I found some awesome used UTV tires and Jeep wheels for my Vitara. Nevermind the fact that 15″ wheels aren’t supposed to fit a 2nd gen, I don’t always listen to others. Read more to see how I …umm… persuaded them to fit along with lots of pics.
Research / Background
Disclaimer: this article is for entertainment purposes only. DIYMetalFab is not liable for any risk or damages if you decide to pursue these or any other modifications and/or put on non-factory parts.
I needed some AWESOME grippy tires but I also needed them to be CHEAP. Well, after some research I figured out that some of the newer UTV’s have 15″ wheels and therefore I could find aggressive offroad UTV tires made for that size wheel.
After some hunting I found a set of used 4 Rocktane XS (discontinued, I think they are Rocktane XD now) tires for $150. Next up I needed to find some wheels that would fit. Turns out I found a set of 5 wheels on FB marketplace from an old Jeep CJ that had the same bolt pattern for $125, score! All Jeep CJ’s have a 5 on 5.5″ bolt pattern with a large center hub hole for manual hubs. There are some other vehicles that have this 5 on 5.5 bolt pattern, but the trick is they also need to have the large 108mm center bore or they won’t work.
There is a catch though. Certain 15″ steel wheels don’t fit the 2nd gen Vitara / Trackers. This is because when Suzuki went to the new body style the front brakes got bigger, so most of the 2nd gens have 16″ wheels. I read online that plenty of people had used steel 15’s and with some grinding or wheel spacers they would fit. What I didn’t find though was any pictures of the completed modification or guide for how much grinding was required.
Being a glutton for punishment, I decided to try it for myself. Here is my experience in fitting my wheels with lots of pics.
There are plenty of other options besides the route I took. Here are some of them:
- Use wheel spacers – a 1″ wheel spacer will easily clear the calipers. Be careful though because too little backspacing and you will start getting into your front fenders on turns
- Find some Tracker ZR2 rims. Some of the 2nd gen Chevy trackers had 15″ aluminum wheels from the factory that cleared the brakes. If you can find some for cheap, these would be a good option. They have about the same (or similar) backspacing as the stock 16″ wheels though so once you get to a 29″ or larger tire it will rub the frame.
- Just buy some bigger tires for your stock 16″ wheels. This option is basically what I had with my 235/70R16 Hankook Dynapro AT tires (approx 29″ tall). They rub the frame at full lock but didn’t cause any issues.
- Go custom – Find or custom order some 16″x7″ wheels with ~3.5″ backspacing and put some awesome tires on them. This is what I would have done if money wasn’t a concern.
The Wheels and Tires
An additional benefit to putting on aftermarket wheels is less backspacing (tires stick out further). The factory wheels have ~4.75″ backspacing and the aftermarket steel wheels have ~3.75″ backspacing. Wider stance = more stability offroad. It also helps keep rocks off your rocker panels and doors when the tires stick out from the body. This is why Jeep wranglers have narrower bodies then cover the tires with fenders.
ATV / UTV tires are a totally different game than on road tires. They come with A LOT of tread from the factory, so even though I am buying these used they still have way more tread than my almost new Hankook all terrain tires.
These will be my offroad tires only. I am keeping my Hankook AT’s for running on the street. I will just swap them out before offroad trips since I usually trailer PJ to offroad events anyways.
Figure out where the wheels rub the brakes
I bought these wheels knowing that they would rub the caliper based on research on the internet. What I couldn’t find though was HOW MUCH grinding was required or any pictures of the completed product. Hopefully this helps some of you out.
These steel wheels are two pieces welded together. There is the round rim part and the stamped center hub part. This manufacturing method explains how they are so cheap and also how they are able to sell them with different backspacing.
There is a bit of a lip on the inside of the wheel where it is stamped and welded. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal but in this situation it is interfering with the caliper. Also some welds are taller than others and required more grinding.
I only took off as much as I had to in order for the wheels to not rub. I didn’t measure how much I took off but there is still a whole lot of meat on the caliper. I would guess I took off anywhere from 1/8″ to 1/4″ depending on location. I noticed no difference in braking and this clearance modification has been done for months.
Note: My brake pads are pretty new, just be aware that if you put new (thicker) pads on in the future it will move the caliper even closer to the wheel.
I believe the amount of trimming I had to do to the caliper was specifically due to the ‘wagon wheel’ type wheels with the red and blue pinstripes around the outside of the wheel. The 5th odd wheel that I got was the same size but different manufacturer had no interference issues and would have required no grinding. Too bad I only had one of them.
Rear Brake Modification
No modifications are required on the rear since they are drum brakes and fit with plenty of room.
Painting and Assembling
I HATE painting and especially hate prepping for paint. Therefore I went for ‘good enough’ with these wheels. Really the only tool I had to use for this was my 3M paint stripping wheel then some paint thinner and a rag to clean/prep. I also briefly used a small drill powered sanding bit to get inside some of the spokes/holes.
These wheels ended up taking a TR412 sized valve stems. I found some super stubby ones on Amazon. My thought was that if they were short I might be less likely to rip them off on rocks.
To get these mounted up, I just dropped them off at a shop. There is no point in paying extra to have these balanced because they aren’t highway safe anyways. Most shops only charge ~$10 per tire to mount without balancing.
Two of the used tires I bought had more tread than the other two. To hopefully help my CV’s last a little longer, I am putting the two with less tread on the front.
I spent a lot of time researching this before I found the right setup and pulled the trigger. If you want to go out and buy new 16″ wheels and tires please do, it is much easier and I would recommend it if you have the budget or don’t have time/inclination to mess with a project like this. Another option is to run wheel spacers.
I was able to buy 5 wheels, 4 tires, paint the wheels, and pay to have the tires mounted all for less than $350 including misc supplies. If I were to buy all of this stuff new, I would have been into it for around $1,000. I would have saved a lot of man hours though because I would have bought 16″ or bigger tires/wheels and could have just bolted them on with no modifications.
I am registered for the Frostbite run at Kansas Rocks next weekend. Maybe I will see some of you out there! I will report back on how the tires did.
Hope this helps some of you. Now YOU, get outside and work on something.