Car Modifications - Wheels and Tyres

  • Apr 24, 2019

One of the easiest modifications one can do to a car is changing the wheels and tyres. And while it is one of the easiest modifications to carry out, a wheel and tyre upgrade can make significant changes to a car’s handling, acceleration, ride quality, fuel efficiency and visual appeal.

Starting off with wheels, there are two types available in the market: steel and alloys. While most manufacturers offer alloy wheels with their cars, there are still some that spec the lower variants of a model with steel wheels. They are good for two things: they are easy to repair and are cheaper than alloys. The downside, however, is that steel wheels are heavier, leading to more unsprung weight, which adversely affects the handling of a car over bad roads. Steel wheels are also significantly less visually appealing than alloy wheels. On top of that, steel wheels are prone to rusting.

Alloy wheels on the other hand are more expensive than their steel counterparts but are lighter and more visually appealing. The lower weight of alloy wheels leads to less unsprung weight in a car, which directly results in better handling over bad road surfaces. Also, because they are lighter, alloy wheels help attain better acceleration, top speed and fuel efficiency. And then there is the visual appeal aspect. Alloy wheels can be had in numerous designs and finishes, meaning you have a plethora of options to find the right look for your car.

There are downsides too. Alloy wheels are expensive and more prone to bending and cracking compared to steel wheels. And while they can be repaired to a certain extent, it is an expensive affair. Buying a new wheel instead makes more sense.

Coming to tyres, the most common upgrade is upsizing. There are two common ways of going about this: buying wider wheels and tyres and increasing the contact patch with the ground, or increasing the diameter of the wheels and reducing the tyre’s profile. While the former directly affects performance factors such as acceleration, top speed, grip and also fuel efficiency, the latter is geared towards enhancing the visual appeal of a car. While increasing the width of tyres will increase the amount of grip on offer, it increases acceleration times and decreases top speed and fuel efficiency of a car.

Upsizing the wheels by increasing the diameter will lead to using a tyre with a smaller sidewall. And while bigger wheels increase the visual appeal, a lower profile tyre will lead to a more bumpy ride. This is because a lower profile tyre has lesser sidewall area and lower air pressure inside, which diminishes its ability to flex and absorb bumps. The overall diameter of the wheel and tyre can be increased as manufacturers generally account for a little bit of space inside the wheel wells, for the purposes of upsizing. However, this practice differs from manufacturer to manufacturer and a drastic increase in size can lead to the tyre rubber grazing against the surface of the wheel well.

There is much more to upgrading the tyres and wheels of cars. However, most of these upgrades will show their true colours on a track and not in real-world conditions. If you are looking to upgrade the tyres and wheels of your car for road use, the practices mentioned above will go a long way returning the desired results.


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