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Are Larger Wheels and Tires a Waste of Money?



  • 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: 10,196
    "...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.

    2015 Mustang GT, 2009 PT Cruiser, 2004 Chevy 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: 2,751
    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: 7,762
    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: 41,897
    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: 2,751
    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.
  • boaz47boaz47 Posts: 2,751
    I don't remember if it was car and driver or Edmunds that bought the wheel and tire upgrade for the origional WRX to get some reasonable increase in handling. I seem to remember it was a $1800.00 to $2400.00 upgrade or something but it did increase the slalom speed of the WRX by quite a bit. But then if you go all the way to the WRX STI RA-R it already comes with lightweight 18s and low profile 235x40 Bridgestones.
  • urnewsurnews Posts: 668
    So I pose the question - how prudent are 17-18-19 inch wheels and low profile, high performance tires on a family sedan?

    Our MSRP $27,105 2007 SEL AWD Fusion came "standard" with P225/50R/17 Michelin tires and I am already dreading the day when I will have to replace them. The base S Fusion comes with 16-inch 60-series tires, which I believe would ride better but not handle as well.

    As to "how prudent," the answer is "not very," but high performance tires seem to be the trend (probably a conspiracy with the tire manufacturers to sell more tires since they don't last very long either, in addition to being more expensive).
  • oldfarmer50oldfarmer50 Posts: 10,196
    That was a great article. Spot on.

    It seems then that the original question: "Are larger wheels and tire a waste of money" was half right. The wheels make minimal difference but the tires can enhance handling quite a bit.

    I wonder if that stabilizer bar trick would work on some of these FWD cars that understeer? Why don't he car companies put them on as standard equipment?

    2015 Mustang GT, 2009 PT Cruiser, 2004 Chevy Van

  • texasestexases Posts: 7,762
    Of course, there's the $$. One other reason is that understeer = stable, seems like they want nothing unusual for most drivers to deal with.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,578
    One of the reasons you might not notice a big difference with a tire upgrade on a "high end" car is that the high end cars have as a rule much better suspensions. You can get great g ratings on just about any car on a flat smooth track but in complex road conditions just having better tires won't give you "high end" handling.

    MODERATOR --Need help with anything? Click on my name!

  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    I think I agree with your point. But one thing is for sure, using high performance tires on a car with a low performance suspension is a formula for pissing money away for minimal benefit.

    Case in point, the original Lexus GS400, when it first came out. Lexus offered an upgraded 17" wheel and high performance tire option. Friend of mine bought one. At 5,000 miles, the tires were already showing excessive wear. At 8,000 miles, Lexus refunded his option price and gave him a set of the standard rims and tires. The probelm was the Buick like suspensions Lexus used resulted in the body roll of a typical Camry. The high performance tires were wearing out dispropotionally on the inside and outside edges due to the body roll.

    The lesson is - if you want a good handling car, start by buying one with a good suspension. Then put on high performance tires if you want even more performance. But there isn't enough rubber in a Pirelli factory to turn a Lexus into a BMW.

    P.S. That friend of mine that went through a set of 17" tires on the Lexus GS400 in 8,000 miles ended up trading it on a BMW 545i a couple of years later. With the sport package and staggered wheels (can't be rotated), he got 20,000 to 25,000 miles out of the even higher performance softer compound tires. (i.e. because the BMW didn't come standard with that wonderful Lexus body roll and the tires were held flat to the ground by the BMW sport suspension).
  • dave8697dave8697 Posts: 1,498
    how is the icy road traction affected by low profile tires?
    My 16" 60 series are fine on a FWD car. The same size tires are pretty questionable on my RWD Mustang. I have to drive long distances on dark, snowy and icy, narrow roads in the winter.
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    The profile itself doesn't matter too much. What does matter is that most if not all low (sub-50) profile tires are for summer use only, and they don't have the tread patterns or rubber compounds for all-season or heavy winter driving. Mustangs and most other RWD vehicles without good stability and traction control systems really need dedicated winter tires to handle anything more than a dusting of snow.
  • texasestexases Posts: 7,762
    Like bumpy said, plus your Mustang has much less weight over the wheels than any FWD car, further reducing traction. Get a set of snows from Tire Rack or Discount tire (15"s on rims, if they fit/$$ work). But they may be out by now.
  • boaz47boaz47 Posts: 2,751
    Tires are all that low profile. The stock tire on my ZTS was a 70 series. The stock tire on my old Camaro was a 60 series. What most people consider low profile tires most often start with 50 series. I have seen DUBs with 30 series. But then like it was said they don't come as a M&S. The advantages are simple, if the car is set up for it the tires don't roll on the rim in hard corners. But they also wear faster.

    Big rims do have a look that dresses up the car but they make for a harsher ride. I don't know if they are a waste of money if looks are what the driver wants. If how a car looks wasn't important to some there would be so many after market parts stores and custom paint shops.
  • oldfarmer50oldfarmer50 Posts: 10,196
    " is icy road traction affected by low profile tires..."

    My "sporty coupe" came with 235/45R18 all season tires. Since it's a new car I haven't taken it out on our salty roads yet. Others who have the same car say it handles very well in the snow. Of course mine is a FWD which may mean nothing if you drive a RWD.

    2015 Mustang GT, 2009 PT Cruiser, 2004 Chevy Van

  • warhubwarhub Posts: 13
    I'm purchasing a 2008 VW GLI. The car comes with 17" all-season 225/45R17 inch tires. There is an option to put 225/40R18 wheels and tires on the car for about $11 more per month on a 36-month lease. I'm not concerned about the $11 a month, but rather the possibility of significantly more tires bubbling, blowing up or wheels getting destroyed. I live in NY and travel mostly in the 'burbs, making the occasional (once a month) trip into NYC. There are still some potholes around to be sure, but nothing like the Bronx! If I went with the 18" it's solely because I like how they look. I'm sure the ride of the 18's is only negligibly "sportier," and I've been told that the snow traction should be about the same as the 17's given that the tires are the same manufacturer and are identical in tread type. Would I be a fool to buy the 18's? Am I destined to go through a significantly greater number of tires and possibly scuffed wheels or is the difference only going to be marginal. Again, I really like how the 18" wheels look, but I'm not going to do it if it's truly stupid in the wallet. :confuse:
  • texasestexases Posts: 7,762
    If you weren't liking the looks of the 18s so much, I'd say go with the 17s, because you could get good performance rubber in the 17's size, but if you really like the 18s look, go for it. Only thing to check is friends/acquaintences with low profile tires, see what they say.

    edit - only other concern is if you expect to loan the car out. No one will be as careful as you, and they will find every pot hole and curb in town!
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    Ah, New York. Love the city, but it's tough on cars. I'd get the 17s.
  • ruking1ruking1 Posts: 18,387
    A real leveler would be cost per mile driven.

    For your standard tires example it is $750/35,000 miles=

    $ .0214285 cents.

    sport tires $1,400/15,000=

    $.0933333 cents

    $ .09333 - $ .0214285= $ .07190/ $ .09333=

    77% more per mile driven. If you are used to spending $ .0214285 why would you want to spend 4.355 TIMES MORE?

    So using 185/70/14 tires with most of the mileage in a plain jane everyday commute, I got 74,300 miles from oem tires. Replacement costs are a@ $ 49. per tire and $ 60. for removal, disposal, new valves, mount, balance or $ 256/ 74,300 miles =.0034454. The math indicates an almost obscene difference. I LOVE the MB E350, but the math is far too overwhelming to ignore, especially for commuting.

    What do you think will happen when you curb a (probably forged, AKA even BIGGER BUX) exotic rim vs say the steel one used with the 185/70/14 tires? I can probably say that tops, the steel one will cost $50 and that is Fed Ex'd to the front door.
  • ruking1ruking1 Posts: 18,387
    While I do not haunt car magazines, I very rarely see before and after testing with the performance parameters neatly laid out. (for the purposes of this discussion before and after larger wheels and tires etc,) . The closest I have seen are www.tire 's testing the variables they are usually testing for: SAME SIZED in the SAME category tire brands.

    The sense I have is larger sizes in addition to the discussed higher acquisition costs, hit performance: ie.,LOWER mpg, stopping distance, hp at the wheels, ride compliance/comfort etc. So it would seem defining the purposes and then seeing if the engineering adaptation makes sense is the first order of business in the "upgrade" Indeed given the original example of oem engineered upgrades, there is STILL no definitive testing/comparison.
  • karsickkarsick Posts: 312

    (too bad I didn't catch it earlier)

    Somebody REALLY needs to tell those retarded McLaren & Ferrari Formula One engineers that they need to replace their silly, ineffective balloon-like tires & wheels with some Stylin' Fo-shizzle Chromey DubDeuces (spinnazzzz preferably) and micro-sidewall 20-series lo-pros.

    Seriously, for anyone with a logical bone in their head, there is a diminishing return with ever-increasing wheel size, and most carmakers have crossed that line.

    For the same $$$ you would have spent on frequent mega-dollar re-tires, I'm convinced you could get the world's strongest & lightest forged alloys in a modest 15"-16" size, a set of dedicated track & ice tires, along with a WRC-worthy Ohlins or DMS suspension setup.

    With a proper set-up of lightweight, reasonable-size running stock, you could run RINGS around the guy with the cheeeeezy dubs, and even laugh at bad pavement along the way.
  • berriberri Posts: 7,727
    These huge tires are a total waste of money unless you're in it for styling. They cost a fortune, wear out more quickly, ride harsher and tend to do worse in wet or snow conditions. Interestingly though, Toyota seems to be getting big into these big wheels as in Highlander and Venza.
This discussion has been closed.