Wheels & Tires



The VW Syncro T-3 is a tall, cialis sales here heavy vehicle that weighs well in excess of 5,000 lbs. and has a total GVW limit of 6,000 lbs. For this reason, VW specifies a heavy-duty truck tire for the 14" syncro rated for at least 1609-1652 lbs. at 40 p.s.i. But observing the weight requirement alone is not enough. VW and the tire manufacturers also specify only tires with heavy duty construction for the syncro because of the lateral forces the vehicle transfers to the tire sidewalls. These tires either have re-inforced sidewalls, or 8 to 10 ply construction.


 Tire Specs & Options

Side wall height is an important consideration in selecting tires. Tires to be used off road should have a high profile, or tall side wall. VW specifies 80 series tires for the syncro this reason (e.g., 185R14 or 205R16). The taller the side wall, the more cushion the tire provides to absorb bumps and rocks, and the less likely the wheel is to be damaged. VW does, however, specify a 65 series tire (205/65/15) for the 15" wheels that come on the South African T-3 (Microbus), but this appears to be due to gearing considerations. Extra caution should be used with 65 series tires in rugged off road terrain.

Tire Width is also an important consideration. VW specifies 185 - 205 mm widths for the syncro. There is a reason for this. First, wider tires are heavier. This increased mass affects suspension and steeriing. It also affects acceleration. A heavier tire/wheel combo will tax the damping of the shocks and degrade suspensipon performance. It will also tax the steering system (including steering rack bushings) and put added stress on all of the components, even the CV joints and the transaxle.

Secondly, in most situations, narrow tires will provide better traction and surer footing than wider tires. Big, fat tires may look cool, but a syncro with narrower tires (e.g., 195mm) will nearly always out-perform one with wider tires (e.g., 225mm), not only in terms of traction and sure-footedness, but also in suspension performance and acceleration. For these reasons, the stock tire width specs should not be carelessly discarded. There will be a trade off in performance proportional to the extent one wanders from those specs.

Tire Pressure has a big effect on tire performance, suspension and handling. VW specifies that the rear tires have higher pressure than the front tires by several pounds (see your door jam or owners manual for details). You can fine tune steering by adjusting this differential.  There is no one air pressure good for all vehicles at all times, so none will be offered here. However, for off road use (and driving in snow), airing down greatly increases traction and provides a softer ride. In sand, it is not uncommon to go down to 10 p.s.i., but the tire can come off the rim if pressure is too low. Higher pressures should be used in rocky terrain.

  • For more info on tires, see the comprehensive "Tire Tips" by Knut Anders, Ralf Burde & Wolfgang Nicklich.


Syncro Owners soon learn that wheels are a complex subject. The syncro can be shod with 14," 15" or 16" wheels. VW initially sold a 14" and 16" version of the syncro. The 16" model was not available in the US and some other markets, and very few were made. VW also sold T-3s in South Africa with 15" wheels as standard equipment. So, there are stock VW steel and alloy 14" and 15" wheels available, and steel 16" wheels.  This discussion will be limited to these specific wheels, all of which have the proper off-set, are the proper size and have the proper load-bearing capacity.

   14" VW factory Alloy Wheel:
30 Offset, 18lbs

16" VW Factory Steel Wheel: 30 Offset, 28 lbs

15" VW Rhein Wheel
30 Offset.  23 lbs.

15" VW Starburst Wheel
30 Offset.  19 lbs.

16" CV 900 Wheel
30 Offset.  21 lbs.

One reason wheels are a complex subject is that changing the overall diameter of the tire changes the gearing.  Most syncros are underpowered to start with and do not handle taller gearing well at all.  A syncro with higher than stockgearing and a stock engine will suffer certain performance degradation in all environments except perhaps flat interstate.  The bigger the diameter of the tire, the worse performance will be.  Tires with a shorter sidewall to compensate for the larger wheel can be obatined, but no additional ground clearance would then be gained from the bigger wheels, and the shorter side wall would mean poorer off-road performance and increased risk of wheel damage (pic).  The only gain going to larger wheels would provide then would be the ability to use the larger 15" brakes, and perhaps cosmetic gains.

Thus, in order to obtain the benefits of bigger wheels without suffering unacceptable loss of performance, the only course of action is to first change the ring and pinions in the transaxle and front differential to adjust the gearing to the tire size you have carefully determined you would like to use. It is best to do this when the transaxle is out for a rebuild. The new parts will range from roughly $1000 to $2,500, depending where they are obtained and whether new or used. There are four different R&P sets, 4.86 (stock 14"), 5.43 (SA 15"), 5.86 (16") and 6.18.

The first step in the process is to determine what tire size you want to use. This will dictate what gearing changes to make. The only reliable way to make these determinations is by having available the Revolutions Per Mile spec for each tire size of interest. This spec is universal across manufacturers, unlike the tire size specs the manufacturers use, which is very unreliable. Once tire size(s) has been determined, the data can be plugged into the Gearing Calculator Tim Smith and others developed, and you can instantly see what final gearing various tire and ring and pinion combinations will provide, and compare them to the stock set up. This way you can carefully choose tires and R&P ratios that will provide final gearing that is no higher, and preferably lower, than the final stock ratios.

The syncro is already geared on the tall side for the stock engine. One way to obtain a definite performance enhancement is to go down in final drive gearing a bit. This will provide for quicker acceleration, better hill pulling ability with less need to down shift and better off-road gearing. The trade off is a loss of a few miles per hour cruising speed on top (4 MPH loss is not much, but provides valuable gains elsewhere). It is not a bad trade off. For those who spend most of their time on back roads and dirt roads, or who are content to cruise at 65-70 MPH, it provides a significant performance gain and no performance downside at all (except higher gas consumption).

Below is the link to the magical wheel-gearing calculator:

 Tire & Gear Calculator (xls)

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