What size lift kit do I need to fit my rims?
This is one of the most common questions asked when lifting a car for big diameter wheels. There are a few factors that need to be taken in to account when deciding what size kit to go with to fit your rims. This page will discuss those factors and help you to determine what size lift kit you need to fit your 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, 32 or 24 inch rims on your car. The main deciding factors are the following:
- What size rims do you want to run?
- What size tires do you want to run?
- What is the wheel offset / backspacing?
- Are you willing to trim the fenders?
- Are you willing to notch the frame?
- Do you want a “high riser look” or a “tucked look”?
Hopefully you can make an educated decision after reading this post. If you still have questions on what size lift to run, UCL would love to help. We are available 5 days a week to answer any questions you may have. Feel free to contact us by clicking here and we will help in any way possible.
What diameter rims do you plan on running?
What size rims do you want to run plays the biggest role in what size lift kit you need for those rims. With smaller diameter rims like 18″ through 20″ size, you may not even need a lift kit at all. Especially when running low profile 25, 30 or 35 series tires, a lift kit is usually not required for these size rims on most cars.
With 22″ and 24″ rims, most smaller bodied cars will need a 3″ to 10″ kit size. Cars like older Chevy Monte Carlo, Oldsmobile Cutlass, Buick Regal and the likes usually don’t need massive amounts of lift to clear 22″ and 24″ wheels with ultra low profile tires. When we say “low profile tires” we are talking about a 25 series or 30 series tire. Anything more and you will need a larger lift. Larger bodied cars like the Chevy Caprice and Impala may be able to clear 22’s and 24’s with low profile tires and a minimal amount of lift. Usually a 3″ or 5″ lift would be sufficient. Some cars like Donks and Bubbles may not even need to be lifted to fit 22’s with low profile tires.
Things change rather quickly when we start talking about 26 inch and larger rims. To clear 26’s you may need a much larger 7″ to 15″ kit. Much of this depends on the car wheel well opening size and the size of the tire. It also depends on if you are willing to do some minor trimming of the fenders or are OK with not being able to make a full U turn.
For 28’s and larger you most definitely need either a larger kit or to trim the fenders. At a certain point, the wheel is too large in diameter to properly fit inside the wheel well. At this point, you must either lift the car over the wheel wells or do some trimming. UCL offers a line of kits called “High Riser Lifts” that are designed to lift the car body over the wheels. Once you are lifted over the wheel wells, you can turn easily and clearance no longer becomes an issue.
What size tires do you want to run?
We generally recommend running the smallest profile tire possible with the smallest width that will safely fit on your rim. This usually means a 25 series or 30 series tire. A tire size is made up of 3 components:
- The width of the tire measured in millimeters
- The sidewall ratio in relation to width, usually shown as a percentage
- The diameter of the tire, or what size rim it is designed for
For an example, we will look at a 275/25R28 tire size. The first number listed is 275. This means the tire is 275 millimeters wide. Most rim companies do not use metric measurements when they calculate rim size. Most wheel companies use English measurements (in inches). It would be helpful to first convert the metric width (in millimeters) to a standard English measurement (in inches). To do this easily, you can use this handy metric to inch conversion calculator here. When using this calculator, we find that the tire width is approximately 10.83 inches.
When selecting your rims, you can usually deviate from this tire width by around 1 inch either direction. So a 275 width tire could ideally fit on a rim that is 10″ to 12″ in width. If you deviate more than an inch, the tire may still fit. But the tire may be stretched (if you go larger in width) or may have a taller profile (if you go narrower in width). For this example, we will go with a 10″ width rim.
The second number listed on the 275/25R28 tire is the sidewall width. This is expressed as a ratio in relation to the tire width. The number “25” basically means the tire is 25% tall as it is wide. Because we know that our tire is 10.83 inches wide, we can calculate that 25% of that is approximately 2.7 inches. With this information, we know that a 275/25/R28 tire is 10.83 inches wide and the sidewall is 2.7 inches tall.
The third number in the equation is pretty easy. Its the size diameter rim that the tire will fit on. In this case the number is “28” which is for a 28 inch rim size. Knowing this, we are now shopping for a set of 28×10 rims.
One thing to note with low profile tires is ride quality. Because of the reduced sidewall, the lowest profile tires will generally ride a little rougher than the higher profile tires. A 25 series tire will not ride as good as a 30 series tire. Its a trade off from running larger diameter rims and not cutting up your car. If outstanding ride quality is your top concern, we recommend running a taller profile tire with either a bigger lift or some trimming of the fenders.
What is the wheel offset / backspacing?
This is a question that often gets overlooked when purchasing rims. It could be the biggest mistake you make when lifting your donk. Wheel offset is measured in millimeters and refers to the distance the wheel sticks inwards or outwards in relation to the rim mounting surface.
A rim with a high positive offset (+35 or +55 for example) will generally stick inwards towards the car. A rim with a high negative offset (-35 or -55 for example), will stick outwards when mounted on the car.
Why is this important? If your rim sticks in too far, not only will the car possibly look funny but the rims may come in contact with the suspension parts and frame of the car. This could make the car undriveable with the wheels or make it difficult to do a turn. The same holds true with a rim sticking out too far. The rim may then come in contact with the fenders when you are turning.
The ideal rim will display an offset that places the rim the farthest in possible without coming in to contact with the suspension or frame rails. For this example, we will look at a set of 28×10 rims that have a +15 offset. Using the metric to inch conversion calculator above, we can determine that the wheel center line is approximately 1/2″ from the rim mounting surface. Using our 28×10 rims, we can determine that the wheel will measure 5-1/2″ from the back side of the rim mounting surface. This number is also known as the wheel backspacing.
Are you willing to trim the fenders?
If your rim and tire combo is too large, you will need to either lift the car over the wheels or trim your fenders. In situations with minor trimming issues, such as the wheel rubbing on the inner fender liner, it is advised that you trim the area of contact. This can be accomplished using an air cut off tool with metal cutting disk. You can also use an air saw or electric saw. For minor trimming, a hand held grinder with a cutting disc may also be used. In the case of metal inner fender liners, a hammer or mallet may be used to make small adjustments.
For larger diameter wheels, you may need to cut much more material away. In extreme situations, you may have to completely modify the inner fender, remove the inner fender or fabricate an entire inner fender from scratch. In the rear, this process is commonly referred to as “tubing the wheel wells”. A new larger diameter fender with more clearance is welded in place. The existing factory fender is removed from the car and discarded.
Are you willing to notch the frame?
In situations where you are running low amounts of rim backspace or negative offset, you may need to notch the frame to obtain full turning radius. If the wheels come in contact with the frame when turning, you will need to address this issue. Another option would be to run a wheel spacer to push the rim farther out in the wheel well. The farther the rim sticks out, the more turn radius is achieved.
For the main reasons of turn radius, we highly recommend running a narrow width rim. A wheel that is 8-1/2″ to 9-1/2″ in width would be ideal. A 10″ rim width is the widest wheel we would recommend going with. Any wider than that and the turning radius gets to be fairly small.
To notch the frame, we would suggest going with a reputable custom shop or frame shop. The frame will need to be properly supported and reinforced during the sectioning process. If not, the frame could be permanently tweaked and your car could have alignment issues later on. Supports need to be welded in place before any cutting work can commence. The sectioning should be done by a certified welder and be reinforced with extra thick steel (at least 3/16″ to 1/4″ thick). Afterwards it is suggested to spray the frame section with rubberized undercoating to prevent rusting.
To prevent frame notching issues, we suggest keeping your wheel offset correct and running as narrow width rim as possible. If the thought of cutting up your car’s frame makes you sick, UCL has a line of High Riser Kits that lift the car completely over the frame to eliminate tire clearance issues all together.
Do you want a “high riser look” or a “tucked look”?
When fitting 26″ or larger wheels to a car, you must ask yourself what kind of look you are going for. Do you want a car that is lower to the ground with the wheels inside the wheel wells? Or do you want a high riser that towers above the rest?
If you are in search of the “tucked” look, also known as the “Georgia Tuck“, you may have to do some trimming of the fender wells to achieve it. You must also be extra careful when measuring and determining your wheel offset / back spacing. A narrow rim width is a necessity. Measurement is essential to achieving the desired look. It requires a little more planning but the end result looks great.
If a high riser type look is more your style, this is easier to achieve. Simply bolt on a large enough lift kit and you are good to go. You can also run a larger profile tire for a better ride quality. You will be able to have a full turning radius and your tires won’t rub the fenders. The kit might cost slightly more, but you will more than make up for that in time and frustration spent cutting up your ride.
Still have more questions?
We would love to help in your particular application. Give us a call anytime and we will be happy to advise you on the best rim diameter and kit size for your ride. Some things that are helpful before calling include your desired or actual rim diameter, rim width, desired or actual tire size and the type of look you are going for. You can contact us by clicking on this link. Another option is to view this handy chart showing the lift required for no cut, no rub, guaranteed fitment.