Wheel and Tire Guide
With a seemingly endless amount of combinations and options it can be a rather daunting task in choosing the right wheels and tires for your golf cart. Though obviously a much smaller scale, they work in much the same fashion as automobile wheels and tires and similarly the pricing ranges from economical to extravagant.
This small guide is meant to bring you up to speed with golf cart wheels and tires and make the decision making process a little easier.
Golf Cart Wheels
Much like automobiles, golf cart wheels are available in either steel or aluminum construction with a multitude of styles and finishes. All standard golf cart hubs comply with the 4 on 4 lug pattern which means four equidistant holes spaced around a 4-inch circle. Standard golf cart wheels start at 8-inches, however, thanks to after-market lift kits and popular trends such as low-profile tires you can easily install 10 or 12-inch wheels (and even larger with further modification) if that’s the look you’re going for.
Choosing the right wheel finish for your golf cart can sometimes be difficult. Just in case you’re not familiar with the differences between the major types of finishes we’ve outlined them below:
Chrome – By far the most popular type of golf cart wheel finish and fittingly the most expensive. Chrome wheels combine an exceptionally high-luster finish with great durability. Chrome wheels are easy to clean with non-abrasive cleaners and if maintained properly will last a lifetime.
Polished – High quality polished golf cart wheels nearly rival that of chrome and are much more affordably priced. When a wheel is polished what you see is the raw material after it has been buffed (or polished) to a very shiny finish. Usually no paint or coatings are applied to the wheel and a little more maintenance is required in order to keep the shine on a polished wheel looking its best.
Machined – A machined golf cart wheel is essentially a wheel with no finish and are the most economical of all golf car wheels. What you get is exactly what came out of the machine that turned it, hence the name. Usually a clear coating is applied, or sometimes a colored paint, so that the wheel is more durable. Without a coating the raw material would discolor somewhat rapidly with age.
The offset of a wheel describes how far from the center the wheel will mount on golf cart’s hub. Typically you’ll have either centered or negative offset golf cart wheels (view diagram). As the name would imply, a centered wheel means the mounting holes are located directly in the center of the wheel and have no offset. Your majority of standard 8-inch steel golf cart wheels have a center mount setup.
A negative offset comes into play with the over sized wheels and tires to prevent any rubbing from occurring when turning. A negative offset means the mounting holes are located more towards the inside of the wheel (closer to the golf cart) which effectively pushes the entire assembly outwards from the golf cart. This works wonders and is almost always mandatory for lift-kit installations. The vast majority of 10 and 12-inch golf cart wheels have a negative offset.
If you have your heart set on a particular wheel and the offset isn’t quite what you need, all hope is not lost. Golf Cart Wheel Spacers can be purchased in several sizes to give the wheel a negative offset.
Golf Cart Tires
Choosing the appropriate tires for your golf cart is typically more difficult than deciding on the wheels as you must not only choose the size but the tread pattern. Both of these factors will depend largely on function and utility than they will personal taste or preference. The rest of this guide will help you become familiar with golf cart tire sizing and tread patterns and hopefully make selection quick and painless.
The majority of golf cart tires can be grouped into three distinct tread pattern groups – turf/street, all-terrain, and knobby/off-road. Some of the all-terrain and knobby type tires will also be referred to as what’s called directional tires. This just means that the tread pattern is designed in such a way that they need to be installed with the treads headed in a specific direction. Most all tread patterns are available in various sizes so you can easily adapt your jacked-up street cruiser or your standard-sized mud slinger. A more specific description for each tire type can be found below:
Turf/Street Tires – These are the more familiar type tires for golf carts and most likely what’s currently on your vehicle if you haven’t made any changes. These tires are designed to operate on golf courses so that they won’t tear up the grass as you travel from hole to hole. For those that drive their carts more on grass and smooth paved surfaces, you’ll want to stick with this type of tire.
Knobby/Off-Road Tires – These tires are very much like what you would find on ATV or quads. Their tread pattern is much more pronounced so that they can easily navigate through wooded areas and dig through the sand and mud. These tires are ideal for the outdoorsman more than anyone and they aren’t recommended for street travel as they make for a bumpy ride.
All-Terrain Tires – These tires combine the best of both words – a smoother tread than what you’ll find on the knobby tires though much more aggressive than your standard turf tires. All-terrain tires are perfect for those who are looking for an all-around type of tire that can be used in most any situations.
Your standard golf cart tire measures 18 x 8.50-8 – this means the outside diameter measures 18-inches, the width is 8.5-inches and the tire accepts an 8-inch wheel. The vast majority of golf cart tire sizes will be listed in this straightforward manner with sizes ranging from 20 x 11-10 to 25 x 11-12 with various odd ball sizes available as well.
Occasionally you’ll see tires sizes listed as 205/50-10, which is a little more complex to decode. With these tires, the first number (205) is the tire’s widest point of its outer sidewall to the widest point of its inner sidewall when mounted. This number is also referred to as the section width and it is measured in millimeters - this particular tire is 205mm wide, or 8.07-inches. The second number (50) is actually the tire’s aspect ratio, or tire profile, and is expressed as a percentage. This means that this tire’s sidewall height is 50% of its section width (8.07-inches), which would leave us with 4.04-inches. It’s important to remember that the sidewall height is only the distance between the rim and the tread of the tire, so if you’d like to know the diameter of the tire you would simply add the diameter of the wheel (10-inches in this instance as labeled by the -10) to the sidewall height for both ends (8.07-inches total) for a total diameter of 18.07-inches.
A standard golf cart usually can’t accept much larger than an 18-inch tire so in order to take advantage of larger wheels and tires you have two options; one being lift kits and the other being low-profile tires. Both of these options are explained in detail below.
Lift Kit Golf Cart Tires
Probably the most common golf cart alteration, a lift kit allows you to install much larger tires than you would ordinarily find on a golf cart. These larger tires will generally accept all 8, 10, and 12-inch type wheels with a multitude of tread types available. Typically off-road type tires with a knobby or directional tread are most common (much like the wheels and tires found on ATVs), however, street tread tires are also available.
It is not recommended that you install tires larger than 22-inches in diameter as it greatly compromises the stability of the golf cart. Even with 22-inch tires the chances of a roll-over are greatly increased and potentially life-threatening injuries can occur. Lift kits aren’t for everyone and you should always drive cautiously and responsibly.
Low Profile Golf Cart Tires
Utilizing low profile golf cart tires is a popular new trend for those who like the look of larger wheels but not necessarily the increased deck height that comes along with installing a lift kit. A low-profile tire is exactly what its name implies, a tire with a lower profile than what would normally come standard. Most low-profile golf cart tires will come with a street tread as they are not recommended for off-road situations.
The great thing about these tires is that they accept 10-inch or even 12-inch wheels without the need for a lift kit, instantly saving you hundreds of dollars. In addition, these tires are slightly larger in diameter than standard golf cart tires so they really fill out the wheel well areas nicely. One thing to consider is that tires with lower profiles also have less of a cushion which can make for a stiff, jarring ride over bumpy terrain. If you are prone to driving off curbs or hitting large bumps you may want to stay away from low-profile tires as large, sudden amounts of stress on these tires can easily unseat the seal causing flats or potentially bend your wheel.