All About 16" Wheels and Tires And The CV-900

By Derek Drew

derekdrew AT


New York, NY and Washington, DC

, Updated February 24, 2008

This article contains information of interest to any wheel buyer for Vanagon / T3 or VW Syncro with an engine in the back, whether that wheel is 15" or 16" and also information on selecting tires for these wheels. In addition, it also contains information on the only perfect 16" and how to get one, and lots of great links.

Since this document is longer than I had originally intended, be advised that it covers:

1.         Important technical discussions that have nothing to do with these wheels but on wheels and tires generally for Vanagon and Vanagon Syncro.

2.         Important technical discussions about choosing tires for Vanagon and Vanagon Syncro

3.         Load bearing rating discussion in wheel and tire choices

4.         Optimal ET discussion for Vanagon and Vanagon Syncro

5.         How to order and take deliver of the CV-900

6.         New pictures of the CV-900

7.         Discussion of suitable tire sizes for various types of owners


Me dressed like a --slobby -- typical Vanagon owner at Mid-Atlantic fest next to the wheel below

The blue van in the background is Tom Forhan's.


Be advised that I have made progress with manufacturers on obtaining a batch of "perfect" Vanagon wheels in 16" size. The manufacturer introduced these wheels early this year, but listed them as not fitting Vanagon / T3 and so nobody realized the breakthrough. I have corrected their understanding.

Because the ET is 30, longer studs would not be needed. No spacers or adapters of any kind would be needed. The center caps / hubcaps are included as well, and for most users who need them, I have lugnuts and/or studs at no extra charge. These facts lower the all-in costs of this wheel significantly.

Also, the wheel is a light alloy wheel specifically manufactured for the purpose of off-road driving and being installed on heavy van conversions so it is stronger than other wheels we have discussed except possibly the T4 ET48 wheel (900kg rating), which, of course, has entirely the wrong offset and requires a somewhat massive spacer.

The manufacturer, which focuses among other things in making wheels for vehicles of Styer Daimler Puch that are used off the road, initially turned me away, but after some spirited and persuasive and lengthy emails, they are turning to our cause, and I would say, actually becoming excited.

This is a WORLDWIDE solution, and the only solution of its kind for 16" wheels that I have seen in any country, on any web site, or in any email.

As for 15" wheels, I regard that as largely solved by the South African 15" wheels, which I view as satisfying all the requirements we need in a 15" size so 15" was not the problem. (The best source of South African 15" wheels before March 18, 2002, is Bill Kasper at and after that date it is unclear, but you could try our John Wessels at or send me an email.)

Specs for the new 16" wheel are:

66 center bore

5 x 112

14mm stud holes


16" x 6.5" width

900KG rating (Incredibly strong)

21 lbs (light weight attractive alloy)

Price $230 per wheel


-- at just 5.5 inches wide it is too narrow for many tires (if you have one, consider having Stockton Wheel make it wider for you).

-- it has been discontinued

-- it is expensive

-- it is heavy

-- it is an ordinary steel wheel (although very strong)


The width advantage of these 16" CV-900 wheels is that:

-- the 6.5" width is better than wider widths such as 7" or 7.5" or 8" that may cause the rubber of the tire to rub against the sliding door, suspension components, or wheelwells. 7" appears to be OK, 7.5" is troublesome, but 6.5" seems best. For more reading on this, see Wolfgang's incredibly informative wheel article at

-- the 6.5" width is better suited than narrower widths such 6" or the horrendous 5.5" factory width since some tires such as 245/75/16 require 6.5" or larger, and most of the other tires which are rated to go on 6" rims will be sit better on a 6.5" rim due to that being more to the center of their seat range.

-- the 6.5" width better matches the available sizes of beadlocks availalbe from tireloc so from that perspective it is superior to 7" width if thinking of adding this type of beadlockers later.


-- the ET of 30 is pretty much a perfect balance of fit concerns for large size tires (reference the work of Wolfgang at  and also jens 16syncro regarding 245/70/16) and also from a theoretical perspective in minimizing bearing wear. You can go with smaller ETs such as ET25, but then you will

1) experience increased dirt thrown up on the side of the vehicle (vehicle dirty after going through one puddle)

2) be moving away from the factory's choice of ET30 for its alloy wheels in both 14" and 15" sizes with consequent unknown issues in regards to increased bearing wear, and

3) are more likely to hit your wheelwells with large size tires and/or wheelwell flares. You can also safely go up to higher ETs such as ET35 or even higher, but this will move the wheel close to the body of the vehicle, introducing increased chance of the wheel hitting the body or rear trailing arms or being unable to mount snow chains.

The range of wheels from the factory had ET30 and up, so the possible effect of using ET23 upon premature bearing wear is unknown


This wheel's coating, which is a kind of hard slippery plasticy paint material, will resist the accumulation of brake dust, and so preserve a better appearance, according to manufacturer statements. California's HR Seth, among others, has pointed out that the superior South African brakes seem to have a problem in the brake dust area--making the wheels dirty--which problem we have not entirely solved yet. Seth suggests switching to alternate brake pads, whereas I see that there are now devices on the market to physically block the dust from coming out that side of the wheel. Possibly these wheels will help, but whether that is true is unknown.


Collecting wheel weight data in one place. I found

-- 18lbs regular factory alloy rim

-- 21lbs the CV-900

-- 23lbs South Africa 15" steel wheel (according to John Wessels)

-- 23lbs South Africa 15" alloy wheel (according to Eric Abercrombie)

-- 28lbs Factory 16" Steel Wheel (according to Eric Abercrombie)

-- 35lbs for a Stockton steel wheel in 16" size (

Lightness helps preserve lower unsprung weights when loading on extra lbs with upgraded brakes and tire sizes, and so is a significant benefit. Select a wheel/tire combination too heavy, and you may have to also change your shocks to a heavier duty type.

The CV-900 is is lighter than either of the 15" 23lb South African wheels by two pounds, and seven pounds lighter than the too narrow 5.5" factory Volkswagen 16" steel wheel manufactured for Vanagon Syncro 16" version.


The wheels were custom manufactured to our needs. Among other elements, the depth of the cone seats were increased for us to a custom depth so that most Vanagon studs would be able to be used without modification or replacement, the bore was custom manufactured, the holes were drilled to 14mm, and the ET was set at 30.


The wheels are manufactured by the company Wolfgang mentions in his article at as making wheels which are then modified by Off Road Center Meisen or Sport und GelE4ndewagentecnik in Germany so they fit the Vanagon. The company's name is CW Fahrzeugtecnik, which has an association with Borbet, and a history of making strong and off-road optimized wheels. The CV-900 was introduced subsequent to the publication of Wolfgang's article. For various technical reasons the CV-900 is a superior choice to the wheel Wolfgang mentions, and to many eyes looks better too. CW Fahrzeugtecnik cooperated with me in making tests and machining modifications into the CV-900 to fit our vehicles.


The CV-900's 900kg rating is higher than any other wheel for which we have load bearing ratings discussed in Vanagon circles except for the new T4 wheel, which also carries a 900kg rating, but which as I have previously discussed, has the wrong offset, is heavy, and requires fairly massive spacers. I judge the offset of ET48 or ET53 as so far off I am a little surprised to see it being used for Vanagon / T3 at all. Such is the desperation to find a suitable 16" wheel that we have so far faced that people are pressing into service such huge spacers along with heavy wheels.

Audi wheels are reported on European Vanagon-equivalent listserves to have kg ratings of 590kg (1290lbs x 4 … 5160lbs total), and so, depending on the wheel, can be dubious choices when their total load bearing capacity is several hundred lbs less than our vehicles are rated to run, at, in the case of the syncro, 5,500lbs. Some listmembers have had good results with Audi wheels, and surely not all have such a low rating, but this information does give one pause about selecting an Audi rim without knowing its actual load rating. At this time, pending further information, it may be advisable to think twice about Audi rims for that reason.

While 900kg is spectacular, numbers above about 750kgs are probably acceptable but the stronger the better. The CV-900 is TUV approved for such heavy vehicles as the M-Class Mercedes, Toyota Landcruisers, British Landrovers, and even the giant Mercedes Freightliner / Sprinter vans that Fedex now uses  .

Q. Derek,

How do you determine the load rating of a wheel?

A. It is hard to get because, while these ratings exist, most people you can find to ask won't know or they will make up a number to try to make you go away.

The number is supposed to be registered with TUV in Europe, I think, but I had very spotty results in trying to get the numbers, more often getting the response, "It should be strong enough" which I interpreted as "Please go away; we have no idea."

My Web site refers $300,000 annually of wheel and tire purchases to Tire Rack, for example, so I had some pull there to get the real answers. But I was dismayed to find that the big North American web sites where you can go and buy wheels admitted to me that they had no idea the KG rating that applied to the wheels they sell, and list wheels mostly based on bolt pattern and ET or because the manufacturer says the wheel fits that particular car.

Sometimes even the manufacturers seem to be just eyeballing their wheels before making application recommendations. I found one manufacturer who told me his wheels were suitable for Vanagon Syncro but when I went back to Tire Rack they said "no way" on that particular wheel -- not strong enough, but could offer no supporting detail.

So some of this devolves to voo-doo and misinformation.

A tip off that a wheel is suitable for heavy vehicles is if the manufacturer promotes the wheel as being suitable for off-road use and/or heavy van conversions. That's how I found the CV-900 -- that the wheel was being promoted for *both* of those purposes.

When I finally drilled down to somebody at the manufacturer who had the number it turned out to be 900kg and I knew we finally had something significant there.

KG ratings for VW wheels are apparently obtainable, as we know the T4 wheel we have spoken of in the past has a 900kg rating (though an undesirable offset).

We have not obtained the KG rating for the 15" South African wheels. But because VW offers these specifically for the South African Vanagon (Kombi or whatever you want to call it) I believe it is probably safe to assume the wheel has an adequate KG rating without knowing the exact number.

Some of the Mercedes cars were heavier than Audi cars, so it is more likely to find a used Mercedes rim with sufficient KG rating. This information would be helpful if you are going to buy based on guessing... to veer toward Mercedes wheels as opposed to Audi but the extent to which this is true or not is unknown.

Mercedes M-Class rims also seem like they would be strong and would fit, but in interviews with and, executives admitted to me that the tires there for M-Class were NOT selected after checking their kilogram ratings, ratings these sellers do not know, but rather because the bolt pattern and offset were correct for that vehicle or because the manufacturer said to use them. In other words, just because a wheel is listed as fitting the M-Class, don't expect it to have been checked to see if it actually has a load bearing rating for either an M-Class or a loaded Vanagon. I encountered this information with the utmost dismay during my researches as in my view it cast question mark upon that entire class of rims. In any case, the M-class rims are typically wider than optimal at 7 inches and usually more, and have an undesirably high ET, although not as far off as the T4 rim.

So it would seem that we have something of a breakthrough in having 900kg rating, 21lbs weight, 5 x 112 bolt pattern, and ET30 with the CV-900. No other wheel has this combination of strength and light weight and correct fit. The strength may have benefited from its having been introduced only the last year or so, by which it has benefited from recent manufacturing design.


There is a current trend in the automotive industry to move to every larger and larger wheels. This is moving beyond the fad stage into a rage stage, and we are seeing SUVs coming out with 17" and even 20" wheels. The new wheels on the new VW microbus are extremely large, for instance. So partly the choice is a matter of personal taste, and how you like the look of either wheel.

Most importantly, the upgrade to EITHER size is advisable because either size enables upgrading to 15" brakes from South Africa, which brakes will not fit on 14" wheels. Also, there is a larger range of tires available in the 15" and 16" sizes than 14".

Note that 15" tires tend to be cheaper than 16" tires as a general rule, particularly in Europe. Also, particularly in the smaller diameter tires, the selection of 15" tires is greater than 16" tires, but this difference is being narrowed over time as the industry moves to larger size rims.

In any case, here is the guidance in the event that you have not already made up your mind: The 16" wheels will enable tires to be mounted with a shorter sidewall, and so will provide a benefit in sway resistance and on-road handling over the same 15" wheel. So if you have a two wheel drive vehicle, and / or rarely drive off the road, the 16" wheel is an advantage from the point of view of handling. The 16" wheel also better fits the very largest diameter tires than can go on syncro, so in the event that you contemplate upgrading to very large size tires, including upgrading your gearing to accommodate an off-road optimized vehicle, then the 16" wheel is a superior choice.

Some off-road oriented Vanagon owners may wish to stay with a 15" wheel, provided they are not switching to very large diameter tires, on the theory that a 15" wheel provides more sidewall to flex down in low air pressure situations for the purpose off road floation driving across swamps and other muddy areas. So there is a possibility, although it is speculation, that the 15" wheel is a better choice if you plan on off-road driving and plan on only a modest increase in tire size. This advantage may be slightly negated by the benefit of the increased strength of the 16" wheel vs. 15" but that advantage cannot be objectified because, although we know that the 16" wheel is rated at 900kg, we do not have the KG ratings of the South African competing 15" wheels.

In short, the 16" wheel is the performance choice for highway driving and for some users with off-road optimized vehicles, but the 15" wheels may be a better choice, at least in theory, for some users who want the most rubber to flatten out in an aired down situation (e.g., 18psi) on a muddy course, and who don't want to preserve a migration path to very large tires.


The pricing for the 16" Wheel is $230 per wheel plus local delivery in the USA. Local delivery will cost a maximum of $19 per wheel but less if you someplace other than the west coast. Below $19 shipping will be charged at actual cost, and there are now new lower rates through Federal Express Ground that beat UPS's best rates so we will use that. There are even lower cost solutions through Consolidated Freight and/or Forward Air that I am looking into. If you live in the New York City Washington DC axis, then I can most likely bring you your wheels to you or you can come get them. If you live in Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, or elsewhere in the world shipping will be charged at actual cost. Note that the shipping to European locations is minimal. I will be maintaining an inventory of spare wheels here in Washington DC in the event that you need to buy just one more.


If you would like to order this wheel, email me at derekdrew AT


When sending your payment, I will need to know if you will need strait cone style nuts and/or studs or whether you already have these. Mounting nuts and mounting studs, in addition to the hubcaps, are included in the price of the wheel, but only if you need these. Basically, you will need me to send you nuts and/or studs if you have the old style nuts and studs for metal wheels that don't have a strait cone pattern. Note that the SEAT of the wheel for the studs or nuts is the same strait cone pattern that we have on our factory 14" Alloy wheels. So if you have bought wheel locks for your 14" alloy wheel, you can most likely reuse those same wheel locks with the 16" wheel. Also, you can reuse your 14" alloy wheel nuts. Nuts and studs, for those who need them, are provided at no additional charge.


The CV-900s can be shipped to any country, including South Africa, England, Europe, or Australia. To inquire about shipping rates to these destinations, email me at derekdrew AT Shipping cost to a European destination is low but due to high expense of getting the certifications, official TUV pre-approval for using this wheel with Vanagon / T3 / Syncro has not been obtained. Since I don't understand the TUV process, I don't know how much of a pain it will therefore be to get an approval or what is required. The manufacturer says it does not plan on getting the approval because there are too few T3s around to justify the effort.


Ebay is an excellent source of wheels. However, be sure to check all the specs discussed in this email before buying such a set of wheels. There is an extremely high chance that a given wheel will initially look promising, but that the wheel will fail to have optimal offsets, KG ratings, bolt patterns, width, or some other parameter like ongoing availability. I looked for wheels on ebay for several months and eventually gave up.


Ronal wheels may work but for various reasons I decided to avoid them. You can see these at  . The two wheels are the R-28 or R36. But the R-28 is 7.5" wide …. a little too wide, in my view -- and there is a question about whether Gary Allison would be willing to supply them in ET30. In the past he has refused on the phone with me to consider any ET other than 20, for reasons that he won't discuss with me except to say with annoyance that any other offset won't fit and to add that he has no time to discuss it. (He is obviously wrong.)

The R-36 appears from an initial view to be apparently available only in ET0, which is absurdly low and Ronal should know better than to be offering these tires in this ET. Also, the KG ratings of these wheels are unknown. Ronal promotes their wheels on their website as having been shown to be stronger by TUV than some other wheels Ronal competes against, but when pressed, Ronal cannot supply any information to back up these claims and Gary Allison becomes annoyed again. On a surface impression, the CV-900 looks beefier than the R-28 or R-34 due to the CV-900's wide spokes. Until Ronal can cough up the test data it touts on its web site, it is not clear whether these claims have a solid basis or not. Pursuing these matters with Ronal is kind of fun because of the unique character of Gary Allison, who responds to serious technical inquiries about as welcomely as one would respond to a root canal. Additional of my comments about Ronal wheels appears in the archives here:


You can see GoWesty wheels at

All of those wheels are either 7" or 8" in width, wider that optimal in my view. The 7" width is probably OK, however. Unfortunately, only the 15" alloy wheel comes in 7" width and the 16" wheel comes in 8" width AD undesirably wide. Beyond width issues, the ET is not stated, and the KG rating is not stated and the prices are higher than for the CV-900 so I kept looking. GoWesty's alloy wheels appear to be cosmetically to be identical to some Mercedes wheels but I don't know where their wheels actually come from. Go Westy's judgement does not inspire confidence, however, since they promote use of a Michelin X-One tire with an entirely inadequate load bearing rating for Vanagon (see below for more on that issue).


You can buy a wheel with the correct specs but the wrong bolt pattern and then have new holes drilled in them 5x112 in certain circumstances. You can also buy wheels with 12mm stud holes and have then drilled out to 14mm in certain circumstances. For more information on this topic and some innovative approaches to buying wheels that don't fit and then making them fit, search the archives on Ben T's name: Ben T's name or email address BenTbtstr8@AOL.COM or see his website:  There are many strange and interesting approaches to wheels on that site. For a variety of reasons, however, I did not find that these approaches enabled me to achieve the specifications I wanted as discussed in this document, and so eventually I turned away from these solutions.


Ken Wify is a member of our group and a great service to the Vanagon community. If you go to and click on  he lists some Borbet wheels that looked interesting, but the specs on those wheels were either not quite ideal or information about them incomplete or their prices were higher than the CV-900, or actually all three of the above. For example, Key says all these wheels are so large they require a $199 sliding door extension.


I originally felt that I wanted a classical American beadlocker where a metal or special ring squeezes the tire and holds it tight against your rim.

I wanted this because in aired down situations I kept losing my tires off the van. From long use, I discovered that you need to keep your psi up around 18 in order to have a hope of keeping the tires on and even then sometimes the tire would come off in slushy muddy snow covered nasty bolder fields. Off-roaders sometimes speak of driving around at 8psi but I can assure you you cannot do this with your Vanagon under normal circumstances, at least not without beadlockers. Possibly they do this in snow or sand and I am driving through muddy boulder fields and that's why there is a difference in psi limits.

In any case, previously it seemed to me that metal style or ring style beadlockers would be a superior solution than what I derisively called the "plastic bag" solution of the tireloc, which sounded experimental in nature.

Since then I have had a complete change of heart. In particular, after about 10 hours or reading and research I was astounded to learn that traditional beadlockers are unsafe, illegal, leak, require constant maintenance, and will get you a ticket from the police in many states. Moreover, the beadlocker screws unscrew themselves over time and your wheel eventually can fly off on the highway and that they are constantly in need of retightening and you still often cannot be sure of eliminating all the leaks. You can see my short report on this finding here:

For more information about the tireloc, see:

Basically, the tireloc has none of the disadvantages of a traditional beeadlocker, and has the advantages that it is a smaller inner inflated tire, essentially, so it offers double protection against smashing impacts to your wheel that might bend a rim of a vehicle not having a tireloc. I have bent several rims, so this is a particular concern of mine.

After thinking this over, I have come to the view that the quality the tireloc offers of protecting your rim may be as important or more important than its role as a beadlocker. The tireloc is so tough, that for a short distance, you can actually drive on the tireloc alone as your only source of inflation, although, of course, your VC won't like it.

In any case, I got 40 of the beadlockers from the manufacturer and can send these out with the wheels. The beadlockers are $150 per wheel. They are expected to be in stock and ready for shipping in Spring of 2008.


The best general purpose tire to get for the CV-900 for North American vehicles with stock factory gearing is the Nokian Hakkapeliitta CS tire in size 205/65/16. The 205/65/16 tire is rated for mounting on a 6.5 inch rim, has an incredible load index of 105/107, and, although it is classified as a winter tire, it uses a year-round rubber compound so it is well suited to year-round use. It has 790 revolutions per mile and looks like this: . There are many other possible tires however, and the somewhat laborious information below goes into all the details. Before buying one of these other tires, you will want to make sure that those other tires compare favorably to the Hakka CS mentioned above.


Another possibility is to use the Nokian all season tire in size 225/60/16 (I think it is the WR model and/or NRW). These are 26.6" in diameter, have a tread width of 9", an excellent load bearing of 98, can be pumped up to 44 psi, and have 782 revolutions per mile--the same as the BF Goodrich All Terrain Radial that many Vanagon owners run with stock gearing. Another short answer tire is the Dunlup SP Sport 9000 size 225 / 60WR/16 which has a 98 load bearing rating 51psi inflation pressure, mounts on 6.5" rims and has 783 revolutions per mile. Dennis Haynes mounted a Wrangler HP in size 215/65R16 on the CV-900 and he says the result is good. Dennis has a syncro with stock North American 4.86 gearing and a stock 2.1L motor. The tire Dennis chose has a revolutions per mile of 770, which is a mite low for a stock geared vehicle, so on the surface, the Nokian with 790 revolutions per mile indicated above would be a better choice unless you are after more ground clearance.

You may also benefit from looking at a personal tire selection worksheet I had on my hard drive which I put here for your convenience:

For normal Vanagon owners who do not plan to change their factory final drive gears and who do not drive off the road or desire additional 4th gear ultimate top speed or additional ground clearance, I recommend using a tire size that will run about the same number of revolutions per mile as the factory original tires. This will preserve stock gearing characteristics. The traditional factory original tires were the Michelin MXLs with 819 revolutions per mile in size 205/70/14. The equivalent 16" tire would also have about 819 revolutions per mile.

Ronal USA suggests a tire in size 205/55-16. The BF Goodrich Touring tire in that size runs 839 revolutions per mile, which is in the ballpark of the OEM 14" tire in revolutions per mile but slightly small in diameter / height in my view. Another size that would provide similar gearing, although with slightly worse acceleration, would be 225/60/16 (782 revs per mile). This size is the same revolutions per mile as 27 x 8.50/14 that many of us run and a good bet.

Go Westy sells a Michelin X-ONE tire in size 215/60-16 (providing an ideal 805 revs per mile) and Michelin also lists a 215/65/16 X-ONE that provides a little more ground clearance and worse acceleration at 782 revolutions per mile so look into tires of those two sizes as well. The only trouble is that the Michelin X-ONE that Go Westy promotes has a load bearing rating of only 1477 according to a chart I saw at Michelin's web site. If I did not miss something, that tire is therefore mostly unacceptable for Vanagon. The tire with 782 revolutions per mile has slightly better load bearing rating of 1565 so I might go for that one notwithstanding the hit in the acceleration dept over the one that Go Westy recommends. See additional comments below about load bearing ratings for tires. You can see the two Michelin tires just discussed at

and other Michelins at their web site.

Note that there were reportedly some Dunlop tires in size 225/55-16 which carried adequate load bearing rating for Vanagon but I am not sure whether their revolutions per mile were in the desirable range. There is a Dunlop tire in size P225/60R16 which runs 839 revolutions per mile and is load index 97 rated – sufficient for Vanagon or Vanagon Syncro – called the D65 which you can see at In addition, there is apparently a Dunlop tire in that same size which is reinforced and is used with the VW Eurovan. I am not sure what tire that is, or whether it is the D65 or not. Dunlop also makes the SP 40 A/S which runs 786 revolutions per mile and can be seen at the end of this page . That tire has a load index of 97, which is sufficient for Vanagon.

Yokahama makes a spectacular tire in size P245/50R16 called the Avid H4V4 that has just enough load bearing rating to be considered (1576lbs) and inflates to just enough psi to be considered (44psi.). Part of the reason I call it spectacular because it is relatively wide, a good choice if you plan a 200hp motor and plan to race your Vanagon on a Indianapolis style paved track—a size one would expect more likely to see on a Corvette/Vanagon hybrid but it just might work great. Not sure about that. Information about that tire is here: The revolutions per mile is 811 basically exactly stock. There is an Avid T4 tire in that same size with similar characteristics at Yokahama.

Ben T runs 205/75/16 on his vehicle, and seems pleased with this size.

Factory stock 16" sizes are 205R16 95R or 6.50R16PR10XCL or 195R16, according to Rainer.

David Marshall says running 225/60 16 size tires did not rob his van of too much power and he was happy with them.

In any case, when shopping for a tire for 16" rim and stock geared van, I would recommend almost *any* size that is between a width of 195 and 235 which results in revolutions per mile between about 782 and 830. You can go outside these revs per mile ranges by another 10 to 20 revs per mile without ill effects that are too pronounced, but there *will* be ill effects either in an acceleration hit or a top speed hit. Before closing, it is important when picking your tire to select one that has adequate load bearing rating for the Vanagon. Such tires typically, but not always, are called Light Truck tires, have extra plys in the sidewalls, and usually inflate to 50psi instead of 35psi. Try to make sure your wheel is rated at 1600lbs and over if it is a regular tire and 1500 lbs and over if it is a BF Goodrich All Terrain Radial. There is more to this subject in the archives and further below. Sidewall stiffness in a 16" wheel is probably vastly less important than sidewall stiffness in a 14" wheel, so possibly the 16" area is less sensitive territory.

So in short, for vehicles that don't intend to change their gears from stock, you should survey tires in sizes between 205 and 235 or 245 with aspect ratios of approximately 50 through 65, as in:










...while checking the revolutions per mile information discussed above and shooting for about 800 (782 through 830) and checking the load bearing rating. If preserving stock acceleration ability and hill climbing ability is important to you, then narrow the advice above toward a slightly narrower range of, say, 795 revolutions per mile through about 830.

In a very large size, such as 235, you may even want to check a 45 series tire or 40 series (very squat), but I did not do that research so I don't know the resultant revolutions per mile nor whether such tires exist.. One final check will have to be undertaken to finalize your choice of tire, which is to make sure it is rated for a rim of 6.5 inches in with, but most tires meeting these specs will meet this rating.

Here is a tire with great specs:


PS:  I located a tire by michelin MXV4 Plus 235 60R 16  26.9 " diameter load rating of 1764 @44, 778 RPMile @ 45MPH, the tire has a 100H  service description and costs about 605.00 mounted and balanced throught 4 day tire in Redondo Beach, CA. 


What do you think?


778 is pretty good revs per mile and if you mean that the load bearing rating is 100 then this seems like a great tire choice. I think if you look again you may find that the tire has 772 revs per mile instead of 778, but that difference is not significant.


I approve. Will add your find to the article.


If were *me* picking a tire for my own use with a 16" wheel, but without gearing changes, I might break the above rules and pick a tire in size 215/70/16 that would run 747 revolutions per mile (Bridgestone AT) or 743 revolutions per mile (BF Goodrich All Terrain Radial -- my favorite tire and popular with other Syncroists for both on and off road use). Such tires would come with a significant performance hit vs. 819 revolutions per mile, but have the advantage of higher top speed capability and increased ground clearance for better off-roading ability. Your wife, when driving such a tire up hills in the mountains with stock gears, will drum her fingers on the dashboard, and think that the motor is *really* underpowered. You'd then be thinking about motor upgrades. The size recommendation contained in this paragraph will be preferred mostly only by those who use their syncro as an adventure vehicle off road and wish extra ground clearance. If that does not apply to you, a more normal tire size as described above is probably a better bet. Note that this size, 742 revolutions per mile, is basically the same revolutions per mile as 215/75r15. This is the largest size of 15" tires that owners without gearing changes should normally run so. The size 215/70/16 is the same size as that so it too is probably the biggest you can get away with without changing your gears.


There seem to be many Nokian tires that fit the Vanagon with 16" wheels quite well and that have various heavy duty load ratings. You can see these at


Possible Best Nokian For Stock Geared Car


Nokian has a very good looking year-round tire that has good specs for size for stock geared vans and also great load bearing rating called the Hakkapeletta CQ which will be out in July 2002 with huge load rating of 104-107 in these two excellent sizes:


Size     Ply Rating/ Load Index                                                           


205/65R16      C 106/104Q    Available 07/2002

215/65R16      C 107/105Q    Available 07/2002


Moderately High Load Rating Regular Tire -- Looks Good, Available Now


Among the tires there that fit are the Nokian WR All Weather SUV tire in size 215/65/16 which has more than adequate load index at load index 98.


Winter Tire


Another good winter tire choice would be the Hakkapeliitta 10 C in size 195/75R16 with an 8 ply rating and 27.6" tall but you are obviously not trying to get a winter tire right now.

 104 to 116.


Studdable Tire


There is also the Hakkapeletta C2 with truly extraordinary load index ratings of 104 to 116 depending on how you read the chart. The C2 is a studdable tire for all weather use.


Size     Load Index       Overall Diameter                                            


205/65R16 *    C 107/105T     Available 07/2002

215/65R16*     C 106/104T     Available 07/2002


The CS model has two interesting tires in sizes 205R16 and 215/75R16 but neither of these are probably going to provide optimal gearing results with a stock-geared van.


For your purposes to retain stock gearing, sticking with a tire that is 26" tall is probably the best but you could go up to another half inch from that without noticing it too much. So I would find out the height of the above tires and see which are closer to 26" than 27". Better yet, get the revolutions per mile data.


Note From Curt ---------------------------------------------------------------------

Hi Derek,


I saw the conversations below.   I might clarify something about the Nokians.  The C2, CQ and CS tires are all "Commercial" tires.  They are a new line to Nokian.  The CQ is a true "studdless" snow tire with a special soft ice compound rubber with an aggressive tread and siping pattern.  I am running and testing a new set of 14" CQ's now.  So far, they have been handling everything I can throw at them...  I go out of my way to brake and accelerate on ice as a test, and so far, I have to use extreme braking to get the tires to slip. I'm very pleased!!


The Q model is the passenger version of the CQ and from what I have heard, the Q Nokian is now tested as the best ice / snow tire on the market, even beating out the Michelin Artic Alpin on ice.  The Q series is better in deep snow with it's more agressive tread and pattern.  The CQ has the same tread and rubber in a Commercial weight tire.


The C2  has a similar tread pattern in a tougher rubber designed to accept studs. With studs, it should probably outperform the CQ in certain situations and without studs, it can be used as an all-season tire.


The CS is listed as an all-season tire with a tread pattern closer to the CQ but with a different rubber designed to last longer and for all year use.


I would choose the CS for Summer use and if you are not a skier or don't like to push the limits in snow and ice.   However, I just noticed that the size I was considering (195/75R16C 107/105Q NOKIAN HAKKAPELIITTA CS) at 27.5" diameter was meant to go on a 5" to 6" rim


It seems that the next sizes up will go on a 6.5" rim, but they are both larger in diameter than the BFG you like.


I am assuming that you should not use a tire rated for 5.5" to 6" rims on a 6.5" rim.  Do you know any different?


Feel free to forward any of this to anyone you like.




From: "Curt Long" X-Originating-IP: X-Yahoo-Profile: uni_r1 Mailing-List: list; contact Delivered-To: mailing list List-Unsubscribe: Date: Fri, 03 Oct 2003 07:29:12 -0000 Subject: [Syncro] Heads up - Nokian Tire photos added to Files In case anyone is interested, I added a few photos of 2 different sets of Nokian Snow tires to the Files Section of the Yahoo Syncro section. Not in the photo section, in the files section with the other wheels and tires. The 14" model shown is the CQ model or the Studdless Snow/Ice tire. The 16" model shown is the CS model or the All-Season version of the CQ with a tougher rubber but identical tread pattern. Both are Commercial grade "D" rated tires and are the best tires I've ever had on a Bus or Vanagon. The 14" CQ's can carry 2,098 pounds per tire at 65 PSI and the 16" CS's can carry 2,149 pounds per tire at 70 PSI. I run between 40 and 60 PSI depending upon the situation and load. The 14" CQ's are 26.2" in diameter and create a perfect speedometer rating.. GPS and Speedometer are matched. The 16" 195/R75 16C CS models are 27.5" in diameter and create a speedometer error of about +3 mph at indicated 60 mph. As far as traction goes, the CQ is better on wet ice or ice near the freezing point. Ice below 20 degrees F, and it's hard to tell the difference. In snow, I could not tell any difference. They both are absolutely awesome for Winter driving and the CS model is great all year and rock steady in the wind and around corners at 54 front and 58 rear PSI with my fully loaded Westy Syncro. The 14" CQ tires were also great all year, but wear faster in the Summer. Maybe a little spendy at apx $100 per tire, (I paid $103 per tire for the 14" and $97 per tire for the 16") but cheap when you figure out what a trip in the ditch will cost ya. Over all and for all around use, I like these tires much better than my BFG TA's


Hi Derek, I was reading your CV900 information on the Syncro / Yahoo site and saw the old quote from me about the Nokian tires..... "The CS is listed as an all-season tire with a tread pattern closer to the CQ but with a different rubber designed to last longer and for all year use. I would choose the CS for Summer use and if you are not a skier or don't like to push the limits in snow and ice. However, I just noticed that the size I was considering (195/75R16C 107/105Q NOKIAN HAKKAPELIITTA CS) at 27.5" diameter was meant to go on a 5" to 6" rim" Well, I went ahead and bought the 195/75R16C CS models mentioned above. Turns out they fit the 6.5" wheels just fine with no ill effects. I discussed the width specs with the guys at before I ordered them and they indicated that 0.5" difference would be ok especially since the wheel was larger and not smaller. I have been driving on them for the last 9 months and can say that they are a superior choice for all-season use if you don't mind the 27.5" diameter. They are probably the best choice so far for one tire all year for my Syncro. I take a hit on climbing hills in 4th, but of course, shifting down to 3rd I get a higher speed before red line in 3rd that just about makes up the difference. With this load rating and the narrower profile of these tires, I have noticed superb stability in cross-winds... almost no effect. I just finished a trip through some heavy cross-wind that was gusty too from different directions. It was satisfying to see other VW and American Vans dancing around while I was rock-steady! Also, the snow traction is just as good as the CQ model Nokian. The Ice performance is almost as good. I am able to slip the tires a little more on wet ice than I was able to do with the CQ ice compound tires. However, in really cold conditions (below 25 degrees F), there is less difference on ice. For some reason, Nokian didn't release the CS model in a 65 series size. They did in the CQ and C2 models, but the CQ is too soft for good wear all year and the C2 uses a tread pattern that has less siping and tougher rubber to hold studs. If they ever release the CS model in a series 65 16" tire, I think I could finally say I found the Perfect Syncro tire for stock gearing. Oh yes, for some strange reason, my rear hub caps have started to settle into the wheel on their own... Maybe some Hub Cap ferries are taking care of me..??? ;-) Later, Curt Long

End Note From Kurt---------------------------------------------------


-- If it were *me* buying a tire I would probably buy the BF Goodrich 215/70/16 All Terrain Radial which I am SURE is a very adequate tire for this purpose from the point of view of strength. However, I might go with the Nokians in order to get the load rating up and the gear ratio down. Not sure what I would do. The Nokians look better the more I look at them.

If you already have or are planning alternate final drive gears, such as 5.43, 5.86, or 6.17, then tire size recommendations will be different. The sweet setup in those cases are for 6.17 final drive gears plus tires in one of the following sizes.

Revs/Mile Size Tire Height

680      245/75R16      30.6

682      215/85R16      30.5

707      225/75r16        29.4

715      235/70R16      29.1

730  225/70r16  28.5

Due to strengthened ties to South Africa, the ratio 5.43 is becoming more practical and inexpensive but a smaller upgrade than 6.17. Steve Schwenk is going the 5.43 route right now and we shall watch his progress.

When planning to use one of the above very large tires, you will need to research gears to match, and are advised to check:

Doing so will get your mind going on the subject. If you feel a bit overwhelmed by the data there, email me with questions and I should be able to run numbers on your particular case to see what makes sense and what does not. When looking to source parts or service for any of the above gear change operations, email me at derekdrew AT and I can get you most of the parts at less cost than other vendors and also steer you to transmission rebuilders specializing in this area.



The Syncro Westy of 1987 called for minimum load index (L.I.) of 97. Later models have been reported to call for 99 minimum on 14x5.5" rims and 107 for 14x6" rims.

Here is a chart of load index (L.I.) ratings:

97 730kg 1609-1652 pounds

99 775kg 1709-1763 pounds

107 975kg 2149-2200 pounds

Reinforced sidewalls are extremely important for Vanagons because their high center of gravity and narrow track puts excessive forces on the sidewalls! (Stand up and lean to one side and then imagine what would happen if your bones/ligaments etc were "mushy"!)

Some list members reported 'cracks in the sidewalls' -- that is why it happens. The folks at Michelin have had more than a few of the wrong tires on Vanagons returned to them with cracked sidewalls, which can (and I don't want to be alarmist here, but just inform) lead to what they call something like 'bead failure' (the inability of the bead to keep the tire on the rim I think) and resulting 'catastrophic blowout.' Not a pretty picture, not likely to happen, but a possibility in cases of extreme wear and something the list needs to be more aware of in my opinion.

This is why Michelin corporate was so adamant about the Agilis on the phone with me. One tech guy was not quite, but nearly, hysterical.

I hope this helps, and please, let's be more conscientious about informing people - especially new list members/owners -- about the sidewall considerations in tire shopping/purchasing -- irrespective of what brand they chose.


Derek's comment: Many of us are running around on BF Goodrich All Terrain Radials in size 27 x 8.50 / 14 and have had almost no trouble. Now this is a tough little tire, so it has an edge up, but it actually does not meet any of the specs above being rated to handle only 1515lbs and I have absolute confidence in the tire. In any case, I would advise not tempting the gods, and try to make sure your wheel is rated at 1600lbs and over if it is a regular tire and 1500 lbs and over if it is an BF Goodrich All Terrain Radial. The stock MXL was rated to load index 99, or 1709lbs. VW technical support way back when reported to list members that 1600lbs or more rating is sufficient. Accordingly, while more is better, in my view the reports that VW later increased the load index rating to 99 or 107 probably do not have to be followed. According to one report these higher load index ratings were only for their special 16" models with reinforced body. Another lister form I think Australia posted that his van specified a 99 or 107 load index, but I since our North American vans don't have these higher specs that this post most probably can be noted but that it is optional to follow one of these higher load indexes.

For the record, the BF Goodrich tire I would choose for a stock-geared car, the BF Goodrich All Terrain Radial in size 215/70/16, has a load bearing rating of 1765lbs, more than adequate and likely a much tougher tire than even that number indicates.


1. If sticking with stock gearing and not looking to optimize for off road purposes, does the tire have a revolutions per mile of 782 to 830, or 742 to 830 if looking to optimize for off-road use? Or even try to make it 795 to 830 for better acceleration?

2. Does the tire rate at least 1609lbs per tire (otherwise expressed as load index 97)

3. Does the tire inflate to at least 50psi?

4. Does the manufacturer rate the tire to mount on 6.5" wide rims?

AN ASIDE ON 245/75/16

More pictures of the test fit with 245/75/16 tires are available from me (they are on my hard drive). I would describe my attitude toward this combination as 100% approval, and my initial impression was that the combination was BIG. Though not overly so, I would say, BIG IN THE EXTREME. Do not, however, go with 245/75/16 tires without changing your rear trailing arms to 16" type, however, and also changing your gears. For a test fit with 245/75/16 in front see: and you can also see the amusing photo of this sized wheel/tire compared with the stock wheel on a two wheel drive Vanagon we tested at Tom Forhan's house:

This tire is rated to handle 3042lbs, basically, overkill. It is possible that this huge 3042 rating would actually make the tire unsuitable for Vanagon Syncro but I have not finished research into that question. Note that Jaeger uses 235/85/16 tire, which is more massive still (and basically does not fit!) so at least there is one respected lunatic out there using an even more extreme solution than mine.

Lastly, for tire research, here is my favorite chart:


Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2001 14:42:04 -0500


From: Derek Drew <derekdrew>

Subject: Worldwide Solution For 16" Wheel (Advances Made)



Dear Mr. Drew,

we would like to thank you very much for your inquiry

reg. light alloy wheels for the a.m. vehicle.

The CV-900 wheel 6,5x16", ET 30, 5/112 does not fit to

the VW T3 Syncro.

For a.m. vehicle we can offer our

CV wheel in size


ET 20


Centre hole 66,5.

Upon receiving the above email I sent them a lengthy email with numerous links to indicate that my spec does indeed fit and that in fact theirs is too wide and doesn't! Then....


Dear Mr. Drew,

we have checked the brake of the German

T3 Syncro - the CV wheel 6,5x16", ET 30, 5/112 wheel is suitable.

To be absolutely sure that the wheel is

suitable to the USA model we will send to you a

sample wheel by air freight tomorrow.

Please be so kind and arrange mounting

tests on front axle and rear axle and confirm

us that the wheel is suitable.