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van life post about upgrading the wheels

New Wheels

With the shop messing up on my lower control arm assembly and me not taking it back in right away, the inside of my front tire wore down to about nothing. I had been thinking about purchasing new rims and figured since I needed new tires, I would go ahead and purchase new rims as well.

To my surprise, there was a lot more to this than I thought. Let me see if I can break this down. The obvious thing about rims is the diameter. Mine are 16″. Stock are 6.5″ width rims and a buddy of mine recommended getting 8″ width rims. Now, I was thinking “okay great, just do a google search”. Well, there is a bit more to it than that. You need to know your bolt pattern. What is pretty obvious is how many lug nuts each tire has. My Astro has 6. Upon some research, the bolt pattern is 6 on 5.5.

Here is where I got lost. Offset and the backspace. Offset on my stock rims for my 2004 Chevy Astro is +35mm. Imagine this, take your rim off your vehicle. Looking down at the rim, slice it in half. This is the wheel centerline. Zero wheel offset is when the hub mounting surface is in line with the centerline of the wheel. Got that? Most aftermarket rims I found were a zero offset. However, my stock are PLUS 35mm. What that means is the hub mounting surface is in front (more toward the street side) of the centerline of the wheel. Plain English; the wheel sits in more toward the wheelwall.

I thought “Great, my tires have a very slight rub on the inside, this will help.” It doesn’t stop there though. Then there is backspace. Backspacing is the distance your wheels and tires need to accommodate both offset and wheel width. Confused yet? Yeah so was I.

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Here is how it was explained to me. My stock rims had about 5.25″ backspace. Since I was moving from a 6″ rim to an 8″ rim, they were about 1″ wider and approximately .75″ less backspacing. I was told the tires would stick out about 1.75″ from the fender. I rounded up to 2″. I knew they wouldn’t be an issue hitting the inside fenderwall but I was worried the slider door might hit the rear tire. So I measured. It was right at a 2″ gap.

Now, I already had oversized tires. Stock are 215/70R/16 and I had 245/70R/16. I want as big of tire as I can get under that van. I was advised to drop down to 235s so this is what I purchased.

I purchased my rims from and I specifically bought the Pro Comp 31 Series Stryker Matte Black Alloy Wheels. When they arrived, they were not beat up and I was impressed with how well they were protected inside the box.

At this point I was excited to take the van in to have the wheels installed. After arranging to the leave the van and have the shop install them and redo the alignment (due to their mess up), I was pretty giddy to check out the difference in the look of the van. I was nervous because I had no idea if the studs on wheels would work and I thought the lug nuts would work (I was later wrong on this point – research your lug nuts and studs before taking it to the shop).

After dealing with another mistake (on the shop’s behalf) and waiting around for the shop to make right, which they did, I was finally able to drive off. I knew with inspection I was going to have to shave a bit of the front bumper so there wouldn’t be any rubbing.

With my handy multi purpose tool from Harbor Freight I was able to easily trim the front bumper. What took a bit more was just on the passenger side, the wheel was slightly hitting the metal (in the photo it is the white part below the black painted fenders). I used a different tool with a metal specific blade to make that cut.

Only on the passenger side, when turning the wheels while driving all the way to the right, the tire just rubs on the backside of the fenderwall. My plan is to take the tire off and beat in this metal piece. It doesn’t need much. Hopefully this won’t turn into a big deal.

A few days later I took to the open road and headed to the Russell Fork in VA/KY. So far, I couldn’t be happier. I know the rims are purely an aesthetics thing, I am happy I splurged a bit.

To add just a bit more flare, I purchased pink valve cap covers to match the pink accents the van has. It’s the small things 🙂


I started kayaking in Wisconsin of all places, because this is where I am from. I then moved to San Diego and took on kayak surfing along with heading to the Kern River when water was available. I then made the move to Asheville, NC and have been hooked on this sport since my Wisconsin days. With whatever it is that you do, do it because you love it, not because society tells you should or for other outside factors. Don't simply exist, live!