Running A 33″ Full-Size Spare Tire That Fits In The Factory Spare Location – On a Budget
One of the first mods any new 4Runner owner does is upgrade to larger tires. This arguably gives you the best bang for your buck regarding traction, ground clearance, and overall handling performance both on and off-road. Something that’s often overlooked when upgrading tires though is the spare sitting under your cargo area.
I’m guilty of this as well, but there are several reasons for that outside just the additional cost.
Find It Online
- Kenda Kleaver R/T KR601 33×10.5R17: Check Price
Why Do You Need A Full-Size Spare Tire?
If you’ve never looked underneath your 4Runner, Toyota includes a full-size spare tire in the factory size. For 5th Gen 4Runners, that’s roughly a 31.5″ tire. That’s regardless of whether you have an SR5/TRD (265/70R17) or a Limited (254/60R20).
Here is an oversimplification of why a full-size spare tire is important. Car & truck axles have what are called differentials. These differentials allow the left and right wheels to spin at different speeds, which is necessary on the pavement when turning. When you take a turn, the inside wheel spins faster than the outside wheel. While differentials make this possible, they’re not designed to always rotate the tires at different speeds.
Having a full-size spare tire eliminates the worry of damaging your differentials on extended drives should you ever need to utilize it. This is why using a smaller tire as a spare isn’t advised. There’s also the issue of unbalanced traction (especially off-road) and the fact that it just looks goofy.
A full-size spare tire will also offer you the same or similar durability and speed rating as your primary tires. The small, temporary spare tire found in sedans and most crossovers are only to be used for about 50 miles and you should not exceed 50mph while using one. That’s not an issue with a full-size spare.
What Size Spare Tire Is Right For You
Let me reiterate that all of this only applies to 33″ tires or smaller. If you opted for 34″ tires or larger, forget about fitting that tire size in the factory location.
A 33″ tire is the largest tire size you can fit in the spare location on a 5th Gen 4Runner (2010-2014).
By and large, the most popular aftermarket tire size for the 5th Gen 4Runner is 285/70R17, or roughly a 33″ tire, give or take a 1/4 inch depending on the brand. Yes, there are plenty of people who run 35″ tires or even 40″ tires, however, the 33″ tire, however, is popular for several reasons:
- More affordable
- Easier to source
- Easier on your drivetrain
- Can typically still fit in the factory spare tire location
That last reason was really the deciding factor for me. I’m fortunate to still park my 4Runner in a garage (barely). That means an aftermarket rear bumper with a tire carrier or a standalone spare tire carrier is out of the question. A 33″ tire is just about the largest tire that can fit in the factory spare location underneath the cargo area. Some people have reported fitting a 295/70R17 (33.5″) in there by fully deflating it and beating back the steel that surrounds the tire.
So, I decided that a 33″ spare tire was the right size for me. However, there are a few different ways to achieve that specific diameter. The option that’s best for you will depend on your needs.
Pros: This is the most straightforward approach for a spare tire. Assuming this is your primary tire size, this is an exact match. If you plan to rotate your spare tire with your primary tires regularly, this is the best option.
Cons: The 285 width is decently wider than the factory 265 spare tire. This means your spare tire will hang slightly lower, thus reducing the departure angle. You may also have an increased risk of hitting this spare tire off-road. This isn’t a deal-breaker for many, just be aware of it.
Pros: Usually more affordable than 285/70R17 and lighter weight. The community often refers to these as “Pizza Cutters” for their narrower width. A narrower width, however, will not cause damage to your differentials.
Cons: This is technically a hair larger than 33″, but it’s still a viable option as a full-size spare if you have 285/70R17 as your primary tire size. You can’t rotate this in with your primary tires if you use size 285/70R17. There’s a marginal size difference and the mismatched tire widths won’t be great for handling performance.
Pros: This is the flotation size for 33″ tires (as the name implies). This tire’s width is very similar to 255/80R17 at 10.5″. If you prefer flotation tire sizes over metric, this is the option for you.
Cons: Not as readily available or is offered by as many brands as 255/80R17. You also can’t rotate this in with your primary tires if you use size 285/70R17.
What I Chose
I don’t plan on rotating my spare tire in with my primary tires, so I’m opting to keep the factory steelie wheel. This saves me money by not having to buy a matching 17×9″ -38mm offset wheel and I don’t have to worry about it getting banged up by road debris.
The factory steelie is also 17×7″, which is a bit narrow for a 285-width (11.5″) tire in my opinion. For this reason, I opted to go with a 33×10.5R17 tire as my spare. The 10.5″ tire width should fit better on this wheel and I won’t need to worry as much about it de-beading while in use.
I opted for the Kenda Kleaver R/T tire, which has gotten high praise from the off-road community. Also, it’s one of the few options in the 33×10.5R17 size.
The reduced width should also be close to the factory spare tire, so my departure angle should go largely unchanged.
Ultimately, the best option for a full-size, 33″ spare tire is up to you and your priorities. If you opt for a matching 5th wheel and plan to rotate it with your primary tires, get the size that’s an exact match. If you only intend to only use the spare in the event of an emergency, then a skinnier tire may be more practical.
I fit into the latter category, so 33×10.5R17 was the best choice for me. Despite being narrower than my primary tires, I now have a proper full-size tire that has similar traction, durability, and performance to them.
Have you gotten more creative with your spare tire mounting solutions? If so, please leave a comment below!