If you consider upgrading your wheels and tires, you might be considering sticking with OEM size wheels and tires or upsize. Upsizing is common with tuners and off-roaders, so it should be perfect. Right? Well, it depends on how wide you go, where you drive, and when you drive.
WIDER WHEELS ARE WRAPPED IN WIDER TIRES
Let’s just begin with the reality. Wider wheels are wrapped in wider tires. So wider wheels with wider tires must be the best. Well, yes and no. Wider wheels and wider tires are usually done as part of overall upsizing wheels and tires. That means making the wheels taller and wider and the sidewalls of the tire shorter, and the tire width wider.
Shorter sidewalls make the tread more rigid and stable. Rigidity and stability give you optimum performance and efficiency because you have an improved grip in dry conditions. That’s excellent.
Wider tires change the size and shape of the patch where the rubber literally hits the road. The patch where tire contacts the road surface becomes square instead of oval. That square patch is perfect for grabbing the road when it’s dry. But, in wet conditions, that square patch is more likely to form a hydroplane. That’s not that good. So, ensure your wider wheels are wrapped in wider tires that are built to perform on wet roads.
WIDER WHEELS FOR STARTING AND STOPPING
Talking about braking and acceleration, are wider wheels better? This is absolutely yes. Need to brake hard? Wider wheels are perfectly designed for that. Want more traction off the line? Go with wider wheels. Sure, smaller wheels have more instantaneous acceleration because of their smaller mass, but that’s the short-term view.
Wider and larger wheels give you better sustained, higher acceleration over distance. That’s because that larger wheel has a larger leverage arm. You can check out that link to read up on the physics and formula, or just trust us that the larger the lever arm, the greater the distance moved with the same amount of torque.
ARE WIDER WHEELS BETTER FOR OFFROADING?
Are you kidding? When you leave the pavement behind, you had better be rolling on wider wheels. Upsizing your 4 x 4 isn’t optional. We don’t recommend going crazy with the lift kit, but we do recommend upsizing within limits. Talking about limits, you should also know that while most states don’t regulate the amount you can lift, they do regulate the maximum height of the headlights, and that’s just another way of regulating the lift. So don’t upsize more than 3 inches. You’ll be glad you’ve got those wider wheels.
So, are wider wheels better for off-roading? Yes. Upsizing with larger and wider wheels is essential for the best 4 x 4 experience.
DO WIDER WHEELS AFFECT FUEL ECONOMY?
If wider wheels help you go faster, quicker, does that save on gas? Are wider wheels better for fuel economy? Unfortunately NO, Wider wheels are heavier wheels. Heavier wheels have more mass. More mass means additional unsprung weight. Every bit of unsprung weight decreases the fuel economy of your vehicle.
Wider wheels won’t take your mileage from miles to the gallon to gallons to the mile, but your MPGs will suffer slightly. The trade-offs are all the positives that come with the wider wheels. And speaking of positives, there’s one last very important way wider wheels are better: wider wheels with wider tires mean lower steering friction coefficient. That makes taking sharp turns an awesome experience.
So, are wider wheels better for gas mileage and performance? No, and yes. Wider wheels aren’t good for gas mileage, but they are very good when it comes to performance.