16 Vs 17 Inch Wheels: Differences & Better Options for Off-Roading
Whether you prefer a Jeep, truck, or SUV for off-roading fun, the right wheels are essential. One of the biggest subjects of debate among off-roading enthusiasts is wheel size. 16 vs 17 inch wheels–which is better?
Ask a bunch of off-roaders the question above and you are going to get a lot of different answers. Many people will say bigger is always better for off-road wheels but is this factual? With this guide, we will get down to the nitty-gritty and help you choose the wheel size that will be perfect for off-roading fun and adventure.
Ground Clearance Is the Most Important Consideration
For off-roading, ground clearance is going to be your most important consideration. Raising the ride height of your vehicle is essential when leaving the pavement and heading for mud.
The higher ground clearance will ensure your vehicle can go over rocks, stumps, logs, and anything else that comes in its path, without experiencing damage to the underbody and frame.
Although there are multiple approaches to increasing ground clearance, one of the easiest and least expensive methods is increasing your wheel size. When considering raising the ground clearance height, you may wonder if bigger wheels are always better.
The answer to this question is maybe not. Yes, sometimes bigger is better for off-roading wheels. When choosing between 16-inch or 17-inch wheels, there are pros and cons to both.
16-Inch Off-Road Wheels
First, let’s discuss the good things about 16-inch off-road wheels. One reason many off-roaders choose 16-inch wheels is that a smaller wheel allows you to purchase tires that have a higher sidewall. This matters because it gives you a softer ride.
Airing down is also easier with smaller wheels. For those new to off-roading, airing down is simply removing some of the air in your tires to get better traction.
Other reasons for choosing 16-inch wheels are cost and selection. Tires for 16-inch wheels are less expensive than those for 17-inch models, and you will have a lot more selection.
The Not So Good
While not a deal-breaker for everyone, installing tires with taller sidewalls causes slightly more tire flex when driving on pavement. For some drivers, this equates to vague handling.
17-Inch Off-Road Wheels
Many off-roaders prefer bigger wheels and for good reason. With 17-inch wheels, you can install bigger brakes on your ride. Bigger brakes mean better stopping power-something every off-roader needs.
If you install 17-inch wheels, this means you can use bigger tires. Bigger tires help to increase the towing capacity of your ride. With the shorter sidewall on your tires, driving on the pavement is going to be much more stable.
The Not So Good
With bigger wheels comes a downfall. When you install bigger wheels on your ride, you increase the unsprung mass. This is the weight of your suspension and underbody. When the unsprung mass is increased, the suspension and braking system experience more strain.
Because you will be using tires with a shorter sidewall with your 17-inch wheels, it’s important to note the lower profile makes the tires more susceptible to damage. Also, bigger tires are more expensive.
Is a Bigger Wheel Better for Off-Roading?
As we mentioned above, the goal of safely off-roading is to raise your ground clearance without reducing stabilization. Bigger wheels satisfy this beautifully. By installing bigger wheels, you can raise the height of your ride without a lift kit.
With bigger wheels come bigger tires and the ability to install bigger brakes. While off-roading, bigger brakes are always a sound upgrade because they give you a lot more surface area for stopping power.
You should try to go bigger with your wheels, but not too big. Going too big decreases your tire sidewall size. This could compromise your handling.
Ideally, you want to use low-profile tires with taller sidewalls to give you that tire flex you need for off-roading fun.
So, Which One Should You Choose?
When choosing between 16-inch and 17-inch wheels, the right one is determined by the way you drive. Do you primarily use your vehicle for off-roading or do you drive it daily and only off-road on the weekends?
If you dedicate your vehicle to off-roading, go with the 16-inch wheels and a bigger tire. You will find with this combination that you get more traction and will be less likely to suffer tire damage in the rough.
If you drive your vehicle daily, it needs to handle well on pavement. For this type of driver, we would suggest 17-inch wheels with low-profile tires. Although this combination will sacrifice some of your off-road capability, you will find your on-road driving experience is much more stable and predictable. You will also be thankful for the better gas mileage this setup will offer you.
When choosing between the two, make sure you weigh the good and the bad and think about how you use your ride the most. Off-roader diehards are going to want to focus on 16-inch wheels and those who only off-road in their free time will find the 17-inch wheels to be ideal.
Which Will You Choose?
We have given you a lot to think about regarding your wheel size. While there is a minor sacrifice to be made no matter which one you choose, it is important to choose a wheel size based on how you drive your off-road ride.
Both wheel sizes will give you an amazing level of freedom on the off-road, but the bigger wheel offers that little something extra that makes each obstacle you go over even more exciting.
Perhaps you are building an exceptional off-roader that will become a mud warrior. You will love the added ground clearance 17-inch wheels offer. You can go over more stuff without the scrub.
It all comes down to your personal choice when comparing 16 vs 17 inch wheels. With the right combo, your off-road ride will shine. No matter your choice, enjoy every minute of the ride!