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Wheel Size And Speed: Does It Make That Much Difference?

If you want to show off your new car with some mods, the easiest thing to do is usually, well, get it a new set of wheels. If you’re going for souped-up turbo car style then a larger set of wheels is the easiest way to make your ride scream “look at me.”

But if you’re thinking about making this sort of change to your car you need to consider how the size of the wheels will affect the overall performance of the vehicle. Things like, how does wheel size affect speed? How will it affect fuel economy? What effect will it have on performance? Below we’ve explained some of the main considerations you need to take into account when changing your car’s wheel size.

Curb-appeal

If you fit larger wheels then you are increasing the distance the car travels each time the wheel turns, but, usually larger wheels are heavier, so you’re also making the engine work harder with each revolution. Making the engine work harder can be detrimental if you want an impressive 0-60 start. This also means the cost of running the car will rise as you’ll need to fill up with petrol more often.

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Smaller wheels, while not having much (if any!) curb-appeal could help the car’s performance. The engine isn’t working as hard to turn the wheels because they are lighter, and the suspension will also benefit making the steering sharper and the car handle better. You’ll also save on fuel thanks to the decrease in weight.

Changing the size of your wheels isn’t as simple as buying some new alloys and getting them fitted. Your car is carefully calibrated to work with the whole diameter of the wheel – alloy and tyre combined. Things like the differential, gears and speedometer work with the size of the wheels fitted by the manufacturer. Changing the size of the wheel will mean the car isn’t running properly and will even mean the speedometer gives the wrong reading which, understandably, is illegal.

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To compensate for this you’ll need to keep the diameter of the wheel similar to the original spec. So, if you want larger alloys you need smaller tyres and vice versa. You can find info on this in the manufacturer’s handbook.

What do you need from your car?

If you drive mainly in the city and are concerned with ride quality and fuel consumption, then large alloys with low profile tyres probably aren’t the right choice for you. These are designed for faster speeds than you’re likely to reach driving down the local high street. You’ll also really feel every pothole and rough road surface – which, let’s be honest, are the majority of roads in most town centres. But, if you do a lot of travelling and find yourself on the motorway more often than not, then larger wheels could be the best choice.

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If you decide to go for maximum curb-appeal and invest in a new set of alloys and tyres, be sure to check your manufacturer’s handbook first. You need to stay within the recommended size and load ratings for your vehicle and make sure you don’t exceed these as this can lead to some hefty repair bills.

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