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Are Larger Wheels and Tires a Waste of Money?



  • oldfarmer50oldfarmer50 Posts: 6,023
    I always wondered about that.

    You see car reviews from time to time that lament "if only this car had sticker tire it would handle better." Perhaps they aren't talking about larger tires or lower profile tires but rather ones with a "sticky" compound in the rubber.

    2009 PT Cruiser, 2008 Eclipse, 1995 Mark VIII, 1988 GMC Van

  • robertsmxrobertsmx Posts: 5,525
    If it is about grip, stickier tires help. Stickiness is a function of the compound the tire is made of. Rim size, on the other hand, can dictate tire profile. If a car is offered with base 16" rims and 17" is offered as an upgrade, latter will result in a lower profile (in an effort to keep the diameter of the tire same). This helps in improving cornering abilities (less sidewall flex).
  • oldfarmer50oldfarmer50 Posts: 6,023
    So, the ideal combo would be a low profile tire with a stickier rubber rather than larger wheels?

    2009 PT Cruiser, 2008 Eclipse, 1995 Mark VIII, 1988 GMC Van

  • robertsmxrobertsmx Posts: 5,525
    ...and lighter wheels.

    Although, with wheel size, we must also consider brake rotor diameter.

    For most part, rims are getting larger mostly for cosmetic purpose. People seem to demand it. Ten years ago, Accord sedan did fine with 14" (DX) and 15" (LX/EX/V6). Now, that would be the size one gets with Fit.

    Civic has moved on to 15" for the very basic DX trim, while the more mainstream LX/EX get 16". The Si trim gets 17". And if one chooses to go with HFP package, 18" rims.

    Compare that to the fact that the high performance 2000 Integra Type-R used 15 inch rims.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    Compare that to the fact that the high performance 2000 Integra Type-R used 15 inch rims

    As did the Ferrari 308, if I'm not mistaken.

    My 1984 Toyota Supra (sport version) came standard with 225/60's on 14" rims. The "L" luxury version had 205/70's on narrower 14" rims. :surprise:
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Posts: 5,525
    When NSX first arrived, it had 15" (front) and 16" (rear) rims. IIRC, when it departed couple of years ago, it was still at 16" (front) and 17" (rear). Now even Civic matches it (and beats it with HFP package).

    Just wait until we see 19" rims in the next Tiburon. (Rumor is, that will be an option on top of 18" standard rims). I might not even consider it for that reason alone.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    And I was wrong about the Ferrari 308. In 1981, it came standard with 205/70's on 14" wheels!! :surprise: :surprise:

    What a sissy Magnum PI was. Or did he drive a 328?
  • oldfarmer50oldfarmer50 Posts: 6,023
    Here's a thought. Do the larger wheels limit wheel spin on high power FWD cars? I seem to remember a review of the Chrysler Crossfire a few years back which mentioned that the 19" rear wheels were so big that the motor didn't have enough power to spin the wheels. Would larger wheels control wheel spin on these FWD sport coupes like the new Altima?

    2009 PT Cruiser, 2008 Eclipse, 1995 Mark VIII, 1988 GMC Van

  • ray80ray80 Posts: 1,187
    I think only if the contact patch was bigger (assuming tires were the same brand/model)
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    Do the larger wheels limit wheel spin on high power FWD cars?

    Two ways: the larger wheel is also usually wider, which will dictate a wider tire with a larger contact patch; and the larger wheel and tire can be heavy enough to overpower the engine. Most people consider that a bad thing. :cry:
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Posts: 5,525
    Wheel spin has nothing to do with size of the rim. However, overall diameter (and of course, choice of rubber on it) can affect wheel spin (since it will affect overall gearing). However, this will generally not happen in a car because if a larger wheel is selected, the profile of the tire is smaller so the overall wheel diameter stays about the same.

    I’m assuming that Crossfire with 19” rims actually came with stickier (sportier) rubber than the smaller rim.
  • oldfarmer50oldfarmer50 Posts: 6,023
    "...I'm assuming that the Crossfire with 19" rims actually came with stickier(sportier) rubber than the smaller rim..."

    Actually the 19" rims were standard, but I think you're right about the stickier tires. They were Pilot Sport 2's. It didn't help that the Crossfire only had 215hp. Shame. Nice looking car.

    2009 PT Cruiser, 2008 Eclipse, 1995 Mark VIII, 1988 GMC Van

  • oldharryoldharry Posts: 413
    Mr.Shiftright mentioned chassis strain with larger wheels. Local and State police departments found that to be true in Crown Vic squad cars.

    When Ford went from 225/70R15 in '97 to 225/60R16 in '98, upper ball joints that had been lasting for the two to three years the cars were in service began failing within a year. After market companies came out with a larger upper ball joint that worked a lot better.

    Police service is harder than most retail CV/Gr. Marquis customers' driving habits, but I still do a lot of upper ball joints for the blue hairs.

    The '03 and up CV's have a different suspension, and do not seem to have a problem.

    The message is clear, increasing the diameter of the wheel and shortening the sidewall does shorten the life of some suspension parts, and stress the cars.

  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    I get your point regarding unexpected stresses.

    On the other hand, if a relatively upsizing upsizing of wheels from 15 to 16" on a Crown Vic caused the mechanical failures you cited, that to me is a confirmation of the crappy engineering and poor quality of Ford. No surprise there.
  • boaz47boaz47 Posts: 2,730
    Most of this is simply a issue of taste. Much like custom paint jobs or cold air intakes or polished valve covers. Maybe even exhaust tips. For the most part people get 22 inch wheels because they like how they look. Go to a NOPI event anywhere and see what they consider a good looking car. Someone could drive up in a great looking Porsche brand new and not even get a second glance because the Honda Civic parked next to it had a custom paint job and a sound system that cost more than the whole Porsche.

    Not my cup of tea but it is something an import enthusiast can get their teeth into. Lets face it, long gone are the days of buying a car with steel wheels and hub caps unless you are simply buying a commuter car. I totally agree that 14 and 15 inch 60 series tires and fine for most every day use and they tend to be less expensive. low profile tires are the style right now for car people and big tires are the style for truck people. If you can afford it and you like the way it looks it isn't a waste of money if you have the money to spend.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    I get your point, but the target for starting this forum wasn't boy racer types who like to modify Hondas or those that think Suburbans with 22" chrome wheels are hot. I've never been to a "NOPI" event, whatever that is.

    Rather, my target audience included the unsuspecting buyer of a no-cost "Sport Package" option on a E350 that will potentially be spending 4 times as much (an extra $6,000) to keep rubber on 1" larger wheels. Or the Acura TL buyer like me that went for the $200 "high performance tire" option. Or every 3/5/7 series that gets a sport package option, even if it's predominantly used as a grocery getter and mundane commuter. Or, for that matter, every bloody automatic transmssion car out there. :surprise: ;)

    I do agree that it's all about personal taste and preferences. And a significant percentage of larger wheels and high performance tire upgrades are purchased based upon looks, not performance (see A/T comment above). My only point was to suggest that, given the dollars involved, the decision warrants a bit more financial analysis and prudence than is probably being done by most. After all, look at how many forums include that famous question "do I REALLY need to use premium gas in my $30k/$40k/$50k+ xxxxx?". Whenever gas prices spike, some people are tempted to put low octane gas in a high compression engine thinking that they are saving 7-8% in fuel cost (not realizing that the lower octane results in retarded timing, lower mpg and the risk of long term engine damage). In the case of that aforementioned E350, over the course of 100k miles, the theoretical difference between premium and regular gas would only be $850+/-, unrealistically assuming NO loss in fuel efficiency. That's less than 15% of the additional cost that will be spent on replacement tires during that time, thanks to the no cost Sport Package.

    And no, I haven't loaded up on put options on Pirelli and Michelin and I'm not trying to drive down their stock price. ;)
  • texasestexases Posts: 5,424
    Here's a link to a CD article on how upgrading the tires w/no wheel change makes a big difference:
    Subie tire upgrade
    This is one reason the big wheel options perform better - better tires. Put the same tire on both, the difference would shrink greatly. I did that, got much better handling with no wheel change.

    One other problem is on some cars (BMWs?) the big wheel option comes with run-flats, which seem to cause problems.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,943
    Today I saw an early 90s BMW 7er with oversized wheels. The car of course had windows tinted far past legal limits, so I couldn't see the dopey driver. The funny part though was that the car had badges on the front fenders, similar to the AMG engine size badges...but they said "20"" if that's something to be proud of on such a car. It didn't look cool, it looked kind of sad, I felt sorry for the car.

    My E55 has 18" factory wheels, and that's about as big as I want to get, knowing what decent tires cost for the thing.
  • boaz47boaz47 Posts: 2,730
    Right now I think 18 is about optimum if you are looking for a wheel and tire upgrade. Living in the land of the aftermarket store I can see no reason to add a OEM tire and wheel upgraded at all. The aftermarket provides you with better choices and better looks for the most part. Plus if you are going to upgrade anyway you can order lighter wheels to go with the tires of your choice. I am not sure if 20s or 22s are for anything other than looks. But ultralight 18s with BFG G force T/A or better yet R-1s will make a sporty car feel like a sports car. At less than $300.00 a pop it doesn't seem bad but they are so sticky you will never get more than a summer out of a set. The cost of the wheels are a whole different story. Of course if I were going to go that route I would order new struts and lower the vehicle 2 inches as well.

    But for a daily driver, stock is most often the best except for better looking wheels even if they are the same size as stock.
  • john500john500 Posts: 409
    I believe texases' link sums up my opinion about tires. The comparison should be done with some type of numbers and the g force during cornering is probably the best number to use. I would sum it up as: For low end cars, a tire swap is probably a good idea. For high end cars, a tire swap probably has a negligible effect on cornering.

    I've seen lateral acceleration (g- ratings) go from 0.79 to nearly 0.9 on a Honda Civic by switching from factory tires to a sticky grip tire that is two sizes (i.e. a 185 to a 205 mm) larger. Although there are other aspects to handling, that is nearly the rating that a low end Porsche would get. It turns an almost intolerably boring breadbox into something a little more fun to drive for about $500-600 if the rims are not changed. Pricewise, I believe the consumer would be much better off doing the conversion as an aftermarket addon instead of a dealer upgrade. On the other hand, I believe that the gains on a high end car are very marginal (although I don't have any data). For example, I would be very suprised if a Subaru WRX STi would increment in the same way with a +2 tire swap (i.e. if the tires would fit and not rub in the wheel well, the STi would likely go from 0.92 to 0.95 or so instead of the same increment of 0.11 as on the Honda Civic) since the STi has already had some level of optimization by the manufacturer.
This discussion has been closed.