How Do You Pick A Wheel Size When You Are Buying A New Car?

When buying a new car, you don’t have to stick with the factory-mounted wheels, but it’s extremely important that the wheels you choose are compatible with the vehicle. If they aren’t, it could cause damage to the car’s suspension, the tires or the wheels themselves, which is unsafe. If your vehicle’s wheels and tires are mismatched with the vehicle, it could cause the odometer or speedometer to read inaccurately, which may result in you speeding, unknowingly.

Fortunately, vehicle manufacturers provide a range of wheel sizes for each of their models, so there is room to make adjustments. Sticking to manufacturer-produced wheels is a safe choice, because they are designed with the same bolt pattern. This ensures a proper fit. With multiple sizes available with every vehicle model, drivers can find a wheel that provides an optimal mix of performance, comfort, fuel efficiency and aesthetics.

How does wheel size affect performance and handling?

When a vehicle’s wheel size changes, its performance and handling tends to change as well. That’s because a larger wheel usually means a lower tire sidewall height. As a tire’s sidewall height decreases, its performance characteristics also change.

In general, as tire sidewall height decreases, the vehicle’s performance and handling both improve. Larger wheels equal better handling and performance. This enhanced performance is most noticeable when making sharp movements, so they are preferred for street or racing settings. A large wheel also brakes better, as the tire will have a larger contact patch to work with.

How does wheel size affect fuel mileage?

That extra performance comes with an added fuel cost because larger wheels are heavy, and heavy means more rolling friction. In short, it takes more energy to move heavier wheels, and that energy is spent in the form of fuel. Larger, heavier wheels reduce a vehicle’s fuel efficiency. It costs more to operate a vehicle with heavier wheels, and larger wheels cost more. For many drivers, it comes down to a cost versus performance decision.

How does wheel size affect comfort?

Wheel size also affects how the vehicle feels when it’s in motion, though the tire’s characteristics will also have a major impact on feel, so consider both. Smaller wheels tend to provide a smoother, more comfortable ride. This is especially true in off-road or rough road conditions, as a smaller wheel produces less vibration and noise.

Are there are any other reasons why a driver would pick a larger wheel?

Many drivers prefer larger wheels, even if they don’t plan on taking their car to the track. That’s because a large wheel can give a car a sporty look, which many people prefer from a design standpoint. Aesthetics count for these drivers.

How can you tell if a tire will fit a particular wheel?

If you have a wheel size picked out, it’s time to fit it with a proper tire. A tire replacement service will have experts on hand to help match tires to wheels, but if you’re browsing, then pay attention to the tire’s sidewall. Every tire is marked with letters and numbers that reveal important information about the tire, including its size.

With most tires, you will see a series of letters and numbers. If the tire is designed for use in the U.S., you will see a P, LT, T or ST first. The letters refer to the vehicle that the tire is designed to fit, such as:

  • P means passenger vehicle.
  • LT means light truck.
  • ST means special trailers.
  • T means temporary spare.

When shopping for a tire, most drivers are looking for a tire with a P or LT designation.

The next three numbers refer to the tire’s width, in millimeters. The wider the tire, the more it contacts the road. This means better grip, handling and performance.

Following this number is a slash, and then another two-digit number on the other side. This is the tire’s aspect ratio and refers to the relationship between the tire’s width and its sidewall height. For example, if the number is 40, then the tire’s sidewall height is 40 percent of its width. A smaller sidewall height means better performance, but reduced comfort.

Next to the aspect ratio is a single letter, which refers to the tire’s construction. The majority of modern tires are made with radial construction, so you’ll likely see an R here.

The next number is an important one because it refers to the wheel diameter that the tire is designed to fit. This will be a two-digit number that is measured in inches. For instance, if you see an 18, that means the tire is designed to fit a wheel 18 inches in diameter.

Who can help drivers pick the right wheel for their car?

Tire replacement experts, whether in-shop or mobile, are experts on wheels as well because you can’t have one without the other. If there are any doubts about a wheel’s fit with a particular vehicle or tire, bring an expert in. Your vehicle’s performance, handling and feel depend on it.

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