Replacing 16.5" wheels and tires on vans and motorhomes
A frequently asked question by owners of 1970's and 1980's full size vans and motorhomes with outdated 16.5" rims is what to do about buying new tires. This is especially a problem for Dodge/Plymouth models. It may also apply to Ford and Chevrolet/GMC models.
I wrote this informational page as a result of owning a 1978 Dodge B300 (1 ton) Xplorer 228 class B motorhome that still had the original 16.5" wheels. Many others with similar motorhomes run into the same problem of 16.5" wheels. While the tires for 16.5" rims can still be purchased new, they cost nearly twice as much, must be special ordered, and you may not be able to get road hazard coverage on them. Who wants to wait a week or two for a replacement tire and pay twice as much?
By following the steps below, you can replace your 16.5" wheels with 16" wheels that will use less expensive and more common 16" truck tires that most any tire store should carry in stock.
(Sorry about that folks.. but I felt I had to include a disclaimer in case somebody out there thinks they can skip step 1 below)
Step 1: Getting new rims
You will need to replace the 16.5" wheels with 16" ones. There's no way around this if you want to use 16" tires. They are cheap and plentiful at salvage yards. The price can range anywhere from $10 to $25 each, so it pays to shop around if you aren't in a hurry.
If you own a Dodge/Plymouth:
Ford or Dodge 16 inch, 8 lug (5.5" bolt parttern) steel wheels will fit and work safely. Chevy/GMC ones won't work, the center bore is too small.
If you own a Ford:
Get Ford 16 inch, 8 lug (5.5" bolt parttern) steel wheels. These seem to the most common and easiest to find. I'm not sure if Dodge ones will fit. They have a slightly smaller center bore. They seem harder to come by anyway. Chevy/GM ones won't work, the center bore is too small.
If you own a Chevy/GMC:
Chevy, Ford or Dodge 16 inch, 8 lug (5.5" bolt parttern) steel wheels should work okay but your results may very. Ford and Dodge rims have a larger center bore.
Step 2: Lug nut type
When I replaced the rims on my van, I found that the lug holes seemed larger and the lug nuts that I had were not fitting properly. After buying a second set of used rims (that I could not return) thinking the problem was in the first ones, Then I realized the problem was that my van had crummy, undersized lug nuts.
You can get used lug nuts dirt cheap... or sometimes even FREE if ask for them when get them with the rims. They're so plentiful and worthless.. not many people go to salvage yards for lug nuts. They are pretty expensive new and they don't really go bad unless the thread gets damaged. With 8 lug wheels, you will need 32 of them total. At about $2-3 each new, it adds up very quickly. So save your money and get used ones. Just take one of your old lug nuts to compare threads with when you go and say you want ones from a truck.
Step 3: Getting new tires
The replacment tire size used on Chevy/GMC, Ford and Dodge/Plymouth van models that previously used 16.5" wheels is 225/75R16.
I highly recommend getting LT225/75R16 tires, NOT P225/75R16 tires. "LT" tires are "light truck" tires with thicker ply and stiffer sidewalls than "P" passenger vehicle rated tires. "P" tires are for mini vans, not a 3/4 to 1 ton vans!
As of the writing of this page, LT225/75R16 tire prices start around $125 each. I went with slightly pricer Dunlop Rover H/T tires, purchased from Sears with road hazard coverage.
The tire dealer you decide to use should have no problems installing your new tires to 16" wheels you bring in. Reputable tire shops legally(?) must refuse to install 16" tires on 16.5" wheels because it's so dangerous. Simply mention 16.5" rims and they will perk up and will be itching to say 16" tires cannot be put on 16.5" rims. So you will need to have replacement rims at the ready when you go in to purchase your new tires.
I suggest not buying tires (or anything for that matter..) from Wal-Mart. If you special order tires through site-to-store, they may charge you mounting fees depsite the signs saying free mounting for tires bought from Wal-Mart. They may also try to claim you cannot get road hazard which is false, and charge you for it and HAND WRITE it on the receipt that you have road hazard coverage and give you nothing printed saying so. Oh, and they expect YOU to haul the tires from the site-to-store desk to the auto center. One 225/75R16 tire will fill a Wal-mart shoppping cart. You get what you pay for. Prices may be a little cheaper but the service is lousy.
In the immortal words of Porky Pig, that's all folks!