Plus-size Tires: For Performance or Looks?

Does a bigger tire always mean a better tire? The trend toward "plus-size" tires is both a vehicle performance issue and a fashion issue. Wider treads can deliver better handling, but super-sizing tires will result in reduced safety on the road and carries a pretty hefty price tag.

  • Manufacturers are now delivering vehicles with 16- to 18-inch tires, rather than the 14- to 15-inch tires of years past. According to a 2014 Consumer Reports test, shorter and wider tires can deliver improved performance, if you choose tires that are appropriate for your vehicle and road conditions.

  • The look of wider treads and shorter sidewalls are also viewed as an accessory to your vehicle by many. Dramatic styles can be achieved with special wheel and tire packages, but they may affect the vehicle's usability for different purposes and in wet or wintry weather.

One plus one equals?

Plus-sizing is measured by inches. One inch beyond factory size is "plus-one" sizing, two inches is "plus-two," etc. Consumer Reports found that handling and cornering improved with wider tires, but that grip on wet roads decreased and ride suffered when increasing tire size by more than one inch. They also had a greater risk of wheel damage from potholes and curbs. Therefore, climate is an important issue when up-sizing.

More considerations

Beyond a one-inch increase in tire size, there are also questions of compatibility with brakes and potential for suspension damage.

To make sure your choices are safe and cost-effective, consult with the tire experts at the Levin Tire & Service Center nearest you.