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Things to remember when upgrading wheel and tires.

A guide to upgrading wheels and tires

History of tires (brief intro):

Back in the day, tires were made of wood. Then came metal tires, then pneumatics, like what you see on old cars. Once they started making cars that could go faster than ten mph, they needed to increase friction between the vehicle and the road. It is where pneumatic tires with treads come into play. Shortly after this, rubber replaced almost all other materials used for tire construction.

Rubber has a couple of properties that make it fantastic for traction. It’s extremely flexible, giving more surface area of contact with the ground. It also has another property called hysteresis. It means that if there is some force trying to stretch the rubber, let’s say you’re speeding up, the rubber will stretch a little to accommodate this force. But once you stop applying pressure (stop speeding up), it immediately goes back to its original shape. 

The reason for this is that there are many long-chain polymers (the building blocks of natural rubber) called Si-polymers. Which form branches and loops and entangle with other Si-polymers to create a complex three-dimensional network strong. Silicone polymers are also present in rubber and give it its elasticity .Due to these properties, pneumatic tires with treads were awesome for stopping and going fast on paved roads.

Guide to Wheel sizes:

Wheel sizes have evolved over the years as cars have gone faster and faster. Early automobiles had small wheels to reduce weight and improve gas mileage.

The problem with this is that smaller wheels are more fragile than larger ones. So when manufacturers tried to go higher speeds, like 60 mph), they would break quite easily due to the lateral forces acting on their small radius. 

To prevent this, they started making wheels thicker and thicker. This helped decrease the breakage rate, but it also made the cars heavier. This is where the trend of making wheels larger comes from. You can make a revolution strong enough to resist breaking at high speeds without adding too much weight.

Guide to Tires sizes:

Wheel sizes have evolved over the years as cars have gone faster and faster. Early automobiles had small wheels to reduce weight and improve gas mileage.

The problem with this is that smaller wheels are more fragile than larger ones. So when manufacturers tried to go higher speeds, like 60 mph), they would break quite easily due to the lateral forces acting on their small radius. 

To prevent this, they started making wheels thicker and thicker. This helped decrease the breakage rate, but it also made the cars heavier. This is where the trend of making wheels larger comes from. You can make a revolution strong enough to resist breaking at high speeds without adding too much weight.

Guide to Tires sizes:

  • The size of a tire is also a result of wheel evolution. When pneumatic tires with treads were first invented, they didn’t have any of the modern technologies. Like, we have today to make them last longer. One of these technologies is called Bead Technology. A process where the sidewall and tread are one piece of rubber, and a stripe of steel is inserted along with the bead where it meets the rim. 

    The reason for this is so that when you weigh the tire, there’s less pressure being exerted on one particular spot as opposed to if the sidewall were just non-existent as in older days. It makes the tire more durable and less likely to rip or form a leak. Today, beads technology is an integral part of modern tires and shouldn’t be overlooked when choosing your rubber friends.

What Do Those Numbers on the Tire's Side Mean?

  • The most significant number on the side of your tire identifies your tire’s size, profile, weight, and speed ratings. The following sequence represents, in order, section width , aspect ratio , construction (R), rim diameter and load index (92)

Calculating Wheels and Tires sizes:

wheel size:

The wheel size is the diameter, width, and offset of a wheel described in terms of its diameter, breadth, and offset. The radius of the wheel is the distance between the cylindrical surface on which the tire bead travels and the inside edge of one tire bead. The inner distance between two adjacent bead seat faces is known as the width.

Tire Size:

The aspect ratio is the two-digit number following the slash in tire size. The 65 in P215/65 R15 indicates that the height is 65% of the width. The larger a tire’s sidewall, due to its greater aspect ratio, the more points it will ride.

What's the load index?

  • A tire’s load index is a two or three-digit number that denotes its maximum weight capacity. A tire with a load index of 94, for example, can carry a load of 1565 pounds at 75 psi (pounds per square inch). The majority of automobile tires have an index score ranging from 75 to 102.

     

When to upgrade wheels and tires?

You should upgrade the wheels and tires of your car for one reason,  more performance. More grip equals more control, better acceleration, higher top speeds, and better braking capabilities. Before changing all your stock components (such as brakes), make sure that they are not the cause of your poor handling problem first. 

Usually, though, once you change three things, you will notice a significant difference in vehicle behavior. Those items being wheels, tires, and then suspension or anything that dictates how your car behaves on the road.

Mistakes to avoid when upgrading wheels and tires:

Don’t assume that more expensive equals better performance. There are some very cheap wheels out there that offer more than the top-of-the-line, ridiculously priced ones. If you find yourself paying $500 or more on a set of rims, chances are pretty good that they’re extremely over-marketed and lack any decent performance to back the price up. Keep in mind all of your vehicle’s specifications, including but not limited to horsepower (hp), tire width (TW), wheel offset (et), rim diameter (in), tire height, distance from the center of the wheel hub to bolt hole circle diameter (hub bore dia.), lug pattern or bolt count, etc. 

Don’t go too big. Not only will it defeat the purpose of upgrading in the first place (i.e., putting bigger tires on to increase your contact patch for grip). But you’re likely to find yourself getting pulled over if your rims are larger than what’s street-legal.  Tread pattern does make a difference, but tread depth is even more important. The grooves made by the tire help evacuate water when driving through wet conditions. Which gives you better traction due to less surface resistance when compared with smooth rubber in non-grooved patterns.

How much do wheels and tires cost? 

Entry-level wheels start at $50/wheel depending on size or brand. You can get alloy wheels for around $100/wheel. Performance wheels start at about $200/wheel depending on size, condition, used or new, and brand, with mounting and balancing.

When looking to upgrade your wheel size, you need to consider the offset of the wheel. The balance is what dictates how much it sticks out from the hub of the car. If you go too large in terms of an offset, you might find yourself with clearance issues (i.e rubbing against suspension components that can cause damage).

At the end of the day, though, it is about personal preference, do your research before buying. If you’re still unsure, bring along someone knowledgeable when shopping for wheels.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ's

A. Yes, you can. But if they don’t fit your stock rims, they will most likely not include the aftermarket wheels either. So it’s important to buy a tire size that fits both your car and the new wheel you intend on installing them on.

A. A higher price point is usually indicative of a better, more expensive tire. Because 18-inch tires are typically considered entry-level luxury car tires, they tend to sell for around $150+ each.

A. For a full set of 4 tires, the average price range is between $200 -$500. Depending on your vehicle’s make and model.

A. Wheels have a negligible impact on overall performance. However, they will increase your top speed (assuming your engine can handle it).

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