A big part of the “lift kit look” is to stuff a set of larger tires underneath your truck once you have it at the exact ride height you had planned. For the most part, bigger tires for a raised Toyota Tacoma aren’t just an aesthetic concern – they can also provide much better off-road capability thanks to the more aggressive tread designs available on oversize tires, in addition to the suspension cushioning and additional lift that they bring to the table.
Bigger Tires = Wider Tires = Clearance Issues
Oftentimes, bigger tires mean wider tires, and wider tires can bring with them a few specific problems along with their general benefits. The most common issue has to do with clearance – not necessarily clearance between the top of the tire and the fender well (which is typically taken care of by the lift kit) but rather clearance when the front tires are turned all the way to the left or the right. In many cases, a tire which is too wide can impact against the inside of the truck’s frame or other suspension components, causing wear and potentially damaging both the truck and the tire during certain driving situations.
There are two terms which are critical to understanding how you can properly match wheels and tires to your lift kit and avoid issues involving this type of rubbing.
Offset is a term that refers to the distance between the center of a wheel and where the wheel actually mounts onto your Tacoma’s hub. Essentially, a wheel with positive offset is one where its mounting point is pushed “away” from the truck, and a negative offset wheel has a mounting point pushed “toward” the truck.
A wheel’s backspacing boils down to the measurement of the gap between its inside lip and where it bolts to the hub.
Why are these terms important?
After the installation of a lift kit, it’s very easy to find big tires that will fit on stock Tacoma wheels without any rubbing issues. If you want to go extra-wide, however, then you will start to run into the problems we described above, and will have to switch to an aftermarket wheel that can accommodate your tires without bringing them into contact with your truck’s undercarriage.
Knowing the offset and backspacing of the rims you are looking at, in combination with the width of your tire, can tell you beforehand whether you will run into any rubbing issues after they are installed. By pushing a wider rim to the outside (positive offset) then you will be able to keep your tire’s rubber away from possible points of contact on the chassis. However, you will have to be careful not to push too far to the outside, as you can run into issues with loading the hubs outside of the acceptable stock parameters. Think of a lever prying at your hubs and lugs – the more positive offset you add to your truck’s wheels, the longer that lever gets and the strong it tugs when driving.
Where do wheel spacers fit in?
Wheel spacers are essentially a band-aid solution, designed to fit over your hubs and push your offset to the outside without having to change your stock wheels. The problem with using this method of increasing your truck’s offset instead of finding a wheel that features the right offset and backspacing is that it can significantly stress your hubs and bearings by increasing the leverage that we described above. Spacers also don’t offer the same rugged strength as a properly offset wheel and can introduce vibrations and other issues at higher speeds.
Even worse, by design, certain types of spacers (washer-type) actually reduce the amount of thread available to your lug bolts, and if spacers are not kept tight at all times, they can put tremendous sheer load on your lugs, which can cause them to snap or fail.
Spacers aren’t recommended for anyone doing serious off-roading, and in general, they aren’t a good idea for daily use either. Depending on the quality of the spacers (specifically, the materials that they are constructed out of and the level of craftsmanship used to put them together), they could be a ticking time bomb in terms of the problems they might introduce further down the road.