealer or other trusted resources before buying the new tires.
Another popular option is to stick to tires with the same overall diameter but change the size of the wheels. For instance, switching from a 245/70 17 combination to a 245/65 18 setup. This will give you the low-profile look that’s currently popular without requiring any changes to your truck. Either way, knowing the information on sizing is critical. You can also consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual or contact the team at Town & Country Ford to help you determine the ideal size for your specific vehicle and driving needs.
Focus on the Intended Use
Speaking of driving needs, how do you use your truck? If you’re a serious off-roader, you’re going to want different tires and wheels than an on-the-road work truck owner. Why? Different tires are designed for different purposes. While they may all look the same to the average driver, tires are actually complex pieces of engineering optimized for specific uses. Using the wrong tires will significantly reduce the performance of your truck.
All-season tires deliver the performance you’d expect from their name. These tires are essentially the “default” truck tires and deliver a high level of safety and reliability on the road. They’re durable, can adapt to different weather conditions, and can even work for basic off-roading scenarios. They are also lightweight and have low rolling resistance, which contributes to better fuel economy.
All-season tires help your truck perform a little more car-like in that the ride quality will feel smoother. Turning and braking are a bit more precise than with other more rugged tires. The bump in fuel efficiency is a nice benefit, especially if you don’t plan on taking your truck off-road too often.
Bottom line: choose an all-season tire if your truck is a commuter, a highway towing rig, or you’re spending most of your time on streets and highways.
Think of all-terrain tires as a slightly more rugged version of an all-season tire. In essence, all-terrain tires flip the script: they’ll deliver adequate on-the-road performance and perform much more effectively on the trail. All-terrain tires produce more road noise because of a more open-tread block pattern, and you’ll lose some fuel economy, but they do better in the winter, on the trail, and on bumpy, uneven road surfaces.
All-terrain tires have some flexibility, so they adapt to a broader range of different surfaces effectively. This makes them ideal for snowy roads and driving over sand. However, if you drove a truck with all-season tires then drove one with all-terrain tires, you’d notice a reduction in the sharpness of turning and braking on the road. It’s not significant, but if you’re spending your time on surface streets, you might want to think twice about all-terrain tires.
Bottom line: if you’re splitting your time evenly between road driving and off-road driving, this is the right tire for you.
Mud-terrain tires are easily identifiable by their chunky, thick tread. The tread pattern is even more open than that of all-terrain tires. They are designed for one purpose: serious off-roading. These are the tires that tend to audibly hum on highways as if they are complaining about the lack of dirt and rocks.
Mud-terrain tires are at home in extreme off-road environments, but because of their specialized intended use, they wear out faster on the road. Mud-terrain tires get their name partly because they’re designed to self-clean in muddy conditions. The more open tread pattern means mud won’t get stuck in the grooves like it would in an all-season tire, which has a tighter tread pattern.
Bottom line: choose mud-terrain tires if you’re a serious off-roader and you don’t mind hearing road noise on highways and surface streets.
Other Add-Ons to Consider
Remember, your truck is specified for a certain size of tire/wheel combination. One option we mentioned is going with a larger wheel. Let’s say you have 17-inch wheels on your truck now. You can choose a larger diameter wheel, but you’ll have to purchase new tires to fit the new wheels.
Why would you choose larger wheels on your truck? Mainly aesthetics. Larger wheels were introduced on sports cars and luxury performance vehicles because they provide a better road feel and improved handling. However, on a truck, the performance difference is marginal at best. In fact, larger wheels can even reduce your performance since they often add unsprung weight, and thinner tire sidewalls make larger wheels more prone to damage.
Some truck owners opt for a suspension lift kit. Lift kits are pretty self-explanatory: they lift the truck’s ride height, allowing more ground clearance and the option of adding even bigger tires. Even if you don’t want a full lift kit for your F-150, a leveling kit can be an affordable way to raise the front end enough to install larger tires.
Upgrade Your Truck
The best decision you can make when contemplating new tires and wheels is to find a trusted professional to work with you, especially if you’re thinking about a big change. The technicians here at Town & Country Ford are truck tire experts. They have the know-how to guide you through your options and help you settle on the best solution for your specific driving style.