Ye' Olde Site By Joby

Wheels and tires for a Ford Ranger

What I'm looking for

My truck's purpose in life is to be a jack of all trades. That means I need to be able to handle moderate offroad conditions, in all weather, while also maintaining on-road manners and handling. So no super swampers or street-only tires, this is all about the target demographic of mildly aggressive AT tires.

Basically I need a truck that can behave around town or on the highway, but then also get me up some unmaintained old logging road to a SAR mission or a campsite when I get where I'm going.

Vision Soft 8 rims: cheap and fine

My truck came with the much-desired Alcoa forged aluminum wheels that were part of the FX4 Level II package. They're beautiful, and very nice wheels. On the other hand, they're beautiful, and very nice (and expensive) wheels.

I set out to buy wheels that would get the job done, and be affordable enough that if I bash them on a rock or something it's not such a big deal. To that end I settled on some pretty basic black steel wheels: 15x8 Vision Soft 8s. They can be had for $50-70 each, depending on where you buy them, and they're fine. They get the job done.

They come in two different offsets: -39mm and -29mm. I got the -39mm because I thought that extra centimeter of stance would look cool. It does, but I can feel it in the handling a bit. I would honestly recommend going with the -29mm.

They're also available on Amazon if you happen to be a Prime addict like some people.

Hub centering

Rangers have conical lugs, and you don't actually need the hub hole on the wheel to match the size of the hub. It just needs to be bigger.

You could find a tire place that will do lug-centric balancing, and count on the conical lugs to center it. That's not a great plan though, in my experience.

I've heard of other people who have had great results, and their lugs are perfectly centered and symmetrical, and the lugs perfectly center their wheels every time. That's great for them. My lugs are apparently not so perfectly centered or symmetrical (or maybe the cheap wheels don't have such perfectly-centered holes, the end result is the same), so I had to come up with a way to center the wheels on the hub as I tightened the lugs.

Initially I ordered some commercially-made ABS hub-centric rings on Ebay for about $20 for a set of 4. They worked fine in the front, but didn't quite leave enough space for them to clear a little chamfer where the flat surface of the hub meets the protruding cylindrical surface. So they broke when I tightened the back ones.

I wound up 3D printing my own entire hub caps that also function as hub-centric rings. They've currently been on for several months, and are still looking good after being regularly subjected to some pretty extreme winter conditions.

Cooper Discoverer AT3 XLT tires: excellent all around

My truck came with 31x10.5x15 tires fromt he factory, and I decided that's a just fine size. I don't actually need any more width, and in fact adding width could easily compromise my snow performance. So I decided to just stick with the same old size.

I settled on the Cooper Discoverer AT3s because they offer really excellent all-around performance. They're a competent sand tire, decent in the snow and ice, and not bad on pavement. They also generate a lot less road noise on the highway than most all terrains. So far I can do nothing but highly recommend them.

So far I've had them for several months now, and they've comported themselves very well in all of the following conditions:

  • Snow-packed mountain roads
  • Deep snow on unmaintained dirt roads
  • Sand
  • Mud
  • Icy roads
  • Gravel and rocks
  • Wet and dry pavement