Tires for our Buses (T2 or T3)

Introduction

All Volkswagen Transporters from 1971 to 1992 use basically the same tires and rims. So the following information applies to all T2 buses (with disc brakes) and T3 buses. In the US these models are affectionately known as Bay-window buses and Vanagons (bricks).

About rims:

Most buses were sold with the standard steel rims. The size of these rims is 5.5J x 14 with a bolt pattern of 5 x 112. This tells us the following:

5.5J x 14 Rim-width  = 5,5 inch Rim diameter  = 14 inch
5 x 112

5bolt.gif (1617 bytes)

Five holes on a circle of 112 millimeter

If you'd like to mount a different type of rim you have to take the offset into account. In German it is called the ET value (No connection with the movie industry, ET stand for   "Einpress Tiefe"). This is the distance between the inner plane that mounts against the drum and the center of the rim (see drawing). De standard ET-value for our buses is 39 mm (about 1.5 inch). Don't forget the maximum loading of the rim. Some 'el cheapo' alloy rims might fit your bus but are not strong enough.

offset.gif (5204 bytes)

Tire dimensions:

The standard steel wheels came fitted with 185 R 14 tires. Of course the 14 corresponds to the rim diameter in inches. The width of the tire is given as 185 mm while the height of the tire-wall is (by default) 82% of the width of the tire.

These are called "section width" and "section height" in the adjacent drawing. With a little math you can now calculate the circumference of the tire. This works out as 81.5 inches (207 cm) for the standard size tire.

tirediam.gif (5684 bytes)

Can we fit other sizes?

Yes, it is possible to fit different size tires. Of course these tires can only differ so much. As a rule the circumference should be within 2% (plus or minus) of the standard.  Of course the tire should fit within your wheel wells and should have the proper load-index (at least C with D preferred). This type of tire is called a  "Light Truck" tire. You will also find that some people use the term 8-ply. That is the number of plies used for building the tire. A 6-ply tire can be used but most people prefer an 8-ply because these tires have stiffer side-walls and give a more stable ride. LT tires are more expensive than your standard passenger car tire. On the other hand your tires do not need be suitable for high speed running (75 mph is not considered high speed although you may think so in your bus).

tiremark.gif (19358 bytes) The drawing shows a tire (Note: not a bus-tire!) with some of the markings that you will find. This is a 225/60R16 tire, so it is a  16" tire with a width of 225 mm and a height of .6 times the width. The speed rating is V, meaning a maximum allowed speed of 150 mph (240 kph). Most passenger cars will run on S-rated (110 mph/180 kph) or H-rated (130 mph/210 kph) tires. Note: this is the speed allowed by the tire manufacturer. Your local police department may have different ideas about your maximum while you are under their jurisdiction..

When using the standard 5.5J steel rims (they will look superb if you have them sand-blasted and powder coated!) we can use tires up to a width of 215 mm. For the moment we will disregard wider rims. They may give you clearance problems. The following standard sizes are acceptable: 195/75 R14 en 205/70R14. The circumference of these tires is slightly smaller which means that your speedo will indicate the speed as higher than it actually is. Below is an indication of the difference:

Tire size Circumference Speedo at 100 kph
185/82R14 207 cm 100    kph
195/75R14 204 cm 101,5 kph
205/70R14 202 cm 102,5 kph

Remember that these numbers are nominal values. Tolerances in manufacturing, tire pressure and wear will influence these numbers. For instance, thread-wear can decrease the circumference by up to 5 cm. But you can see that the nominal values conform to the 2% rule and are as such acceptable for use on our buses.

Here are some examples of these tires:

  • Continental Contrans 185 R 14 C
  • Vredenstein Transporter 185 R 14
  • Michelin LTX 195/75 R14 (LT version)
  • Yokohama Y356 LT 195/75 R14 (load range D, No longer available)
  • Yokohama Y370 LT 195/75 R14 (load range D)
  • Michelin MXT 205/70 R14

Note: Recently Michelin released their Agilis series of Light Tuck tires. These are very well suited to our buses (high Load Index and nice big threads) and are available in all of the above mentioned sizes. I am now running the Agilis 81, 195/75 R14 on my Vanagon and am very pleased with them.

Expect to pay between 60 and 80 dollars for a  185 R 14 tire. Wider tires are more expensive (can run up to about $150 per tire).

Alloy Rims:

You would expect that alloy rims weigh less than steel ones. Very often that's not the case. The only reason to mount alloy rims on our buses is for looks. As far as I know VW did never ship T2s (Bay Window buses) with alloy rims. However they were an available option for all T3s (Vanagons). These rims have a size of 6.0J x 14 with an offset of 30 mm. The tires on these rims were 205/70 R 14. If you can lay your hands on a set of these rims for your Vanagon you should do so without hesitation. They are quite rare and used to be very expensive. The picture shows my '81 on these rims. Actually that's not correct as this type of rim was not introduced until 1985.

BUS_ON_NEW_WHEELS.jpg (31882 bytes) ALLOY_WHEEL.jpg (31991 bytes)

If you'd like alloy rims for your Bay-window bus you could use the Fuchs rims as used on some Porsches. These are 'period-correct' for a seventies vehicle. However Fuchs rims cannot be mounted without adapters.

Part-numbers

Standard steel rim T2 / T3
211 601 027 H Scheibenrad stahl,
5.5Jx14H1 ET39 (Offset 39 mm)
(From chassisnumber 211 2000 001 onwards, All years '71 - '92)
These rims can still be ordered from VW, around $50 each.

ALLOY RIM
255 601 027 Scheibenrad 'ALU',
6.0Jx14H2 ET30 5/112 (Offset 30 mm)
(1980 - 1985, 12 round holes)

No Longer Available from VW

251 601 025 091 Scheibenrad 'ALU',
6.0Jx14H2 ET30 5/112 (Offset 30 mm)
(1985-1992, as shown on the pictures above)

No Longer Available from VW

I'd like to credit Brian Verbeek for many of the technical details.

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