This question is asked often enough that I figured it was finally time to put together an answer that gives lots of information, but that doesn't have to be re-typed again and again. Because that will save everyone a bunch of time, hopefully!
So, let's start with the basic question that gets asked:
What's the biggest tire I can run on my 1st gen Toyota Tacoma?
There are of course variations to this question - some people wonder "with no lift," or "with a 1-3 inch lift," or "without cutting" or "with wheel XYZ" - but in the end, the question is really the same and I'll do my best to try to answer it here.
Some background on lifts before we get started
There are several kinds of lifts, but only two that really matter for this conversation - suspension lifts, and body lifts. There are pros/cons to each that I won't discuss here; I'll focus only on the relation of the lift to tire fitment.
- With a suspension lift, you are increasing how much weight your springs (coils in the front; leafs in the back) can hold up without compressing. That means that - at rest - your frame sits higher off the ground, giving you more up travel (and therefore lift). A suspension lift also means that the spacing between your frame and body remains the same as stock. This is critically important because it means that when you fully compress (aka "stuff") the coils/leafs, the tire is in the exact same position as it would be if you had no lift at all. Therefore - a suspension lift does not allow you to fit larger tires than stock suspension!
Also note that I include block/spacer lifts done to the suspension components in this class of lifts as well, even though they don't offer the same performance benefits as coilovers or heavier duty leaf springs.
- With a body lift, you aren't relying on your suspension to push the entire truck up. Rather, you put some spacers between the frame and body to increase the spacing between the two. So, your frame (and suspension) may all be at stock height, but your cab could be 3 (or more) inches higher in the air. This is important because it means that there is now inherently more space between the tires and wheel wells (part of the body), so when the suspension is fully compressed, that space still exists, possibly allowing a larger tire to fit without modification of the body.
Of course, you can do both types of lift at the same time as well.
And a bit of background on wheel positioning...
Where the lifts discussed above move the wheel well vertically with respect to the wheel, the other element that affects fitment is how far in/out the wheel is in the wheel well (i.e. the horizontal alignment of the wheel with respect to the wheel well). This horizontal movement is described by the wheel's offset and backspace. These matter primarily when you turn the steering wheel - because as the wheels pivot left and right, the corners of the tires may rub on various parts of the wheel well.
While it's easy to get bogged down in the details of offset and backspace, the simple truth is this - a wheel with more backspace will be "tucked in" to the wheel well, and will therefore be more likely to rub on the frame or suspension components (upper control arm, etc.) when turning. A wheel with less backspace will be "pushed out" of the wheel well, and will be more likely to rub on the fender. The trick is to find the backspacing that will best fit the tire size you want to install.
Note that wheel spacers essentially decrease backspacing, pushing the wheel further out of the wheel well.
Tire (and wheel) width also affects positioning...
Don't forget that not all "33-inch" tires are the same width. You can easily find widths that range from 10-inches to 12½-inches - and that makes a difference to fittage as well. A stock wheel from a 1st gen Tacoma is 7 inches wide, and stock tires are ~10.5 inches wide at their outer diameter.
- If you're planning to run a narrower tire at a given diameter, it will have a smaller radius as it turns left/right inside the wheel well, and so fits more easily (usually).
- If you are going to run a wider wheel or tire than stock, be aware that doing so may cause effects similar to having both more and less backspacing at the same time. That is, a wider tire increases the chances that you will rub on the inside of the wheel - your upper control arms and frame, as well as the outside of the wheel - on the fender and flare.
Besides backspacing and wheel/tire width, the other thing that can affect wheel positioning is the caster of the wheel. I won't get into exactly how caster works, just know that:
- Changing caster moves the wheel forward and backward within the wheel well.
- The more caster you have, the easier it is to keep the truck going straight down the road (vs. wandering).
The reason it matters is that many aftermarket upper control arms (UCAs) increase the caster by approximately +2º, which moves the wheel ½-¾" backwards in the wheel well - making it more likely to rub on the back of the wheel well (and less likely to rub on the front of the frame), especially when turning. Certain UCAs - notably SPC 25460 arms - allow adjustment of this caster - though as noted above, decreasing it to move the wheel forward makes the truck more prone to wandering (vs. going straight down the road).
So, what size tire can I fit?
Taking into account the vertical and horizontal movement of the wheel well in relation to the tire discussed above, here's what you can expect for a 1st gen Tacoma as far as tire sizes. Note of course that these are approximate tire sizes - 31s are rarely exactly 31 inches in diameter, and 255/85R16s are close to 33s.
- 31s - Stock tire size. No trimming necessary to fit these tires, and no rubbing occurs since this is the stock tire size. Aftermarket UCAs make little difference with clearancing.
- 32s - Very minor trimming may be necessary to the wheel liner and pinch weld (see Pinch Weld Mod), which can be minimized with stock width wheels and tires. Aftermarket wheels with lower backspacing (or that are wider) are the most likely factor in any rubbing. Aftermarket UCAs that increase caster may also start to play a role.
- 33s - Will require cutting/hammering all of the pinch weld for wheels with stock backspacing, as well as reforming/trimming of the plastic wheel liner. Aftermarket wheels with less backspacing (or that are wider) are likely to require additional hammering of the firewall, and minor reformation of the fender sheet metal near the pinch weld. Aftermarket UCAs that increase caster will definitely play a role. Finally, you may start running into other issues here (e.g. placement of the wiper fluid reservoir).
- 34s - Regardless of wheel (stock or aftermarket) and UCA selection, will require cutting/hammering all of the pinch weld as well as significant bashing/reformation of the firewall to make as much room as possible. Aftermarket wheels with less backspacing may require tubbing (significant cutting and welding in a new piece) of the firewall and fender sheet metal in order to fit. You will need to relocate any components that sit inside the wheel wells (e.g. wiper fluid reservoir). A ~1-2" body lift can help reduce the amount of rubbing and tubbing required.
- 35s - Regardless of wheel (stock or aftermarket) and UCA selection, will require tubbing of the firewall and trimming of the fender sheet metal (even with a body lift). Consider a small body lift and aftermarket fiberglass fenders if you're going this route.
- 37s or larger - Seriously. Stop it. If you're reading this article to figure out how to put 37s or larger on your Tacoma, you aren't ready yet. Go drive your truck off-road for a few years first, instead.
So what size tire should I run?
Ha! There's on one answer here - everyone has to make their own choice. Even with stock 31s, our trucks perform very well and allow lots of wheeling. I'd recommend taking several trips and gauging your comfort level off-road before moving away from stock-sized tires, especially since they offer the best fuel economy and the rest of the truck is optimized for the stock size.
If you've done that and are convinced that you need larger tires, then 33s seem to be a sweet spot from a pain/performance perspective, since there (usually) aren't significant modifications necessary, and you gain a full inch of ground clearance over 31's. However, fuel economy decreases dramatically - on the order to 10% or more - since most 33" tires are E-rated and significantly heavier than C-rated 31's. And, while 33's increase stress on other components such as the lower ball joints, the increase is significantly less than going to 35 inch tires.
But seriously, what size tires should I run?
33s with as-near stock width (10.5") as possible. They are just about perfect on our trucks.
FANFLIPPINGTASTIC write up man. You explained it all and defined the concepts first as well! Best article I have seen on these type of questions. I just had to let you know that it very much appreciated. Rock On! Pete.
Glad you found it and liked it Pete. By all means, shout if you've got any questions!
What made you go for a 33 instead of a 35 inch tire? Also, have you considered bobbing the bed of your rig? Thank you.
Wow, two great questions. So simple to ask and yet so complex to answer! ?
I'll start with the simple answers, but by all means, please ask more questions if you have them, or want more detail about any part of the answer.
For tire size - I went with 33's for several reasons:
Looking back, I think it was the right decision. Some day I may go to 35’s, but 33’s are VERY capable. Picking the right line is much more important than having that 1” of extra clearance that a 35 gives. I have yet to run a trail where 35s were necessary, and there have been times - again, due to line choice - where my 33’s have outperformed larger tires on the same stretch of trail.
Someday I might go to 35’s, but I’d really only do it if I also went to long travel, and I’d do it all for ride comfort, not for the extra clearance.
For bobbing the bed - it’s funny you should ask about this. I have considered it, for three reasons:
You’ll note that I would not bob the bed for departure angle/clearance. 1st gens already have really great angles, so (at least for me), there’s no need to do this. Now, if I was a rock crawler... things may be different.
If I were to run a 33” tire on a 2.5-3” suspension lift, would that be able to fit with no cutting/trimming? Would it need minor cutting/trimming, or a significant amount? Thank you.
Hey Carter, it would be good to read through this article that you've posted a comment on..?
A couple things I'll mention. First as noted in the article, a suspension lift doesn't affect whether or not you will rub. Second, there are a lot of things when it comes to choosing wheels and tires that affect how it rubs - back spacing being one of the biggest.
so, take a read through and if you have questions on any of the specifics feel free to ask, but in general I feel like your question is already answered in the article once you apply it to your situation.
I just purchased a double cab ‘04. My question is would a leveling kit be good enough for 32in AT tires? Not for off roading, just to look cool ?. With aftermarket wheels.
(I off road my ‘16 Landcruiser)
Hi Ali, it will depend on the wheels and tires you’ve chosen, but as noted above, 32s will often fit without modification.
I’ve been thinking of getting method 16” wheels with 0 offset just wondering if you’ve fit 16” 0 offset wheels with tundra brakes? Right now I’m running 17”x9.5 -18offset with tundra brakes, everything fits but I hate the negative offset sticking out so far.
Hey Tom, I haven't personally run those Methods, and I know there are different types of Method wheels. There are a couple Methods that are known to fit on the Which Wheels/Rims Fit the Tundra Brake Upgrade (13WL 231mm rotors) on a Tacoma? page - check it out!
I am getting ready to install a Toytec Boss 2.0 lift. I am running the 16" Fuel Vectors at a +1 offset. I currently have 265/70/16 on the rims and they still have lots of life left, but would like to go to 33s.
I did read the article, which was great, but want to know if I will have any trouble running 33s on this particular set up.
It really depends on the 33's that you choose to go with. Narrower 33's (like 255/85R16) will need less work on the pinch weld and firewall; wider tires (like 275/85R16) will need more. 33's are a great tire size though, and in general, the work to make them fit isn't all that difficult, so I'd go for it, and just know that you'll have to do some pinch weld and firewall hammering in order to make things fit, a lot like what I did here: New-to-me Tires and a Tundra Brake Upgrade
Great article, love how in-depth you get into. But I am left wondering one thing, I just picked up a 2003 double cab Tacoma and, well obviously I gotta get bigger tires, but I’m not sure what the smallest rim size I can get. I had 98 taco and was running 33x12.5 r15 on a 3” lift, I really loved them as the offset and rim diameter was perfect and the tread was narly. But I can’t seem to find out if that exact rim diameter would fit on mine as my 1998 was a 2.4L 4 cyl and my new 2003 taco is a 3.4L V6. So basically I’m wondering if my 2003 will fit a R15 or do I need to get a R16? Thanks
Hey Robin, You can fit R15s on any 95.5-04 Tacoma as long as you're running the stock brake calipers. However, I'd recommend going with R16 or R17 rims so you have the option to do the Tundra Brake Upgrade in the future if you ever desire. R16s are all that's required (here's a page that lists wheels known to fit), but R17s will give you more options from a tire size perspective - so if you're going with 33" or larger tires, I'd recommend the 17s (and most 17s - even if they aren't on that page - fit Tundra calipers). With that setup, you still have plenty of sidewall for a "cush" effect when aired down. Hope that helps! ?
That is really helpful, one inch is not worth the gas. So I think I’m going to stay at stock as much as I can, maybe a one inch body lift. I’m going to go with old man emu suspension and SPC UCA. Stock 17” wheels and tires and one inch wheel spacers.
My truck is 2001 Tacoma 4x4 ex cab.
Glad this was helpful John. I'll note that I went with OME suspension on my 4Runner, and now I wish I'd installed Billstein 5100 shocks instead. The OME seems to give a very harsh ride to me, while the 5100s in a buddies truck are much smoother.
Great article, thanks for writing this! Just wondering if there are any known combinations of body lift, wheel offset, wheel backspace, and tire size (33s specifically) which do not require any trimming or pinch weld work? (assume stock UCA). As you mentioned the stock width of 10.5 is preferable on tire size to minimize rubbing so I guess the real question would be...Are there any combinations of the above measurements to fit a 33x10.50 tire without any modification given that all 33s will have some variability in tire size. Basically I just want to get some new rims and put 33s on my 2002 and be done hahaha. Thanks!
Hey Joey, I don’t know of any 33” tires that fit with no modification, Especially if you’re using the stock upper control arms. It seems like the largest you can go is about 31 1/2 or 32 inches. That said, the pinch weld mod is not very difficult, so I wouldn’t let that stop you.