Automotive wheels are much more than a car’s most notable accessory–they have a huge influence on the way your vehicle performs, too. Anyone considering an upgrade to aftermarket wheels is faced with an impressive variety of choices, from materials to production methods to wheel size. Tuning professionals usually have in mind the parameters of the wheel they are looking for, but a regular retail buyer may feel overwhelmed by all of the options and decisions to make. Understanding the effect wheels have on a vehicle’s maneuverability, acceleration and deceleration time will help you pick the most suitable rims for your car.

In previous articles on our blog we have talked a lot about the advantages of forged wheels and magnesium alloy wheels. Now let’s focus on selecting best automotive wheel diameters and widths.

Wheel Size and Performance

All manufacturers provide exact front and rear wheel fitment guidelines for each auto model and modification. This information is widely available online on the various wheel size guides. However, the automakers tend to play it on the safe side. In most cases, a wheel that is larger by an inch, or even two, can still fit. “There is no one-size-fits-all formula to determine whether a larger wheel would fit or not; we need to analyse other parameters such as width, offset or braking system modifications,” says SMW engineer Artyom Nabokov. When considering to step away from the manufacturer’s guidelines, it’s always good to consult with a customer service specialist before making a purchase.

wheel size guide by SMW

An Effect of Larger Wheels

Many people want larger wheels because of the way they look, but they also have an effect on performance. Larger wheels are often used with low-profile tires. Increasing wheel diameter typically shortens the tire’s sidewall, which accounts for a better grip by the tire on the road, and changes how the vehicle responds to steering. An increase in the width of a wheel leads to an improvement in cornering/turning. However, it is important not to go overboard, making sure there is still plenty of space for the wheel with tire to rotate freely without touching the fender. The extra inches may also affect the effectiveness of ABS (anti-lock braking system). “When changing the size of a wheel, a correct tire must be selected accordingly so the outer diameter of a wheel with tire matches the standard. There is a limit to which a tire profile can be reduced, usually 25% to 30%. That’s why a tire determines the maximum size of a wheel,” explains Mr Nabokov.

It’s important to note–the larger the wheels, the heavier they are. This extra weight can offset some of the above mentioned benefits and increase acceleration time and stopping distance. To find a compromise and get the benefits of larger wheels without weighing down the car, some people opt for ‘staggered wheels.’ This means that the sizes of the front and rear wheels are different. Wider wheels are usually installed on the back, which is especially effective for rear-wheel drive vehicles.

Wheel Size Guide – Conclusion

If we set aside design considerations, wheel parameters that influence the look of a car the most are size and offset. As for the effect on a vehicle’s performance, the most important factors are, probably, weight and width. Larger wheels are usually associated with more aggressive and sporty looks, but one needs to be careful when selecting a wheel that exceeds the size specified by the manufacturer. If you are not sure whether a specific size would fit, please contact SMW’s customer support team (forged@smwwheels.com). Installing smaller wheels is also possible in some cases, although this request is very uncommon.


1 thought on “Wheel Size Guide – How to Choose Aftermarket Wheels for Your Car”

Automotive Wheel Glossary - Common Wheel Related Terms | SMW Wheels · May 9, 2017 at 3:57 pm

[…] official requirements and opt for a larger (or smaller) size–please refer to the article on choosing wheel size for more […]

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