Switching to Low Profile Tires
Let’s be honest: Low profile tires just look cool. Large, shiny rims and a small amount of rubber have a huge impact on your car’s visual appeal. But you must take into account some important factors when contemplating the switch from traditional sidewall tires to low profiles.
Low profile tires cannot flex like regular tires because they have less rubber in the sidewall. Because of the excess rubber, you will receive a precise feel when taking a corner. Less rubber equals better handling. However, less rubber also equals less cushion. You’ll notice this when hitting potholes and bumps. The tires will be unable to absorb the impact and you may even notice damage to the rims if you frequently travel bumpy roads. If you choose a low profile tire, you’ll want to make sure the sidewall is soft in order to have some flexibility. Otherwise, you’ll feel every little rock and bump in the road. If you have extremely low profile tires, ones where the sidewall height is 2.5 inches or less, you’ll need to upgrade your suspension or else your car will be too shaky to drive.
If you are willing to give up comfort for more precise handling and a trendy look, you can choose between a plus-one or a plus-two conversion for your new tires and wheels. A plus one conversion means you will be increasing your wheel size by one inch and decreasing your tire profile by one inch. A plus two conversion gives you a lower profile, increasing your wheel size by two inches and decreasing your tire profile by two inches.
Take notice that you will have to change your actual wheels when switching to these show-stopping tires too. You must keep the new tire’s rolling diameter the same as the original tires; otherwise your speedometer will be calibrated inaccurately, causing shift speeds and engine RPM to be incorrect. Therefore, a new low profile tire with the same rolling diameter as your current tire needs a bigger wheel to fill in the space that used to be part of the rubber tire.
You may notice that new low profile tires are usually 10%-20% more expensive than traditional sidewall tires. Furthermore, this type of tire will require more frequent replacement, because they wear out sooner than sidewalls.
If you do make the switch to low profile tires, be sure to keep your old wheels and tires. Low profiles do not perform well in wintry conditions and you may want to switch back to your original wheels and tires to compensate for driving in these precarious conditions. Also, you may discover that your car’s new flashy profile just isn’t worth the frequent replacing of worn tires and the lack of comfort when driving. If you’re unhappy with your low profile look, you can always switch back to your original tires.
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