Tires with different footprint widths are available for sale on the tire market. But, which one should vehicle owners get? Are wider tires better than narrow tires? Or will narrow models leave larger ones in the dust?
Does the Width of a Tire Matter?
Yes, tire width matters! Not only does it change the aesthetic appeal of your tires, but switching to a wide tire set will change the way the vehicle performs. Furthermore, purchasing a wider tire set will cost you a pretty penny more than a thin tire set.
Much like different rim diameter tires are versatile, tire diameter and tire width are also important. Depending on the size of the tires' road contact patch, the tire's surface contact is optimized. Now, the question is what do small tires vs. big tires offer? How does tire width matter?
Pros and Cons of Wider Tires
First and foremost, vehicles equipped with a wide tire set provide a nicer aesthetic appeal. Wider tire footprints are usually combined with lower aspect ratios, which are typically manufactured for sports cars. Basically, they are nicer to look at as they need a bigger wheel size.
How do Wider Tires Actually Perform?
Bigger tires provide a wider contact area that optimizes their performance and traction. Better grip is guaranteed on dry and wet road surfaces thanks to its consistent road contact. In this manner, the tire also manages to significantly upgrade its controllability and high speed durability. This is ensured as the larger footprint creates more friction during its maneuvering.
However, sharp handling and better traction come at a price, which is paid in fuel costs. Wider tires have increased rolling resistance, which boosts the vehicle's fuel consumption as well. Additionally, the wider footprint also generates higher noise levels, diminishing comfort levels throughout the drive.
- Exceptional dry and wet weather traction
- Increased handling and maneuvering
- Optimized high speed durability
- Ruined fuel economy
- Reduced driving comfort
- Tire sets cost more
What About Wide Off-Road Tires?
Tire width is one of the most misunderstood characteristics in the off-road scene. Instead of asking which tire tread pattern offers the best performance for off-road terrains, check out the tire height and width first. Width tells you a lot about the weight distribution provided by the tire contact patch.
We're not saying that characteristics related to the tire tread are not important. However, choosing a set of off-road tires with the correct height and width in mind should be the first step.
The Right Off-Road Tires for Uneven Terrains
Consider wide mud tires as dough rolling pins. They are designed to roll through rocks and uneven terrains more seamlessly. Wide off-road tires allow you to drive with less contact pressure per square inch (measured in pounds) divided by your vehicle's total weight.
You get more weight distribution on a jeep with wide tires than driving on a narrow set. This is especially important when you are driving a heavier vehicle. Also, vehicles designed for, let's say, mud running, will typically require you to install wide off-road tires. This will help you get more flotation on top of the mud as well.
The tradeoff here is that a wider tire tread generates more rolling resistance, which also makes your engine work harder. This results in more wear and tear as well.
Pros and Cons of Thin Tires
Narrow tires are usually manufactured for passenger vehicles. They are designed with wider sidewalls, which according to some, ruins the vehicle's look. However, what thicker tires lack, narrow tires provide.
Namely, narrow tires are the better option when it comes to fuel economy and comfort levels. The thinnest tires offer the lowerest fuel consumption levels. This is due to their footprint minimizing their rolling resistance. On the other hand, the reduced surface contact area greatly decreases road noise and vibrations.
Between these two types of models, narrow tires offer better traction in winter conditions. However, we will talk about that a bit later in this blog post.
But, what do thin tires not offer? Due to the sidewall of these larger tires, heat accumulation happens quicker, which ruins its faster performance. While they are still easy to maneuver, narrow tires do not provide the sharpness of wider models at high speeds as their contact surface allows heat build-up.
- Improved fuel consumption levels
- Decreased road noise and vibrations
- Secure traction in snow
- Lacking high speed safety
- Handling is not as sharp
What About Skinny Mud Tires?
When looking at thin mud tires, you better think of them as pizza cutters. Narrow off-road tires are designed to break through the terrain with a sharper edge. A thin off-road tire has higher contact pressure per square inch.
With a small contact area, these skinny mud tires need to carry a larger weight compared to their total contact patch. The best size for off-road driving when it comes to tire width depends on your vehicle's weight. The lighter your vehicle is, the more acceptable it is to use skinny mud tires on it.
The Right Off-Road Tires for Buggies
Using narrow off-road tires is typically a good idea for a rock crawling buggy. With a tire that is too narrow, there is the risk of losing too much traction. Knowing the exact weight of your vehicle with full equipment, a full tank, all the passengers can help you find the best tire size for off-road driving.
The information for your vehicle weight can be found in the driver-side door jamb or the owner's manual (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating or GVWR)
Should You Upsize Your Tire?
There are different factors you need to consider when deciding to upsize your tires or not.
Basically, everything we mentioned in our pros and cons section plays a huge role. Upsizing your tires, whether on the same rims or also purchasing a larger rim diameter, will make your vehicle perform differently.
Mounting wider tires on your car will increase its handling and maneuvering and optimize its stability. However, it will also decrease its fuel efficiency as the tires are larger and heavier. Their road gripping ability is another issue worth thinking about, as the footprint width will determine its driving safety in dry, wet, and winter conditions.
Additionally, be sure to not go overboard. The new tires still need adequate space to turn, so anything above a 3% jump in size is not a good idea.
Wide Tires vs. Narrow Tires for Snow Driving
When the question arises about wide tires vs. narrow tires in snow, it is important to correctly asses their performance capabilities. Vehicle owners need to know what they gain or lose with different tire sets.
Are wider tires better for snow traction? Or are narrow tires more reliable in the winter months?
The simple answer is narrow tires!
Tires with a smaller section width provide more grip in winter conditions. They place higher surface pressure against the road they are being driven on, enabling its snow and ice traction. They also excel at safely performing on loose and packed snowy roads and through slush.
The wider the footprint is, the higher the risk of the tire slipping in such conditions. This makes bigger tires a bit more dangerous in winter situations.
Wide Truck Tires vs. Thinner Ones
Do wide tires for trucks function in the same manner as wide tires for cars do? Let's take a look.
If you decide to equip your truck with big tires, you will not lose or gain on-road traction. Larger tires, even on trucks, will improve their handling. This is because these tires feature stiffer sidewalls, preventing sidewall flexing during their performance.
However, it makes a difference if you venture off-road with your truck. While, generally speaking, a wider footprint will not enhance off-road grip, it will still offer better performance. This is due to them decreasing ground pressure, minimizing the possibility of the vehicle losing traction on soft sand, and muddy surfaces.
Still, truck owners with wider tires will suffer from decreased fuel economy as well. Therefore, the same rules apply to truck tires as they do to passenger models.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Put Wider Tires on My Car?
Yes, often vehicle owners can put wider tires on their vehicles. A general rule to follow when changing tire size on same rim is to fit a tire that is 20 millimeters wider than the vehicle's stock tires. This means its' footprint is wider, but there are other variables to consider.
Are Wider Tires Better in Rain?
Yes, wide tires provide better performance in rainy conditions. The broader contact area and their groove placement channel water and slush from the footprint, guaranteeing its wet traction. This provides excellent wet grip in rain.
Do Wider Tires Ride Better?
Wider tires perform better on dry surfaces. Dry grip and performance are generated with the footprint's road surface contact. Since wide tires provide a larger road contact area, they are able to significantly improve its handling and maneuvering, even during their high speed applications.