This article is intended for those of you who have decided that you want Michelin Defender tires, and now you need help deciding whether to choose our 15" package (GVW-WTP-1523-STRT) or 16" package (GVW-WTP-1623-DEF). If you have not yet decided which tire to run on your Vanagon, please read this article: "Tire Recommendations for Vanagons."
Q: I'm looking to upgrade my Vanagon wheels/tires. Should I choose the 15" or 16" package?
A: These two wheel packages are intended for Vanagons that see little to no off-road driving. The Michelin Defender is the best on-pavement, all-weather tire available today, period. With a tread wear rating of 800, you can expect to get 2 to 3 times more miles out of a set than with anything available in a 14" tire that can handle the same load. There is, in fact, no change more important for your Vanagon than ditching those original 14" wheels and switching to a 15" or 16" wheel/tire package. But which one should you choose... 15" or 16"?
Typically, we suggest purchasing the 16" package. However, there are three reasons you might want to go with the 15" package:
1) You have a Carat or MV with the factory lower-ride springs. In this case, the 16" tires are more likely to rub.
2) You want the 1/2" taller sidewall the 15"s offer—which allows for more "Oops, I didn't see that pothole" driving.
3) You just can't swing the extra $400.
In general, if you have a 2WD Vanagon that sees little to no off-road action and has regular-height springs (all Vanagons except Carat or MV) or GoWesty lifting springs, the 16" wheel/tire package is the better choice. Even though the outside diameter of the tire is the same as the 15" choice, the 16" wheel that it fits onto is 1/2" wider (7.5" as opposed to 7"), which translates into a wider tire contact patch ("footprint") on the road. And that equals better stability and handling. Also, we think they look better: they are more proportional to the size of the Vanagon.
The long and short of it: The 16" package is well worth the extra $400.