After a little over 3 years since we purchased our van, our Sprinter van’s odometer finally ticked past the 50,000 mark. Bruce is the van’s name, for those who care about that sort of thing. We bought the van new, and maintained the stock Continental Vanco “four season” M+S tires and the stock steel 16 inch rims. Although these tires were anything but “off-road”, they carried us across rugged terrain and icy conditions pretty well…with some help from the van’s 4×4 transmission, some basic air-down techniques, and tire chains (more on our original tire chains for the stock tires check out our blog post here).
At 50,000 miles it was finally time to buy a new set of tires. We only had two decisions before beginning to search for brands and models. First, we easily decided to stick with the stock black steel 16 inch wheels in order to save several hundred dollars. Second, we needed to decide if we were going to upsize. Although upsizing would require the purchase of a full-sized spare and new tire chains, we quickly decided we wanted to do it. According to friends with more off-road experience than we have, and a few Sprinter forums, upsizing would improve performance on- and off-road. Maybe more importantly, larger tires will also look better. 🙂
After deciding to stick with 16 inch stock rims and increase the tire size, we had a few factors to consider in our search for new tires. It’s important to state that this blog intends to simply tell our story and decision space. This is our first 4×4 vehicle, out first tire upsize, and our first all-terrain tire purchase. As they say, “your mileage may vary.”
Wanting to maximize width, for performance, while sticking with our stock rims, we immediately searched the owner’s manual and called dealerships to find out how wide a tire we can fit on the rims. Not surprisingly, we could not find such a statement. Because so many friends, forum writers and some counsel from ADF Sprinters, we were comfortable trusting the seemingly well-understood max width of 265mm, and we didn’t spend any time verifying further.
For diameter, we spent a little more time. The original tires were 245/75-R16 and thus, according to tiresize.com and confirmed with our own math, were 30.5″ in diameter. With our own tape measurer, we measured approximately 2 1/4 inches of available radius with the original tires, or approximately 4 1/2 inches of diameter. This seems like a lot in and of itself, but when considering the turning front wheels, we wanted to be careful. Plus, a hard-and-fast requirement of ours was that we want to maintain the ability to carry and use rear tire chains. S-clearance chains require 1/2 inches of clearance. 1/2 inch of radius for chains, 1/2 inch of radius increase in size, and an inch radius of “just in case” space, we settled on increasing our tires to approximately 31.5″ in diameter. Reading forums and chatting to friends, it seemed like 265/75-R16 (31.6″ diameter) would be a rub-free option and, according, to my math, would still safely allow tire chains on the rear tires.
Some folks with years of winter driving experience have told us it is silly for a 4×4 with all-terrain Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake tires to wear tire chains. In our experience, carrying tire chains is often required even in an all-wheel drive or 4×4 vehicle with snow tires. We not only want to follow the rules (we have a feeling it is for our own safety…), but we have encountered icy conditions even in an R2 condition and have opted to install our old tire chains for extra safety. For less than $150, why not just install the chains? We linked it in our opener, but we have some more info on tire chain requirements and factors to consider in our tire chains blog post.
4 tires or 5?
Because we want a usable spare tire, we purchased and mounted all 5 tires. We plan to rotate all 5 tires as we rotate to get extra life out of the set and force ourselves to monitor and correct the spare tire’s air pressure.
What make and model?
With so many brands and models out there, we relied heavily on friends and forums to narrow down our search. Based on recommendations, our front-runners were BF Goodrich T/A KO2 and General Grabber A/Tx. Both performed well on Tire Rack’s impressive test track. Searching for stock and prices, we opted for the General Grabbers based solely on price.
Will the spare fit?
Good question…the spare 265/75-R16 tire did not fit until we deflated it completely. With an on-board portable Viair compressor, we aren’t terribly worried about needing to inflate the spare if it’s needed. But, thanks to social media, were pointed to Agile Off-road’s Oversized Spare Tire Basket Brackets. This General Grabber 265/75-R16 tire fits without “stretching” the basket, like Agile Off-road says one will need to do for tires greater than 31.5″ in diameter.
Time for new tire chains
Although we need new tire chains for these upsized tires, it was an easy choice to stick with Peerless Auto-Trac, this time with model 0232605. We loved the Auto-Trac with our previous tires, and already have the same style on-hand to be ready for our first trip to the mountains next month.