What are wide tires? Should I get wide tires for my cars? How can I go about upgrading my tires? Keep reading for these answers and more.


It’s a great time to be a consumer. The commoditization of customization has lifted buyer choices to all new heights. You no longer need to have a shop and tools and years of tinkering know-how to tweak the performance of your home, computer, or car.

With the heavy lifting and harsh math already done for you, changing up an aspect of your auto to improve performance is more about choice. Swapping to wide tires for cars is more about the reasons to do so, not a question of if and what.

The two biggest reasons to make such a change are for improved performance or improved lifespan. This matters when one source states the lifespan of a tire as three to five years while another stipulates 25 – 50,000 miles.

If you’re looking to replace the tires on your car in the near future and wondering if wider tires are for you, this guide will empower you in that choice.

Wide Tires for Cars?

Over the years the standard size of a wheel on cars has changed. Each of the changes brought in new materials to deal with the changing weight of cars since their inception. Others offered performance enhancements.

Material changes matter for structural stability but at this point, they contribute more to pricing than substantive performance. In other words, you can always find a wheel that does what you want, but you might have to pay a lot for it.

The width of wheels also changed with the times, offering different aspects of control, wear, and power.

Let’s break down each component to understand all of the aspects that go into making a tire upgrade choice.

Wheels

For convenience, this guide refers to wheels as the entire unit attached to the vehicle. A wheel consists of a rim (the metal part) and a tire (the rubber part). The sizing of each makes a difference in the performance and stability of a vehicle.

Rims

A wider wheel requires a wider rim. However, the rim will never be wider than the tire.

A thin rim and a wide rim both need to be made of materials capable of holding the weight of the vehicle and the additional force that occurs when cornering.

A thin wheel needs a higher-caliber material to maintain strength because of the tensile strength of the materials. For this purpose, steel rims are the most common. Steel spokes provide excellent tensile strength at greater lengths but trade strength with additional weight.

Aluminum wheels offer less strength but less weight. Carbon-fiber rims offer better strength while weighing less but have a higher cost.

Advantages

The advantage of a wider wheel is more distribution of weight across the space. A wider rim allows for thicker materials, reducing the pressure on higher tensile strength materials.

Wider rims also provide more surface area for brakes to engage.

Problems

As a rim gets wider, it has to displace that width somewhere.

Too far out from the vehicle creates drag and rubs against the fender while turning. Too close to the inside and your struts and springs get caught up in the wheel.

Shocks have to work extra hard when the weight distribution is further under the car. This is why a dune buggy has the struts so far out, to allow for more rotation and rolling needed for larger suspension angels.

Tires

A tire consists of two major components that you need to consider when selecting a size: tread and sidewall.

The tire tread offers both grip and wear points. A wider tread has more grip because it offers a larger surface area contact with the road. Since more rubber is hitting the asphalt, it wears down more area.

The hardness of the combination of rubber and cords within a tire change wear and durability. A softer tire lasts longer on freeways at speed but takes a beating from rough environments. Harder materials can absorb blows from dirt roads and rough terrain but scrape away on highways.

If you intend to offroad in the Outback or speed along the Audobon, remember that tire is tyre in non-American English countries. Consider that in addition to the material to replace your car’s tyres for different environments.

Advantages

When buying new wheels, a bigger tire seems like an obvious choice for longevity. The larger surface area takes longer to wear down because there’s more of it. More road contact means better handling.

These advantages get eaten away by some of the advanced physics involved in rotational force.

Problems

In everyday situations, a wider tire does give more grip on the road. In snow and ice tire chains have more surface to adhere to.

In rain or and invisible icy conditions the story flips. A thinner tire has more of an oval shape while a wider one comes out more square. In ice and water, a sharper edge can cut through the interference to the road beneath.

Think ice skates to understand this.

Sidewall

The sidewall of a tire offers its own set of problems. When asking “Can I put wider tires on my car?” you need to consider the sidewall height carefully.

A taller sidewall means an overall taller wheel. This creates wheel-well problems and suspension issues. Taller sidewalls also deform more at speed, which leads to more lean and roll.

Shorter sidewalls compensate for these issues but bring in their own disadvantages. Short sidewalls provide less padding between the rim and the ground. You feel bumps harder, even with a good suspension.

The rim itself also has a higher risk fo deforming from sharp bumps like potholes. Shorter rims and wider tires also result in increased road noise.

Gear Up

In the end, trading up to wide tires for cars is about keeping your displacement within the wheel well functional. You don’t want to move more than an inch bigger at a time. This is referred to as a Plus 1 change or upgrade.

A good way to check out handling with different sizes is to hit up a dealership and test drive a few options. For more information about cars and components, check back with us anytime.