First step is a new set of shoes

The number one question I get about my Jeep right now is about my wheel and tire combo. In a world of big rims, mine look old school. People seem to love that and want to know why more JKs don’t have them. The simple answer seems to be, they don’t think they can.

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After first buying my Wrangler, rims and tires were my first mod. Seemed to make sense. All the other upgrades in the world won’t help you without dependable traction.

I went with s set of 15 inch Icon Alloy rims wrapped in 33×12.5×15 Goodyear Wrangler Duratracs. But this wasn’t done purely for the retro look (although it’s a nice perk).

First off, the rubber. You can spend countless hours weighing the pros and cons of different tires. Brand, tread pattern, rubber composition. It’s endless. Frankly I got a little overwhelmed reading all the different reviews. I really had to focus on what my Jeep was primarily going to be used for. As cool as the big mudder tires look, the reality is I’d be wearing those lugs off on pavement most of the time as I drive back and forth to work every day. On the flip side, the mild ATs that were on when I bought it, didn’t give me enough confidence on seriously steep or muddy trails, and I had no doubt the sidewalls wouldn’t stand up to much. Living in Calgary also means snow and ice are a reality for a lot of the year, so mud tires were definitely not the best option, and are even downright dangerous on ice.  Finally, price played into this. I needed something somewhat affordable. After weighing all the options, the Duratracs seemed like the best option, and their largely positive reviews made me feel confident in that decision.

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Next I looked at rims. Price got me looking at the 33x15s for tires. They’re substantially cheaper than their 17 and 18 inch rim size counterparts (I had 18 inch stock rims at the time). However, no tire shop would even talk to me about 15s on a JK, because their computer says they won’t fit. Not so. While the minimum recommended rim size is 17, a 15 will fit unless you have a Rubicon model. They have upgraded brakes with larger calipers, so a 16 is the best you can do.

Cheaper (and marginally lighter) tires seemed worth the experiment to me, so I ordered a set of Ion Alloy rims and the Duratracs from PMC Tire. Excellent customer service, and they delivered them to my door, mounted and perfectly balanced.

The wheels mounted no problem, and I love the wider stance and extra footprint the 33s give me. I’ve since used these tires in mud, water, snow, ice and everything in between. Ice is the only weak spot I’ve found, but these aren’t a winter tire, so what do you expect? But the wider tread pattern means I can usually hook up on something that isn’t ice when I’m on the trail. This combo also means amazing amounts of traction when aired down, given how much rubber you have to work with. Highway noise is minimal, road manners are excellent, and they are unstoppable for the type of off road action I’ve seen. With over 15,000 km on them so far, they’re wearing perfectly.

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I know everyone has their own opinions of what works best for a tire/rim combo, and I’d love to hear other ideas, but overall I have no regrets. Not to mention the perk of a unique look…

 

Edit: March 12, 2015

I discussed tire choices with Kyle George at Cochrane Toyota (great guy with tons of experience and great advice). Bottom line, the rim and tire combo is a great option, but one thing to note when making a tire decision: Sidewall strength. With a 2 ply sidewall, the Duractracs are prone to sidewall punctures during heavy wheeling. So far most of my trips haven’t been too extreme, so it hasn’t been an issue. I might, however, consider an upgrade before doing a trip that takes me into an area that’s too remote. But for now, for the money, the Duratracs are fantastic for what I need them to do.

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