Is bigger always better? Well, when it comes to car wheels and tires, some drivers certainly seem to think so! Switching out factory sets for larger sizes has become a popular auto trend over the last few years, and the claims that it’s all about style over substance have got it totally wrong. Industry experts have done their fair share of testing, and the results prove that big wheels offer practical benefits on the road too!
The Background on Plus-Size
In order to understand why size matters you’ve got to understand how “plus-sizing” (one-inch dia increase = one plus size) actually works. When the wheel increases in diameter, the sidewall height must get smaller in order to maintain the tire’s overall diameter. Gearing and problems with fender fit pop up otherwise, along with a whole slew of other performance issues, so it’s best to grab an expert on the subject before making a big change. Most recommend sizing up by no more than one inch so that the vehicle’s suspension isn’t negatively affected.
Consider Tire Traction
Where you drive – climate makes all the difference here – is a huge factor when it comes to deciding on the size of your wheels. It seems as though drivers battling winter snow should gravitate towards 16 and 17-inchers as they tend to thrive in crappy weather conditions, offering improved handling and better grip. Drier-climate drivers can go much larger since weather performance isn’t as big of a deal, but definitely should consider the negative impacts that come with plus-twos and threes (a less comfy ride for one, and a serious risk of vehicle damage from potholes and curbs).
Better Overall Handling
Go big or go home when it comes to sets that offer better handling and cornering ability! That’s right, a test done on wheels and tires over at Car and Driver showed that not only do the 17 and 18-inch wheels look stylish, but they also win in the areas of braking performance and steering. Ride comfort wasn’t significantly compromised (the way it can be with 19-inchers) and gripping capabilities from the larger wheels showed obvious improvements over factory sets.
Big on Style
But while the practical benefits are definitely real, increasing a car’s wheels and tire size really does come down to your aesthetic preference. Plain and simple: big looks sportier and cooler, and that’s why most drivers end up spending the extra cash to size up!
Slight advantages in handling and a super stylish appearance can’t erase the poorer fuel economy and overall comfort issues that come with larger sets, so unless the look of those standard 16-inch wheels really grinds your gears (car puns!), it’s probably best to stick with the manufacturer’s choice.