Can You Run Staggered On AWD?
Author: Sterling Feathers
April 7, 2021
Due to the nature of all-wheel-drive systems, running a staggered setup can also be more complicated with an AWD car. A staggered setup means that you're running larger wheels and tires in the back. You see this type of setup on drag builds all the time where the front tires are skinny and the rear tires are FAT. This is also common with RWD cars since all the power goes to the back wheels and tires.
Let's breakdown if you can run a staggered setup on an AWD car
Complications With AWD and Staggered Setups
A lot of people will say that AWD vehicles should always have the same tire size in the front and the rear; this is definitely the safest option, but who said modifying cars was ever safe? The reason why a staggered setup on AWD is such a complicated matter is because of the very nature of the drivetrain.
AWD systems typically cut power where it detects slippage to prevent spinning out into oncoming traffic.
When your front tires are smaller than the rear, they move faster and have less overall surface area. As a result, the AWD system will think your front tires are slipping and thus will cut the power. Other problems such as increased tread wear are also possible.
Then, you have various little things that can end up throwing your car out of whack such as different tread patterns, different widths, and different wheels.
Overall it’s a bit of a tricky matter to run staggered on an AWD vehicle but with knowledge, but it is possible and a lot of enthusiasts do it.
What to Know Before Running a Staggered Setup on AWD
First thing's first, you are not going to be able to rotate your wheels. A staggered setup means a one-directional wheel and tire, otherwise, you are in for one heck of a bad time when it comes time to get behind the wheel. With that out of the way, we can get into how to achieve a successful AWD setup.
The key rule to follow is to have a 1% variance between the overall front and rear diameter of your wheel (including the tire) if your vehicle does not have this variance built-in from stock.
The truth is that there are some AWD cars that do come staggered from the factory and if you happen to have one of these it’s going to make applying more extreme setups that go above that 1% much more manageable as opposed to a vehicle that has no variance.
Word of Caution
We are not encouraging that everyone should run out and slap a 6% variant staggered setup on their AWD cars just because it rolled out of the factory with a 0.5%.
With AWD, most of the time it's best to either have little or no variance which is why you don’t see stock AWD vehicles coming out looking like drag cars.
If you are looking into adding or increasing the variance between your wheels it is always good to ask questions. There also is a calculator tool to help you with determining the differences in diameter between your front and back wheels.