Yes, you can change wheels sizes on your car, but there are a few caveats. Different wheel sizes require you to change your tires as well. All of this means that your car is going to feel different depending on which size of wheels and tires you go for.
Performance-wise, a lighter and medium-sized set of wheels works the best because any additional weight on the tires is going to increase unsprung mass which negatively affects performance. Furthermore, bigger wheels also affect acceleration, especially so if the car is not properly tuned afterward.
Comfort-wise, smaller wheels and larger tires are almost always a better option because there is more tire to soak up all the bumps. However, many modern-day high-end luxury cars use 20inch + wheels while still retaining a comfortable ride.
Efficiency is also an aspect you need to worry about because larger wheel sizes can sometimes negatively impact fuel efficiency. Finally, it’s always important to talk to your insurance company before you decide to change your wheels because this might also affect your insurance policy.
Performance – Wheel and tire types and sizes
The reason why people tend to change wheel sizes is that it looks better, but many people do so to improve performance as well. Even though larger wheels can negatively impact lateral grip and overall traction, the type of wheel and tire you opt for might change that for the better.
For example, the highest-end performance cars these days use either magnesium or carbon fiber wheels. These types of wheels are usually the lightest which makes the car way more agile and fun to drive. Carbon fiber wheels paired with carbon-ceramic brakes usually offer the highest performance credentials.
This is because the unsprung mass tends to drop significantly, and the difference between unsprung mass and regular mass is substantial. As these components tend to rotate, the difference in weight makes a massive difference in performance because the weight changes during rotation.
As far as performance tires are concerned, they are usually made for warm and dry weather which means that they are not the best when it comes to ice and slippery conditions.
Comfort – Implications of opting for larger wheels
Most car manufacturers these days spend lots of time testing and improving their cars to a superior level in order to be competitive and successful. This means that these manufacturers know a thing or two about which wheel size fits a certain model in certain circumstances.
As such, it’s always a good idea not to change the wheel size if you enjoy the way your car drives, but if you do decide to do so, be sure to do it right. As mentioned previously, larger wheels negatively impact comfort as there is less tire to soak up uneven surfaces.
Even though there are a couple of manufacturers which are able to achieve impressive levels of comfort using 20+ inch wheels and tires, that’s because they build those cars, and they were able to tune the car properly for it to cope with larger wheel sizes.
Efficiency, safety, and insurance – Often overlooked factors
If you do a thorough search on the internet on how different wheel sizes impact efficiency, you are likely to come across multiple videos and articles telling you that larger wheels negatively impact efficiency.
That might be the case if your vehicle originally came on significantly smaller wheels, but in most instances, the differences are not as exaggerated as they seem. Maybe if you upgrade from 15’’ to 19’’ wheels you are going to notice the difference, if you only upgrade an inch or two, the differences are negligible.
Safety-wise, always opt for wheels and tires that comply with all the regulations set out by regulating bodies and with all the recommendations made by your manufacturer. Safety is not something you should take for granted, no matter how good something looks.
Lastly, always consult with your insurance company as different wheel sizes might even impact your insurance policy. This is common in countries with atrocious road quality because this increases the likelihood of damaging your car.
What else do I need to change when I want to change my wheel size?
You obviously need to change the tires as well. Larger tires tend to cost more when compared to smaller diameter tires, and they can sometimes be more difficult to find because they are not as common as smaller diameter wheels.
That being said, you need to make sure that the tire width, profile, and speed rating all need to match. Besides this, sometimes you will have to tune the car’s suspension system to cope with different wheels sizes. Your speedometer and odometer might also be impacted by larger wheels, so make sure to contact your mechanic for tailored instructions.
What are the implications of performance-rated tires?
Performance-rated tires cost more money, they are harder to find and they usually don’t last as long as ‘’regular’’ tires do. Some manufacturers such as Michelin offer numerous different types of performance-rated tires, some of them are more performance-oriented, others are mostly tailored for comfort and quietness with a sporty edge.
That being said, hardcore performance tires only make sense for track use as these tires are only functional when they are up to temperature. Furthermore, this also means that these tires can be dangerous during wintertime as they are not designed to cope with slippery conditions.
Should I change my wheel size or not?
If you want to upgrade your wheels, do it right. This means that you should contact your dealer for further info on your specific car and the types of tires that are rated for your type of car. Always be sure to contact your insurance provider before you do anything as this can be detrimental to your insurance policy.
Finally, be picky while choosing wheels as not all wheels are made equal. There are lots of licensed replica wheels out there and cheap knock-off wheels which can sometimes even be dangerous. Never skimp out while choosing new tires as this is even more important.