What are 4×4 Wheels?
4×4 Wheels, or 4×4 Rims are what your tyres sit on and bolt to the diff. These start off at about $50 each and work their way up to over $1000 each; there is a fair bit of variety and plenty to know about them. They also happen to be one of the best ways to make a four wheel drive look better. If you are in the market for some new 4×4 Wheels, have a read so you know what to spend your money on!
Things to know
The size of the wheel that you fit is usually the first place to start. Older four wheel drives usually run a 15 inch wheel (in diameter) but more and more four wheel drives are running 16”, 17” and even bigger. A large wheel means less sidewall (the exposed side part of the tyre). This will result in better handling on the road, but usually weakens the performance off road when you let the tyres down. Wheels are measured with the diameter mentioned first, and the width last. A 15×7 wheel is 15 inches ‘tall’ (or in diameter) and 7 inches wide. Each size tyre is designed to run on a certain sized wheel.
Number of studs
The number of studs in your 4wd wheels refers to the number of nuts exposed on the end of your diff. Most four wheel drives are either 5 or 6 studs. Alternatively, it’s the number of holes in your 4×4 Wheels!
4×4 Wheels are usually made of steel, or aluminium. There are benefits and disadvantages of both, which I will go into below. Don’t make the mistake of buying the wrong material!
A Wheels offset refers to the position of the centre plate in the wheel. A negative offset means that the wheel is pushed out further from the diff (and as a result further outwards from your vehicle’s body), and a positive offset means the wheels sit further inside the body. The offset is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, if the wrong offset is used the wheel may not fit as it will rub on the brake callipers. The further out your wheels stick, the more likely your tyres are to stick outside of the body of your vehicle. If the tyres stick outside the body of your car then it is illegal, unless you fit flares. The further you push your wheels out the more stable your vehicle is, but the wheel bearings will have more stress put on them.
Like anything to do with four wheel drives, there are plenty of different brands selling 4×4 Wheels. The most common is probably Sunraiser. I have only ever had Sunraiser Wheels (which are plain steel wheels that don’t cost too much) so I won’t mention any other brands. I will suggest looking at reviews of the brand that you are interested in – you will find out quickly whether they are any good or not.
These wheels are one of the most common. They are a simple pattern, and made out of steel. You can get them in white, black and silver (or you can get them painted different colours). In Perth, ROH Wheels is the best place to get them (around $50 each). If you want bang for your buck, these are the go (just don’t get the cheap take off ones).
Changing wheel sizes
A lot of people will change their 4×4 Wheels, for one reason or another. Often it is to make their vehicle look better, but if you are putting larger tyres on them there is a good chance that the wheel size will need to be changed. There are a few things that you want to bear in mind when you do this. The first is anything that could rub on the wheel. Often you can’t go down a size in wheel (say from a 17” to a 15”) because the wheel will rub on the brakes. If you use a different offset then it can easily do the same thing. Make sure that you get the right 4×4 Wheels for the tyres that you are going to run. You wouldn’t run 33×12.5” tyres on a 15×7” wheel, because it wouldn’t fit properly.
Questions are regularly asked whether ‘Patrol wheels suit Landcruiser wheels’ (and interchanging other model four wheel drives!). The easiest way to find out is to check the size, stud pattern and offset. Some of the Landcruiser models have the biggest offset from factory, which is why they are popular.
Getting even greater offset wheels
It is possible to get wheels up to -70mm. A number of engineering shops will cut the centre out of your wheels and move it (or flip the wheel around). I don’t believe this is legal, and it will put extra stress on your wheel bearings. You can purchase wheels with big offsets from the USA, or have them imported.
Wheel spacers are basically a steel ring which goes in between your 4×4 wheels and where they bolt on. These are illegal in all states of Australia for on road use, as they put too much stress on your studs and wheel bearings. I do not recommend these, unless you are only using your vehicle for off road use.
– Easy to repair
– Strong (even the cheap ones)
– Don’t look as good as alloys
– Light Weight
– Great looking
– More difficult to repair
– Easier to damage
Best bang for your buck
In most situations, unless you have the money to throw around I would go for the steel wheels. The weight savings are minimal when you look at the overall weight of a four wheel drive, and the steel wheels are so much cheaper. Of course, alloy wheels do look excellent, but are they worth the extra money? Sunraisers are the most popular, but you can get some great looking steel wheels for a bit more money too.
Where can I get cheap 4×4 Wheels?
My only advice is to shop around. A few hours ringing around for quotes (try to go wholesale) can save you a lot of money. Don’t be afraid to say – ‘so and so will do them for $xx, will you beat it?’. If you are willing to get something second hand, you can often pick up 4×4 wheels that are almost new for half the price. A good place to start (for new and second hand wheels) is eBay – see below for some examples.
With a broken or damaged 4×4 wheel, you really are in a bit of trouble (especially if you are in the middle of the Simpson). I wouldn’t go for the cheapest wheel that you can find, but don’t go overboard unless you have a reason to do so.