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What Are The Biggest Tires For A Stock Ford Explorer?

Although the Ford Explorer doesn't have the off-road capability of the Ford Bronco, the former still has the DNA to live up to the mid-size SUV's nameplate heritage. Indeed, some Explorer owners upsize their vehicles' tires to improve both ride stance and overall trail performance. So what are the biggest tires you can fit on a stock Ford Explorer? Here's what our research has uncovered.

The Ford Explorer's maximum tire size varies depending on the year model and trim. Moreover, we recommend upsizing only by 3% to 5% larger than the stock wheel-and-tire setup to utilize the Explorer's on-road and off-road capability. This translates to the following maximum tire sizes:

  • 2nd-generation Explorer (up to 2001): 31-inch overall diameter, 10.5 to 10.8 inches tread width
  • 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th-generation Explorer (2001 to present): 32 inches overall diameter, 10.5 to 10.8 inches tread width
  • 6th-generation Explorer Timberland trim (2021 to present): 32.6 inches overall diameter, up to 11.2 inches tread width

Would you like to know more about the possible tire upsizing options for a stock Ford Explorer? Do read on, because we've also included some tips about the pros and cons of upgrading to bigger tires.

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Ford EcoSport is a subcompact crossover SUV. It has very sportive rim. - What Are The Biggest Tires For A Stock Ford Explorer?

Biggest Tires On Stock Ford Explorer

The Ford Explorer is America's best-selling sport utility vehicle (SUV) of all time. It is suitable both for comfortable family rides on paved roads as well as moderate overlanding and trail exploration (pun intended). The Explorer has indeed captured the hearts of the American automotive market.

Ford wheel close up at NY auto show

Even though the Explorer is quite a capable vehicle straight out of the showroom, many of its owners like to upsize the tires. After all, changing to bigger tires is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to improve the Explorer's looks as well as some of its off-road characteristics.

So what are the biggest tires that you can use for a Ford Explorer without any other modifications? The answer to this question varies slightly across the vehicle's generations and trim levels. 

Stock Explorer models released prior to 2001 can fit up to 31-inch tires. However, models released from 2001 to the present can fit up to 32-inch tires without any modification.

Finally, the new Timberland trim should be able to use 32.6-inch tires straight out of the factory without any fender-rubbing issues even on moderate trails.

The following sections will discuss the stock Explorer's factory tire sizes vis-a-vis maximum tire sizes using stock rims and suspension systems.  

1999 Ford Explorer Tire Size

Second-generation Explorers came with the following stock tire and stock rim sizes.

  • 225/70/R15 - 27.4 inches overall diameter, 8.9 inches tread width, 6.2 inches sidewall height on 7-inch wide rims with 10-14 mm offset
  • 235/75/R15 - 28.9 inches overall diameter, 9.3 inches tread width, 6.9 inches sidewall height on 7-inch wide rims with 10-14 mm offset
  • 255/70/R16 - 30.1 inches overall diameter, 10 inches tread width, 7 inches sidewall height on 7-inch wide rims

Although these Explorer models are well over 20 years old, some enthusiasts provided helpful options online for 2nd-generation Explorer tires.

Based on these enthusiasts, you can fit up to 31-inch tires on stock Explorers produced from 1991 to 2001. Here are some of the tire size options:

  • 31" x 10.5" x R15" - 31 inches overall diameter, 10.5 inches tread width, 8 inches sidewall height 
  • 265/75/R15 - 30.6 inches overall diameter, 10.4 inches tread width, 7.8 inches sidewall height  
  • 265/70/R16 - 30.6 inches overall diameter, 10.4 inches tread width, 7.3 inches sidewall height 
  • 245/75/R16 - 30.5 inches overall diameter, 9.6 inches tread width, 7.2 inches sidewall height 

Ford Explorer Tire Size 2013

The 3rd, 4th, and 5th generations of the Ford Explorer all used stock tires with only slight variations in overall diameter.

However, with larger wheel well designs, these succeeding generations offered progressively bigger stock rims and bigger tires compared to the 2nd generation.

  • 235/70/R16 - 29 inches overall diameter, 9.3 inches tread width, 6.5 inches sidewall height on 6.5-inch wide rims with 45-49 mm offset
  • 245/70/R16 - 29.5 inches overall diameter, 9.6 inches tread width, 6.8 inches sidewall height on 7-inch wide rims with 42-46 mm offset
  • 255/70/R16 - 30.1 inches overall diameter, 10 inches tread width, 7 inches sidewall height on 7-inch wide rims
  • 245/65/R17 - 29.5 inches overall diameter, 9.6 inches tread width, 6.3 inches sidewall height on 7.5-inch wide rims with 42-46 mm offset
  • 235/65/R18 - 30 inches overall diameter, 9.3 inches tread width, 6 inches sidewall height on 8-inch wide rims with 42-46 mm offset
  • 245/60/R18 - 29.6 inches overall diameter, 9.6 inches tread width, 5.8 inches sidewall height on 8-inch wide rims with 42-46 mm offset
  • 255/50/R20 - 30 inches overall diameter, 10 inches tread width, 5 inches sidewall height on 8.5-inch wide rims with 42-46 mm offset

According to many Explorer owners' forums and professional customizers, you can fit small 32-inch tires on stock models released up to 2020. Here are some of the tire upsizing options:

  • 265/75/R16 - 31.6 inches overall diameter, 10.4 inches tread width, 7.8 inches sidewall height on 7-inch wide rims with 42-46 mm offset
  • 265/70/R17 - 31.6 inches overall diameter, 10.4 inches tread width, 7.3 inches sidewall height on 7.5-inch wide rims with 42-46 mm offset
  • 265/65/R18 - 31.6 inches overall diameter, 10.4 inches tread width, 6.8 inches sidewall height on 8-inch wide rims with 42-46 mm offset
  • 275/55/R20 - 31.9 inches overall diameter, 10.8 inches tread width, 6 inches sidewall height on 8.5-inch wide rims with 42-46 mm offset

Ford Explorer Tire Size 2021

Launched in 2021, the 6th-generation Explorer offered bigger wheels and tires than ever before. Moreover, Ford also introduced the Trail-ready Timberline trim that came with a 0.5-inch suspension lift and bigger tires straight out of the factory.

Here are the wheel-and-tire options for the current Ford Explorer trims.

  • 255/65/R18 - 31.1 inches overall diameter, 10 inches tread width, 6.5 inches sidewall height on 7.5-inch wide rims with 35.5 - 39.5 mm offset
  • 265/65/R18 - (Timberline only) 31.6 inches overall diameter, 10.4 inches tread width, 6.8 inches sidewall height on 8-inch wide rims with 35.5 - 39.5 mm offset
  • 255/55/R20 - 31 inches overall diameter, 10 inches tread width, 5.5 inches sidewall height on 8.5-inch wide rims with 38 - 42 mm offset
  • 275/45/R21 - 30.7 inches overall diameter, 10.8 inches tread width, 4.9 inches sidewall height on 9-inch wide rims with 35.5 - 39.5 mm offset

Because the 6th-generation Explorer is still quite new in the market, not a lot of owners have been able to share their tire-upsizing projects online.

However, based on widely-accepted tire upsizing limits 0f 3% to 5%, we may assume that the Timberline trim can fit 32.6-inch tires while other trims can go as big as 32.1-inch tires.

  • 275/65/R18 - 32.1 inches overall diameter, 10.8 inches tread width, 7 inches sidewall height on 7.5-inch wide rims with 35.5 - 39.5 mm offset
  • 275/55/R20 - 31.9 inches overall diameter, 10.8 inches tread width, 6 inches sidewall height on 8.5-inch wide rims with 42-46 mm offset
  • 255/60/R20 - 32 inches overall diameter, 10 inches tread width, 6 inches sidewall height on 8.5-inch wide rims with 42-46 mm offset
  • 275/50/R21 - 31.8 inches overall diameter, 10.8 inches tread width, 5.4 inches sidewall height on 9-inch wide rims with 35.5 - 39.5 mm offset

Ford Explorer Timberline Tires

FORD Ranger Wildtrak.

Here are the possible tire upsizing options for the 6th-generation Ford Explorer Timberline trim.

  • 285/65/R18 - (Timberline only) - 32.6 inches overall diameter, 11.2 inches tread width, 7.3 inches sidewall height on 7.5-inch wide rims with 35.5 - 39.5 mm offset
  • 265/70/R18 - (Timberline only) - 32.6 inches overall diameter, 10.4 inches tread width, 7.3 inches sidewall height on 7.5-inch wide rims with 35.5 - 39.5 mm offset

What Do The Numbers Mean On A Tire?

As you may already know, you can find your tire's size specifications printed on its sidewalls. However, not all vehicle owners may know what these specific codes mean. Let's use one of the Ford Explorer's stock tire sizes (265/65/R8) to explain.

  • 265 is the tire's width in millimeters.
  • 65 is the tire's aspect ratio, which means that the tire's sidewall height is 65% of its tread width.
  • R18 means that the tire uses radial construction and fits around an 18-inch rim.

Do remember, however, that a tire's actual size may not be exactly as printed by the manufacturer. Different designs and tread patterns may cause a slight size difference between tires that have the same size codes.

To make sure that the new tires will fit, you may need to measure them before purchasing.

Why Should I Upsize My Tires?

Ford Explorer V Restyling 2 wheel, rim, tire.

Upsizing your vehicle's tires is probably one of the easiest and most affordable ways to improve your vehicle's looks while also improving some of its driving characteristics.

Keep in mind, however, that bigger tires have advantages and corresponding disadvantages.

Taller tires increase a vehicle's ground clearance, approach, and departure angles, as well as its maximum wading depth. With taller tires, your vehicle can drive over higher obstacles in both urban and off-road settings.

Wider tires increase your vehicle's traction, resulting in better vehicle control or handling. Better traction allows you to drive more safely over slippery surfaces such as sand, snow, and mud. Wider tires also make your vehicle more stable at highway speeds and during fast cornering maneuvers.

Of course, you can upsize to bigger and wider tires as long as your wheel well and suspension system have enough clearance. Moreover, you also have to be prepared for some drawbacks, such as:

  • Higher replacement cost 
  • Slower acceleration 
  • Heavier steering 
  • Decreased fuel efficiency 
  • Inaccurate speed readings

At the end of the day, you will have to make a few calculated decisions on whether you should upsize your stock tires or not. If you do upsize your tires, try to stay within 3% to 5% of your stock tire's size to minimize the disadvantages.  

How Much Is A Brand New Explorer?

Are you interested in being a proud owner of America's all-time best-selling SUV?  Here are the starting prices of the different trims of the 2023 Ford Explorer.

  • Base - $ 36,760
  • XLT - $ 38,570
  • ST-Line - $ 46,005
  • Limited - $ 47,070
  • Timberline - $ 48,980
  • ST - $ 50,005
  • Platinum - $ 53,820
  • King Ranch - $ 54,075

These prices are accurate as of January 2023.

Wrapping Up

FORD SUV car front of FORD off-road, on the rock with morning time sunrine

The largest tire you can fit on a stock Ford Explorer depends on the vehicle's model year and trim. For Explorers released between 1991 and 2001, you can fit up to 31-inch tires.

On the other hand, 2001 up to current models can accommodate tires approximately 32 inches in diameter.

Finally, the Timberland trim can probably fit 32.6-inch tires without any modifications needed.

Thank you very much for reading through. We hope that we were able to guide you on the recommended tire upsizing options for a stock Ford Explorer.

For more interesting reads about tire upsizing and other automotive topics, do check out these other articles.

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Can You Use Tires With Different Aspect Ratio Or Tread?

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