32″ Tire Clearance

In February 2000, I removed my first set of upgrade tires (30″x9.5″x15″) and put B.F. Goodrich Radial Mud Terrain T/A 32″x11.5″x15″ tires on new Ultra 150 3.5″ back spaced rims (model 150-5865P). That makes for 3 sets of tires in just 10 months, including the factory Goodyear Wranglers that came with the Jeep. Luckily, I sold the 30″ and the Jeep rims so my back yard is NOT turning into a tire dump.

I had been waiting to gain a bit of ground clearance and new tires were one way to do it. My TJ had been running a Tera 2T lift while I had the 30″ tires mounted on factory backspaced 7″ Grizzly rims. This made for plenty of clearance and I only experienced the slightest rubbing (at full wheel turn) on the lower control arms. It was so slight that I never bothered to adjust the steering stops.

Before getting the new MTs, I struggled with which size to get. I really wanted the 33″x12.5″ tire, but was afraid that my lift wasn’t go to handle them. I had just added a 1″ PA body lift at the same time I did my 1″ Currie motor mount lift. This was done so I could get rid of the 1″ transfer case drop. I was getting real tired of snagging the belly pan on the rocks.

Another Jeeper I had exchanged e-mail with had 33″ tires mounted on 8″ rims with 4.75″ backspacing. He said they would stuff OK up into the fender wells without hitting anything, but that they did rub the control arms a bit. After discussing various tire and wheel combinations with the salesman at the local tire shop, I decided to scrap the 33″ idea and go with the 32″ tires. The salesman said the 33″ tires do much better on 10″ rims (although most Jeepers run them on 8″ to help protect the rim itself). If I were to go with 10″ rims, the back spacing would put about 4″ of tire outside of my stock flares (remember that Sahara flares are 1″ wider than other Wrangler models…or at least they were in 1998). With that much tire outside of the fender well, my flares would be toast by the end of the first trail.

So, I went with the 32″x11.5″ MTs on 8″ rims, which is the recommended setup. I was a little worried that even these tires might hit the flares since I was going with the 3.5″ back spaced rim instead of my previous 4.75″ rim. Again, the salesman and I talked long and hard and he assured me I was not going to be happy with the loss of turning radius and/or rubbing that the 4.75″ rims would cause. So, I crossed my fingers and told the man to set me up with 5 new tires and rims.

The pictures below show just how everything fits together. I swear that the front tire is not touching the flare, although there is barely enough room to slip a piece of typing paper between the tire and flare. None the less, a miss that small is as good as a mile….not touching is not touching!

In the above photo, I found a nice spot on the trail to see how the tires were going to fit up in the wheel wells. The driver’s front is fully compressed in these shots. The coil spring’s bump stop is hitting the spring’s lower pedestal. With everything squeezed here, I thought I would take a few shots to show you how it all looks.

A closer shot of the driver’s front tire. By the way, I was running 15 psi in the tires. I think if I were running 16 psi, I might have caught the edge of the flare. However, this tire pressure seemed to work very well. I’ll try a couple of pounds less the next time out just to see how everything feels, although those last pounds really drop the ground clearance and I don’t want to give too much of that up.

Here is the same tire from a different viewpoint. I’ve not moved the TJ or the steering wheel. You can see that things are pretty tight up in there, but none the less the flare is OK. You can see the Tera Quick Disconnects stowed up on the holding stud and pinned into place.

OK….for you folks that really want to see just how close it was, here is the tight in shot. No photo retouches here. I think you might be able to slip a credit card between the lug and the flare, but that would be about it. But, the flare is still in good shape, no rubbing, no problem. By the way, this was about 2/3 of the way into the 35 mile trail so I had seen a lot of this kind of axle articulation previous to stopping to take these photos.


I thought I would toss this shot in just for good measure.  “Gosh…that guy sure does have an alignment problem!”  It does look a little strange to see the front and rear tires cocked in opposite directions.  Hey, who says a TJ doesn’t flex?