STEP 4: CHOOSING A WHEEL
Wheels are an expensive investment that will affect the handling, performance, and yes, looks of your car; so it’s important to do your homework before dropping a lot of cash down. This may sound backwards but since the tire is the most important part of your car, your wheel choice should be dictated by the tires you want to run.
When I look to increase the diameter and width of a set of wheels on a car, I define the goal of the increase, whether it’s to increase tire width for cornering, or Total Tread Surface Area (diameter and width) for prolonged track capability, or even simply for looks. Based on the available room in the wheel well, I then look at the availability of the group of tires in the general size that I want to go to, which narrows down the ideal wheel size that I should run.
If you are limited by room in the wheel well or rules for a particular class, the tires should be your limiting and deciding factor. Pick the best tire in the outer diameter and section width that will fit the room or rules, and then size the wheel accordingly.
This is the opposite from what almost everyone does. Most people buy bigger wheels based on looks and offsets and then the tire tends to be a compromised afterthought to fit those wheels in the remaining room that’s available. Since this article is about optimizing the performance of a car with tires, they should dictate what size wheel to run. In many cases, the ideal tire may not be available in the size that properly fits your wheels. If handling and performance is important to you, then your wheels will be sized accordingly. If you view form > function, then this article probably isn’t for you anyway.
For a daily driver where maximizing outright grip or TTSA may not be the top priority, choosing the widest tire possible may not be necessary at any expense of steering feel, fuel economy, and price. Remember the top tip?: “A narrower high quality tire will often outperform a cheap wider tire”.
A proper amount of time should be spent on researching or measuring the wheel offsets and clearances of your current wheels to determine how much larger and wider of a tire can fit. Once the ideal tire is chosen, then you can select the diameter, width, and offset of your wheels. Staying the same or close to factory widths and offsets is a conservative way of making choosing a wheel much easier.
By now everyone should be an expert at sizing and selecting a tire, or at least possess a greater education on how tires are sized and what aspects are important when choosing a tire. By following the 3 main steps when looking for tires: CHOOSE A TIRE CATEGORY, SIZE THE TIRE, and SELECT A TIRE, it’s hard to go wrong.
Disclaimer: The information above is a recommendation for OFF ROAD USE only. Please consult and follow your owner’s manual when sizing tires for street use, otherwise follow the above advice at your own risk.
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