So you’ve been thinking about putting different sized tires on your 4×4. Maybe you found a great deal on some bigger tires but don’t want to buy a whole matching set. Or perhaps you already have mismatched tires and are wondering if it’s OK to keep driving like that. Well, while it may seem convenient, running two different tire sizes is not recommended for 4×4 vehicles. Here’s why:
Mechanical Damage is Likely
One of the biggest risks is mechanical damage over time. When your 4×4 is in four-wheel drive mode, having tires of different diameters means your axles turn at different speeds. This puts a lot of stress on components like your:
- Transfer case
- Drive shafts
Over time, this uneven wear can lead to breakdowns and costly repairs.
|Worn gears, leaks
|Worn bearings, leaks
And that’s not even considering ancillary damage to parts like your brakes, steering system, and suspension. As you can see, it’s not worth risking thousands in repairs just to save a few bucks on mixed tire sizes.
Traction & Control Issues
Driving a 4×4 with mismatched tires also jeopardizes your traction and control. When you have tires of different diameters, they want to turn at different rates going around corners or curves. This causes hopping, skipping, and uneven grip.
Winter snow and mud only amplify these issues. You’ll notice your rig struggling for traction, fishtailing, kicking up rooster tails, and feeling loose. This makes accident risk skyrocket should you need to swerve or brake suddenly. Again, not worth it just to run mixed tire sizes.
Rapid & Uneven Tire Wear
Mismatched tires also wear rapidly and unevenly. The smaller tire has to rotate more times per mile to keep up with the larger one. This means you burn through tread depth faster, needing replacements sooner.
You’re also likely to wear elbows into the shoulders of the smaller tire. This leads to scalloped edges that destroy ride comfort. And it compromises stability once you get down towards the tire belts.
Meanwhile, that taller tire isn’t making full contact with the road. So you get uneven patches wearing in the center of the tread. This reduces already-compromised wet weather performance even faster.
Steering & Handling Quirks
Finally, mixed tire sizes introduce steering and handling quirks that are dangerous off-road. On-center feel gets numb between uneven sidewall flex and staggered contact patches. And input lag builds from the torsional winds and binds.
This makes precise line selection and obstacle avoidance much more difficult. Such vagueness and delay ask for punctures, body damage, or rollovers should things get squirrelly out on the trails. Certainly not an ideal situation to willingly get yourself into.
The Bottom Line
While it may be tempting to throw on mismatched tires to save money or make use of what you’ve got, doing so on a 4×4 is asking for mechanical damage, loss of control, rapid wear, and unpredictable handling.
It’s best to bite the bullet and buy four matching tires—even if that means some waiting and saving upfront. Your rig will last longer and handle safer, making it worthwhile in the long run. And you’ll avoid getting stranded out on the trail or somewhere remote.
So inspect your tires carefully and make running quad spares a priority. Your wallet and the seat of your pants will thank you next time you have to call on your 4×4’s full capability!
Let me know if you have any other questions about proper tire fitment. I’m always happy to chat trucks and off-road gear. Safe travels!
Can I install two 35-inch tires and two 33-inch tires on my 4×4?
It is not recommended. Mixing tire sizes puts stress on your 4×4’s drivetrain and causes issues with traction, handling, and uneven wear. For best performance, all four tires should have the same overall diameter.
What if I replace two damaged tires with different sized spares temporarily?
Driving on mismatched spare tires should only be done for short distances and low speeds until you can install a matching set. Taking your 4×4 off-road or driving long miles on unlike spares risks damage.
My friend said putting the smaller tires in front helps with steering. True?
False. Size differences front vs rear still creates issues. Smaller front tires reduce ground clearance. Larger rear tires give poor traction. Correct size, not location, is what matters.
Can I avoid issues by not using 4-wheel drive with mixed tires installed?
No, size mismatches still stress components in 2-wheel drive. Issues may be less apparent on pavement but develop over time off-road. Four properly sized tires is the only safe solution.
What if I install lift kits to make tire diameters match more closely?
Suspension lifts can help but don’t completely compensate for size differences. And they introduce other issues like geometry changes and component strain.Again, avoiding mismatches altogether is best.