Bigger is Better? RNR Talks Wheel Size and Vehicle Performance
I’m looking for new wheels for my car and I definitely want to go bigger—like, as big as possible. Got any suggestions?
Doing it Up in Detroit
My mama always said, “The gawdier, the better,” in reference to jewelry, but I say, if you can’t fit your hand in your purse, what’s the point? Your jewelry ought to highlight and accent—make things better—not inhibit your life, right? Same goes for your wheels.
You can go as big as you like, but let’s take a look at the reality of things. If your stock wheels are one size and you want to increase that a bit, it’s usually not a big deal. Say, you want a Plus 1—no problem. A Plus 1 means that the new wheel would be one-inch taller. You could probably even take a Plus 2 or Plus 3, but pushing things beyond that could mean trouble if you don’t make alterations to your car. When you increase the diameter of a passenger car’s wheel (trucks are a little different, esp. 4WD), just remember you must keep the overall radius of the tire pretty close to the original or the tires could hit stuff– you know, like the fenders (or shocks or other components). When the radius of the overall tire gets larger, the effective gearing gets taller too, which slows down the engine—and your acceleration. Also, because of something called increased angular momentum, or the weight concentrated near the rim, your ABS calibration could go all wonky on you. Due to all of these issues, passenger cars that are plus sizing usually go wider with reduced side wall. So, if you go from a 7-inch wide rim to an 8-inch wide rim; this rim will usually add an inch in height (Plus 1). Then you add a tire with a wider tread and lower profile for better handling and you’re set (because of the lower profile, your overall diameter is about the same as the original). You can go lower profile with a Plus 2 or even a Plus 3 (usually), but you should discuss this with one of our guys at RNR—they can tell you what will work best on your particular vehicle. Most cars can safely go up to 20 inch rims these days, but you will get a stiffer ride the larger you go.
Other things change when you go lower profile, though. The shorter sidewalls stabilize the tread, improve the grip and make the feel of things better through steering because the tires are stiffer and more cooperative, BUT the increased width can make the car hydroplane more easily. Also, because the sidewalls are shorter, the wheels are a lot closer to things like curbs and potholes, so the rims can be more easily damaged. You can compensate for these things, so long as you’re aware of them, by driving more carefully, so they may not be an issue. Remember too that the bigger the rim, the thinner the tire, the rougher the ride. Adding a nice set of custom rims to any vehicle does improve the look and it personalizes your ride to your taste.
Remember: Just because 26 inch rims exist, doesn’t mean they should go on your vehicle—and they aren’t for everyday driving, they’re pretty much just for show. So, know your vehicle, know your driving needs, and get all the info you can about the way your new wheels may change your car’s handling, etc. We can help you with all of that– just ask one of our RNR associates and they’ll walk you through the whole process. And when all is said and done, before you drive away with your brand new wheels, how about snapping a pic and posting it to our Facebook page? You never know who you may inspire with your final results! Until then, drive safely!