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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A white 2023 Ram 1500 TRX is shown off-roading.

Exploring the Off-Road Wheels of the Ram 1500

Off-roading is one of the most unique corners of the motorsport world. In most scenarios, drivers will go to great lengths to find the easiest route from point A to point B, but off-roading turns that familiar formula on its head. Off-roading is all about finding the most fun way to reach your destination—not necessarily the quickest—and enjoying all the obstacles you might encounter along the way. It’s some of the best entertainment you can find on four wheels, but breaking into the world of off-roading can be an intimidating process for some.

A good off-road rig starts with the vehicle itself, with full-size pickups offering the perfect platform onto which drivers can build the trailblazing truck of their dreams. Powerful and built with the sort of heavy-duty components one needs for tearing through the road less traveled, full-size pickups have all the cargo room, ground clearance, and traction an off-road driver could ask for. Say you’re looking at a Ram 1500 for sale: this marquee pickup has three brawny engine options, from a diesel V6 with 480 lb-ft of torque to the standard 3.6L V6 offering or a V8 that churns out almost 400 hp. Some trims even come with an air suspension that allows drivers to adjust the height of their ride—a crucial feature for those who see a lot of boulder-strewn climbs in their future.

The Ram 1500 can also be optioned with the brand’s 4×4 Off-Road Group equipment package, which includes a full suite of components that can have a considerable impact on the off-roading experience. From essential recovery tools like a tow hook to protective underbody skid plates and a handy electronic-locking rear differential, the Ram 1500 is the perfect place to start your off-road journey—but it’s not the end of the road by any means. While most drivers gravitate towards off-roading in hopes of traversing creeks, climbing rocks, and crawling through mud, they often find that half the fun is building the off-road vehicle itself.

You can never underestimate the importance of a good set of wheels and tires for achieving off-road glory. The 2023 Ram 1500 holds its own in that department, coming standard with 18- to 20-inch wheels and the exceptional smooth Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza tires—or 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires on the off-road-focused Rebel trim—but if you’re looking to explore the more hardcore side of off-roading, an upgrade might be in order. Join us as we explore some of our favorite off-road wheels and tires and cover a few basic FAQs about the tire and wheel replacement process.

A red Ram 1500 for sale is shown driving near a white fence.

Things to Consider

Before we dive into the wide world of off-road tires and wheels, let’s take a moment to cover a few basics. From grippy, smooth racing tires to studded winter tires, knobby off-road tires, and everything in between, there’s a tire out there for every type of driving. Each carries its own unique characteristics geared towards a certain handling or activity, so it’s important to know what to look for when you’re shopping for your next off-road tires.

First and foremost, off-road driving is all about traction and control. Off-road tires are designed with wider treads, which are ideal for holding onto the road while ejecting any rocks, mud, or debris that might become lodged in the grooves. Specific rubber compounds and tread patterns also come into play, as does the thickness of the sidewall, with thinner options providing better grip on off-road surfaces—all factors to keep in mind when shopping for your next off-road tires.

When kitting out your pickup for off-road use, you might be tempted to swap out the stock wheels and tires for the largest size possible or even install a lift kit to accommodate an oversized setup. There’s nothing wrong with either route, as both can provide a marked improvement when off-roading, but it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into.

Lift kits often require drivers to install new brake lines, axles, suspensions, and drive shafts, turning what appears to be a simple task into a time-consuming (and expensive) project. If you do plan on upsizing your wheels and tires, make sure to consider the wheel’s offset and backspacing.

Offset is a term used to describe the distance between the surface you mount your wheel’s hub to and the center plane of the wheel itself; this is important for determining how much larger you can go with your wheels and tires. Not enough offset and your wheels might rub against the wheel wells, resulting in damaged brakes, body parts, and other components—possibly even a chewed-up body or a popped tire.

Backspacing is the amount of room your wheels and tires need to accommodate the wheel’s width and offset, with positive offset referring to a wheel mounted closer to the engine and negative offset describing the opposite. Both are vital in fitment, so double-check your math or ask an expert for some advice before making the investment.

Lastly, we’ll touch on lug count, which is, as you might have guessed, the number of lugs on a wheel. While the average car might only have four lug nuts, trucks are built of sterner stuff, often requiring five or six lug nuts. The number of lug nuts is often tied to a vehicle’s towing capacity, but this isn’t always the case. Ram 1500 drivers should take care to note the number of lug nuts on their wheel before starting the upgrade process, as it varies by model year. Ram 1500 pickups made before 2018 have five lug nuts, while those from 2019 and newer use six.

A blue 2023 Ram 1500 TRX is shown driving off-road near trees.

Off-Road Tires

There’s no underestimating the impact a good set of tires can have on your pickup’s off-road performance. As the only part of the vehicle that actually makes contact with the road, tires play an essential role in everything from control and comfort to safety and traction. This is especially true when you start to leave smooth, paved surfaces behind, which is why tires are often the first upgrade a driver makes when converting their vehicle into an off-roader.

Off-road tires need to be able to handle everything from sharp rocks to deep mud and sheer rock surfaces, which is why your run-of-the-mill all-season tires simply aren’t going to cut it out on the trail.

The Nitto Trail Grappler M/T is a great example of a versatile off-road tire, allowing drivers to tackle challenging terrain while still being comfortable and relatively quiet on paved surfaces. The Trail Grappler tires are built with reinforced shoulder grooves and three-ply sidewall construction, allowing them to resist cuts and punctures.

Deep treads and a balanced void ratio allow these tires to excel at dispersing mud and dirt, and deep siping goes a long way toward increasing traction on wet, slippery surfaces. Off-road tires aren’t cheap, and the Nitto Trail Grappler M/T is no exception at $380 to $450 a pop. It’s no small chunk of change, but again, if you’re only going to make one upgrade to your pickup, this would be the one to go with.

If you’re looking for a more affordable option, BFGoodrich’s All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires are a perennial favorite for off-road use. Retailing for just over $300 each, the All-Terrain T/A KO2 is one of the category’s best-selling options—and with good reason. These tires provide excellent traction on off-road surfaces, navigating mud and larger rocks without ease thanks to their excellent traction and puncture-resistant design.

However, it’s the colder months where they really start to shine. Few all-terrain tires handle snow quite as well as the All-Terrain T/A KO2, making them a great year-round option for those who don’t live in a region where switching over to seasonal snow tires is common. These BFGoodrich tires also handle paved surfaces better than most of their off-road competitors, giving drivers a well-rounded alternative to the more trail-focused Nitto Trail Grappler M/Ts.

Beastlier Wheels

As soon as you upgrade your tires, your pickup’s wheels might start to look a little wimpy by comparison. That alone isn’t a good enough reason to spring for an upgrade, but off-road-specific wheels do come with some serious advantages for the trail-bound.

When it comes to off-road wheels, the discussion usually begins and ends with beadlocks. While regular wheels rely on air pressure inside to keep the tire firmly attached to the wheel, beadlock wheels are designed with a ring along the outer edge that locks the tire in place with a set of bolts.

Why is this important for off-roading? Well, since the mechanical force of the clamped-down ring keeps the tire in place, drivers can easily let the air out of their tires without risking a blowout. Low tire pressure can be essential for some off-road pursuits like mud-crawling or dune-bashing, where the increased surface area provided by low-pressure (i.e. slightly deflated) tired can mean the difference between floating over loose surfaces and getting mired in them.

For all their advantages, beadlock wheels aren’t exactly the most practical choice on the market for two key reasons: they’re expensive, and they’re not street-legal. The Method Race Wheels 105 Beadlock—our top choice for the Ram 1500—rings in at around $450 apiece, which isn’t cheap for wheels that you can’t even take on the highway. If you’re designing a purpose-built off-roader, by all means, make the investment, but if you want your pickup to double as a daily driver, beadlock wheels could be a non-starter.

For those who aren’t ready to make such a commitment, several simulated beadlock wheels are approved for highway use. They don’t provide the same ability to lower tire pressure, but the outer ring does add some strength to the outer edge of the wheel.

The Vision Nemesis wheels are a great example of the simulated beadlock trend, offering a one-piece aluminum alloy wheel that looks every bit like the beadlock wheel but won’t get you pulled over on the way home. They’re also much more affordable than true beadlock wheels, with the Nemesis wheels costing just over $900 for a set of four.

Some manufacturers have even started rolling out a new option: a hybrid wheel. These hybrid wheels give drivers a little more flexibility, allowing them to mount tires in either the beadlock style or the more traditional bead-on-rim approach. Hybrid wheels are the perfect choice for any driver trying to avoid a run-in with Johnny Law, allowing them to switch out the contraband beadlocks after a long day of off-roading.

Upgrading your truck’s wheels and tires is one of the easiest ways to turn a reliable daily driver into a mud-slinging, rock-crawling off-road machine. Built with the rigors of off-road use in mind, off-road tires offer greater control and protection than lesser tires, giving drivers the confidence they need to tackle whatever obstacles stand in their path. Off-road wheels—especially the beadlock variety—are a major upgrade that allows drivers to run their tires with far less pressure than would be possible with the stock wheels you’ll find on most pickups.

While their questionable legality might be a little bit of a pain for those who aren’t running their truck as a dedicated off-roader, you’ll be glad to have made the investment the next time you find yourself stuck well outside of cell range. Pickups like the Ram 1500 are already primed for off-road glory, but a new set of wheels and tires can put it right over the edge.

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