Skinny Vs. Wide Tires – Testing Two Different 33″ Options

33 tire guide


Different Options to Add 33s, With or Without Lift

Today, we're going to cover a Tacoma owner's favorite topic – tires. Let's not think about 35s or 37s and the headaches that come with them.

Instead, let's talk about the high-end tires, the 33s. Specifically skinny/small, also called “pizza cutters” (255/85R16 and 255/80R17) and wide tires (285/75R16 and 285/70R17 and 33×12.5R17).

Circumstances dictate what will do best. And of course, there is a heated debate that seems to ultimately come down to subjective experience and preference. I will be talking about what I experienced.

A big point to consider, a narrower one will provide the same ground clearance, but with a smaller diameter you will experience rubbing issues and less fit. Skinny wheels can fit the stock suspension. So the average user… might consider moving away from what has been popularized by the community – for their own benefit!

My experience with these two 33″ options comes from two different Tacomas, where we used both brands. I have tried to provide suitable sizes for each category with 16″ and 17″ wheels.

Skinny Tires

33" No Lift Tires 255/85/16

Let's start there then 255/85R16 and 255/80/17.

These track better and don't pull towards ruts and most roads. Smaller tires seem to work better in mud, where less can be removed from the road. Since they're smaller (width wise) and have less cargo, they weigh less, which means better MPGs and vehicle responsiveness on and off the road.

Most military vehicles run on narrow but tall tires. I suspect this is due to the improved handling in the conditions these vehicles experience, as well as cost savings. Wider tires will “float” better and provide a larger contact patch. This is useful in conditions such as snow, mud, and possible rocks.

One of the best advantages of this size is its versatility. When the wind is low, the wide tread paired with the narrow tire provides adequate traction without sinking in soft surfaces like sand or mud. Improved traction creates more control and reduces slippage, enhancing your Tacoma's off-road capabilities.

This is the fastest way to get ground clearance running with little or no ground clearance, but get another supply of ground clearance 33s. The rub (with good alignment) on the stock truck is minimal to none. So you can get more clearance outside the center of gravity from the lift kit. But its height also fills the wheel well with a lift kit.

Although these tires excel in off-road terrain, they are also suitable for on-road driving. Improved traction, ground clearance, and load-carrying capabilities over stock make them extremely versatile for many end users.

Wide Tires

3rd Gen Tacoma With 285/70/17 Tires

Now let's move on to 285/75R16 and 285/70R17 and 33×12.5R17.

The first two are identical, measuring about 32.75″ (ish) long and 11.25″ (ish) wide. Now 33×12.5R17 (only available with 17″ wheels, 33×12.5×16 is not) is also less than 33″ (or close to it) but you get ~1.25″ extra. This size tends to be more expensive, but it's the biggest, if you really want that beefy look.

Although they are still easy to install, they require more work compared to pizza cutters. You'll need to select the correct lift, wheel, and tire combination as well as proper alignment, and possibly cab mount chop and pinch weld clearance. Tire rub will be determined by the previous, and how much you roll your suspension. With full compression and full lockout, you'd be surprised that even 32s and 33s have been known to rub the tire well at high altitudes.

A good wide tire will help in rocky and slippery terrain as well as dry, and some winter conditions.

Which is Better?

Tacoma Overland Build On Wide 33s

A wider wheel is better for crawling and “floating” over the surface and a narrower wheel will cut. That being said, when it comes to blowing air to slow down, we have to look at the “science” behind which tire will benefit us the most in a particular area.

Contact pressure per square inch is measured in lbs. and found in the weight of the vehicle. A narrower tire will have more pounds per square inch due to its smaller contact area compared to a wider tire that spreads more weight across the larger tire. This means that a wider tire has an evenly distributed contact area. Wider tires can also provide more stability, as they have a larger contact patch. This (to varying degrees) can remove the high center or gravity from lifting your truck.

In fact, a light truck on thick tires may have the same performance as a heavy truck on wide tires.

What's Right For You

Small Tacoma Tires No Lift

Wider tires will help with general “floating” over obstacles and traction. Just know that if you drive your truck every day, all that extra rubber will increase rolling resistance. That will put more stress on your drivetrain and negatively impact your fuel economy. Also, wider tires increase the chances of hydroplaning and sliding on snow or ice.

Personally, that's why I used a smaller wheel. I live in California near the mountains and experience rain, snow and ice all the time. Pizza cutter tires still provide good traction when rolled without the negative effects of wider tires.

However, this is often optional, as many people run wide tires and love them!

The choice between the two varies greatly. Some people prioritize the ability to install the largest tire possible while stock. Others look for performance, but also a wide stance when they step back from the road. You should consider that smaller tire sizes have a smaller selection. And sometimes the stock is in short supply. You may need to order them in advance. The more common (wider sizes), there is often better selection and availability. Especially something like a 285/70R17.

At the end of the day – if you want to work without weight, relieve headaches, and standing is not a priority, you will probably get more out of soft tires. If you want more stability and greater visual appeal, go with multiples.

Final thoughts

3rd Gen Tacoma With 285/70/17 BFG tires

Both styles have their pros and cons, it's a constant battle of looks versus performance!

At the end of the day, it's up to you and how you drive the truck. Think about what your extra weight is, where you test, and how you want your truck to perform in those conditions, and go from there!

255/80/17 Examples (Cooper)

3rd Gen Tacoma With Skinny Tires (255/80/17)

Small Tires In Tacoma

285/70/17 Examples (TreadWright)

General 33" Tires on Tacoma (285/70/17)

Wide Tires in Tacoma



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