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Narrow or Wide Tires? Which is Better?

April 14, 2021

There’s an old adage that most of us are familiar with and has been at the center of many debates and that’s….Is bigger really better?



Table of Contents

  1. Overview

  2. Narrow vs. Wide

  3. Which is Better For You?



The debate of fat tires versus skinny tires has been going on since off-roading has been a sport and anyone that lives, breathes, sleeps, and eats 4WD vehicles knows just the debate I’m referring to. In bottomless mud, you’ll want something that floats along the top, but in mud with a hard-packed bottom, you want something skinny that’s going to dig to where the traction is at.


 In the harshest of Winters while off-roading in the deep powder, a wide flotation tire will help keep you afloat and moving forward, but when you’re on the road and it’s icy or full of snow or both, a narrower tire will have more pressure per square inch of contact pressure and will bite/ grip better than a wider tire that will just tend to float around on top of the ice and snow. 


Although 12.5-wide tires are the norm for everything from 23 to 40-inch tall tires, there are a lot more options out there if you are looking for them. Not sure which size is better for you? Let's find out.




Narrow vs. Wide

A narrower tire will provide more contact pressure therefore more focused grip on the terrain. Contact pressure translates into pressure per square inch between the tread lugs and the object they’re contacting. A narrower tire will have a smaller, more focused contact patch where all the weight of your vehicle is transferred through to the ground.


The smaller the contact patch of the tire there is, the more the weight of your vehicle that is going to be focused through each individual tread lug, increasing the contact pressure of those lugs, and allowing them to really grip and bite at the terrain below. 

And obviously the wider the tire is the more the contact patch is spread out and the more the weight of the vehicle transferring through those tread lugs are spread out, therefore, decreasing the amount of pressure per square inch of each individual tread lug. 




Which is Better For You?

Then going back to what I had mentioned a bit earlier about knowing which one is best for us and why picking out the right tire for you is situational is because it always comes down to knowing the majority of the different scenarios you’ll be putting your tires through. Will you be mostly on pavement and dirt with very little mud or snow? A more narrow tire will work. 


Or are you traversing through deep mud and snow? A wide flotation tire is going to be the way to go. 

Or are you mostly rock crawling where you want that higher contact pressure while aired down so you don’t want to go too narrow or too wide either? A medium-width tire would be the best choice there.

Also, the weight of your rig can also affect how wide or narrow of a tire you’ll want as well. A heavy rig with a wide tire can give you the same contact pressure per square inch that a lightweight rig with a narrow tire can.


Picking out the right size tire can sometimes be pretty daunting, but to keep it simple, a good rule of thumb is that wider tires will typically perform better for flotation in the mud, sand, loose gravel, and snow, whereas a narrow tire will typically perform better on hard surfaces like rocks, hard-packed dirt and on the pavement. 


Like always, when you purchase a wheel and tire package, you will receive free shipping, mounting, and balancing. We also offer as low as 0% APR financing for those who qualify so you can build now and pay later. 

What size tires do you run? Let us know in the comments down below!


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