The Wheel Deal


My son has installed very wide wheels on
his 2001 Dodge 1500 pickup. They stick
out way past the fenders, he says they
look cool. I have told him that the tires
will wear out quickly, he doesn’t believe
me. How do I explain this to him? We did
agree that he would consider selling them
if you can prove my point.

I assume these wheels have a huge negative
offset, so the center of the wheel
is far outboard from OEM. If they are
“evenly” wider, i.e., still near stock offset,
the added wear will not be so profound,
although, general rule, wider tires will
wear more quickly than narrower ones.
On the rear, the added wear is minimal,
because the truck has a solid axle so no
L/R turning of the wheels is involved. This
will become clearer once you understand
the engineering.
Up front, the wheels, when turned
(steered), pivot around a line drawn through
the ball joints, and into the ground. This
was called the kingpin inclination, a term
from the 1920s, today it is generally, and
more accurately, called SAI – steering axis
inclination. If the line intersects the tire’s
tread and the road surface near to the
center of the tread, wear is minimized. As
this dimension increases (this is referred
to as scrub radius), the tire tread is literally
dragged across the pavement as you
turn—literally, the rubber is being scrubbed
off. Wear is drastically increased, correlated
to how twisty your roads are. Wheels with
large negative offset can also overstress
suspension components, etc. ball joints.
There is no fix for this—except a
change back to stock offset wheels.

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