Can I Install Bigger Size Tires for My Car?

Understanding the Tire Code

Finding and understanding tire dimensions is the first order of business if you plan on switching out your current tires for bigger ones. Tire manufacturers make this simple by including a tire code in every tire they sell. The tire code is found in the sidewall and typically looks like this: P225/55/R17. The tire code reads as follows:

  • P (Tire Type or Prefix) - The type of vehicle the tire is intended for.
  • 225 (Tire Width) - The measurement from sidewall to sidewall.
  • 55 (Aspect Ratio) - The tire’s height and width ratio.
  • R (Construction Type) - The tire’s internal construction type, radial or cross-ply.
  • 17 (Rim Diameter) - The diameter of the tire’s inner rim. This also determines the wheel diameter that a tire is compatible with.

Once we understand the tire code, it becomes easier to identify a tire’s dimensions and determine the compatibility of a specific tire we’re looking at.

Advantages of Installing Bigger Tires

Bigger tires enhance niche characteristics that may mean more to some car owners than others. As with any car modifications, larger tires have some benefits that may suit particular needs or driving conditions. Here are some advantages to consider:

Increased Ground Clearance

Ground clearance is the distance between your vehicle’s undercarriage and the ground. A higher ground clearance means your vehicle’s undercarriage is farther from the ground, enabling your vehicle to tackle rugged and uneven terrain. Higher ground clearance is also useful for flood-prone areas and for helping drivers see farther both on and off the road.

Enhanced Off-Road Performance

Larger tires also come with deeper and broader tread, greater width, and a larger contact area. These changes allow a vehicle to maintain traction over loose and uneven terrain. Bigger tires and lift kits are among the first upgrades many offroading enthusiasts install onto their cars.

Improved Braking and Cornering

Larger tires also improve braking and cornering in smaller, lighter vehicles because of their larger surface area. A larger contact area improves riding comfort and lateral stability in cornering because of a wider stance and greater dampening against bumps and humps. This is also why performance tires are wider and made of unique rubber compounds. Race cars even modify their wheel wells to accommodate larger tires.

Curb Appeal

Nothing highlights ownership more than personalization and customization. Bigger tires, larger wheels, and lift kits have significant appeal because of their aggressive, functional look. Car owners can choose from a plethora of customization combinations to create a unique vehicle through which they can express themselves.

Potential Risks and Drawbacks

The advantages mentioned above usually come at a cost. Remember that every vehicle is designed with a careful balance in mind. Any changes you apply will affect this careful balance and improve some characteristics at the cost of others. This information is crucial to car owners because it helps them determine whether these tradeoffs are worthwhile and optimal for their use case. Here are some risks and drawbacks of using a larger wheel size.

The Inherent and Cascading Costs of Customization

The first and most obvious drawback of changing your tires is the additional cost of acquiring and installing tires and related parts. The proper installation of larger tires entails accounting for their performance impact.

Depending on the size of the tires you plan to install, you may need to install other modifications — sometimes, along with your tires — to maintain the safety and drivability of your vehicle. Your vehicle is composed of several subsystems that interact and affect each other. Careful planning is crucial to maintaining the functionality and safety of your vehicle.

Diminished Fuel Economy
Inaccurate Speedometer Readings

Speedometers are tuned to provide readings based on stock tires. Changing tire size affects the accuracy of your speedometer because of the difference in diameter. Speedometers are designed to measure speed based on how quickly wheels spin. Taller tires will travel a greater distance per revolution than OEM tires and will cause your speedometer to show a speed that’s slower than your actual speed. You’ll need to have your speedometer recalibrated every time you alter the diameter of your tires. Speedometer accuracy is vital from both a safety and legal perspective.

Hindered Functionality and Safety Risks

Oversized tires will tend to scrape against your vehicle’s wheel wells when turning your wheels to their max angle and when your suspension bottoms out. Moreover, the added weight from tires will wear out your brake pads quicker because of the greater brake force required to stop the inertia from the added weight. All these changes to your vehicle’s riding characteristics are potential safety risks.

Warranty Claim Denial

Modifications will not outright void your warranty. However, manufacturers can deny your claim if they can prove that your modifications were the direct cause of your vehicle’s damage. This is why it’s important to keep car modifications reasonable and install them properly.

Determining the Acceptable Range for Bigger Size Tires

Generally, if you want to upsize your tires while minimizing the impact on vehicle performance, you’ll want to stay within 3% of your OEM tire and wheel diameter. Anything over a 4% increase in tire and wheel diameter can adversely affect vehicle performance, handling, and fuel economy and may even pose safety risks.

You may ask a trained specialist, “Can I install bigger tires for my car?” Our tire specialists will be happy to explore options and help you determine other modifications your vehicle may need.

Tire Maintenance and Care

Proper tire maintenance and care are crucial to maximizing the life cycle of your tires. Keeping your tires in optimal condition is just as important as getting your tire size right. Here are some tire maintenance essentials every car owner must know.

Tire Rotation

Promoting even tread wear is the primary premise behind tire rotations. Even tread wear extends tire life, optimizes traction, and yields a smoother ride by creating a stable base. Tire rotations vary per vehicle but typically include front-to-back or cross patterns. Remember to follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations for optimal results.

Wheel Alignment

Wheel alignment refers to how tires are angled onto your vehicle. Proper wheel alignment promotes even tread wear by maximizing the contact area between your tires and the road and ensuring an even weight distribution over the tire. Proper wheel alignment also maintains steering accuracy. If you notice your vehicle veering off or your tires have uneven wear, you should get your wheels aligned.

Proper Tire Storage

Proper storage is essential if you own more than one set of tires (as is the case in areas requiring special tires, such as winter tires). If you’re storing tires for over a month, keeping them indoors in a cool, clean, dry area is best.

Inspect your tires for any damage or uneven wear and clean them before storing them.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with installing bigger-size tires as long as they are within 3% larger than the diameter of your OEM tires. Staying within a 3% increase is optimal because it minimizes the adverse performance effects of larger tires. Going above the 3% threshold will impact your vehicle’s performance and fuel economy.

Final Words

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