Wheels and Tyres


Many people think that fitting big alloy wheels will improve the handling of their car. The vast majority of these people will be incorrect, it is far more complicated than that.

Adding big alloys usually adds weight to the car, more specifically unsprung weight which is the worst sort of weight you can add, as it increases the demands on the suspension and so worsens the handling. Light wheels are the best but are often expensive.

Fitting larger wheels often means fitting wider tyres. This changes the handling of the car. Notice I said changes the handling rather than improve. Most people percieve fitting big alloy wheels with the wider tyres as an improvement as the steering will feel more responsive and the turn-in is sharper due to the smaller tyre sidewall. However that isn't the whole picture. As I've said earlier, larger wheels usually weight more which has a negative effect on the handling. The tyre also plays a large part in the suspensions complience too and so fitting rubber band type tyres rather than big balloon type ones will decrease the comfort and increase the noise in the car. You also tend to get less feel with big wide low profile tyres, i.e the transition between grip and slip is more sudden and so they tend to be harder to control on the edge of adhesion. Also due to their wider shorter footprint on the road they are more prone to aquaplaning and slip on mud/snow. If you take this to the extreme take a look at rally car tyres on ice, they look almost like bicycle tyres they are that thin to increase the pressure on the ice in the contact patch.

I myself prefer the way my girlfriends car (220 turbo) handles on 195/50/15's than when it is on 205/40/17's, although ask most people on the street which looks and drives better and they'll say the 17's as they look "better" and the turn in is sharper with the 17's. There isa huge weight difference between the two wheels and as a bonus the 15 inch wheels have significantly cheaper tyres!

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