How Smart Is It To Put Bigger Tires On Your Car?

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Big wheels and tires look great on a chunky SUV or pickup, but what about other cars?

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If you think the factory-equipped tires on your car aren't getting the job done to your satisfaction, you may be wondering if you can put bigger tires on your car or truck. The latter, along with SUVs, are the most likely recipients of this kind of treatment as they look particularly bold riding and capable with bigger wheels and bulkier tires - they also have some extra room in their arches for larger items, too.

It's also important to remember that bigger tires may not be compatible with the original rim you have fitted, so before you delve too deep down that particular rabbit hole, it helps to know how putting larger wheels or tires on a car can affect it.

Is Bigger Truly Better?

Cars are developed with a general tire size in mind that takes into account a balance of fuel economy, road comfort, and road-holding abilities. Opting for bigger wheels often decreases on-road comfort, but choosing a bigger tire can have some performance benefits. In general, however, bigger tires affect mpg negatively. But it's not just fuel economy that warrants a down- or up-sizing of tires. Bigger and wider tires offer better traction, which is why sports cars make use of them. And, special oversized tires and wheels that you often see on focused off-roaders are desirable for their traction and versatility benefits in the great outdoors.

All of this means that bigger is only better when the need for a bigger tire or wheel is justified - if you need better performance or more traction, it can be better. But the trade-off will be more money spent at the pumps, and potentially more money spent to maintain, rotate, or replace such wheels. You can read more about performance and touring tires here.

Vehicle With Oversize Tires Pexels.com

Pros And Cons Of Bigger Tires On Trucks And SUVs

Unless you're fitting performance or touring tires, upsizing the tires of your sedan is most probably not very likely. However, when it comes to SUVs and pickup trucks such as the Honda Pilot or even something hardier like a Honda Ridgeline truck, there is much more opportunity - and reason - to fit bigger tires. Let's discuss how large tires affect the various characteristics of your average truck or SUV.

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Pros and Cons

What are some of the reasons you may want to consider larger tires on your truck or SUV?

  • Extra height, extra confidence: One of the biggest draws of SUVs and pickup trucks is the extra ride height they have over a traditional sedan or sports coupe. This extra ground clearance is what gives them the ability to go where most others types of cars can't. Bigger tires will raise your car even higher, which means extra ground clearance. But all this height also translates to a far more commanding driving position.
  • Off-road chops: Having bigger tires when you're seriously into off-roading will help to a certain extent with traversing smaller ruts and rocks more easily. Bigger tires mean bigger tread patterns, which also imply a higher level of grip in various conditions. Specialist tires in this regard are also often bolstered with reinforced sidewalls and sturdier materials. These bigger tires also improve handling on dirt and gravel, and will also show benefits when you're coming to a sudden stop as there is a larger contact patch between the tire and the road surface.
  • Big, bold, and beautiful: Most high-end SUVs and pickups come outfitted with large wheels but not for the reasons already mentioned. When you're spending so much money, you want people to take notice, and that's exactly what these big boys ensure. Now, tires aren't wheels, but there is no denying that big rollers in your arches draw attention and make a statement. The same is true when you're pimping out your truck - big wheels are much more noticeable.
  • Cost of customization: It will always cost you something to replace your standard tires, but if you're switching out for bigger tires, expect to pay extra for the upgrade. The price may be even higher if the tires you choose are too big for the rims or the arches and you are first required to install a lift or make other adjustments. For example, you might need to fit larger wheels or upgrade the suspension entirely. We cover suspension and body lifts for your vehicle in detail, here.
  • Budget: Bigger wheels are naturally heavier than smaller ones. This means bigger fuel bills on top of the price you have to pay for the tires. Luckily, tires are not the heaviest components of a car, so this is only a small factor. It can add up over the years, though. To find out how fuel-efficient tires can help save you money, click here. Additionally, depending on the modifications you make, your vehicle warranty could also be voided and potentially cost you money down the line.
  • Odometer and speedometer readings: Just like the speedometer determined the speed you're traveling by measuring the distance of each wheel rotation, the odometer keeps track of how many miles you've covered. Theoretically, if you've upgraded to a substantially taller tire than the original, the rotation reading will be inaccurate. In this way, bigger tires will affect your speedometer reading. You can have a speedometer recalibration done by a professional, however.

The golden rule when it comes to upgrading the tire size of your vehicle is that you can safely equip tires that are up to 20 millimeters wider on the original rim. If you want to go larger than that, you will need to upsize the rim, too.

How To Measure For The Biggest Tires You Can Fit On Your Truck

If you're looking to put bigger tires on your truck, you'll need to figure out just how big you can go so you don't risk buying oversized tires that won't fit or will rub against the arches or internal components. Here are some steps to follow to make sure you get all the information you need.

  • Accurately measure the size of your current wheels.
  • Measure the empty space around the wheel between the tire and the arch.
  • Turn the wheel until it locks and take the measurements again. Pay careful attention to the amount of space between the wheel and the suspension.
  • Measure how much room there is between the axle tube and the bump stop. Add the length of the bump stop for some additional wiggle room.
  • Try to position your truck at its maximum approach or departure angles on a slope and take the measurements again.
  • Once more, turn the wheels to their locking point and re-measure.

With all these figures, you will see just how much space you have to work with under average and extreme conditions. Keep in mind that your suspension can move up to four inches before becoming fully compressed, so subtract that from your shortest measurement. What you're left with is how many inches of tire you can add without comprising on functionality and safety. A torsion bar adjustment can help widen the gap between the wheel and the hard parts of the body, giving you more room to work with. It is always wise to get professional input in this case.

Note that not all rims can support larger tires. By measuring the backspacing and offset, you should be able to tell if you will need to buy new wheels, too. If you want to equip particularly large wheels and tires, you may have to consider getting a lift for your truck. Alternatively, you could look for a used truck, crossover, or SUV with such a modification already equipped.

Pros and Cons of Bigger Tires on Trucks unsplash.com

FAQs

Is a vehicle with oversized tires unsafe?

Overly large wheels can make steering more difficult and stronger brakes are needed to stop their rotation in a timely fashion. As such, if the only thing you change is the wheels or tires, it can adversely affect the overall safety of the vehicle. Your vehicle should be modified to safely accommodate such large items.

Does lifting a truck affect mpg?

Yes. Less air resistance means less power and, therefore, more fuel is needed to accelerate and keep the vehicle in motion. A higher ride height makes a truck less aerodynamic, thereby negatively impacting its fuel efficiency.

Is it better to have bigger wheels on a truck?

There is no definite yes or no answer to this. Benefits of larger tires include better ground clearance and off-road handling, as well as better on-road traction. However, there are numerous downsides such as poorer fuel economy returns, slowing steering responses, and problems arising from onboard systems being calibrated for differently sized wheels and tires.

Is there a difference between upsizing and plus-sizing when it comes to wheels and tires?

Yes - whereas upsizing refers to adding a bigger tire to an existing rim or wheel, plus-sizing means upgrading the size of the rim and keeping the same tire size for a lower profile. Plus-sizing your setup doesn't impact ground clearance at all or have any effect on the speedometer and can enhance cornering and handling capabilities. Upsizing can result in an inaccurate speedometer reading.

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