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Is It Wise to Fit Low Profile Tires on Your New Car?

Padmini Krishna
Low profile tires are certainly the latest innovation available in the market today. Naturally, it has caught the attention of many enthusiastic drivers. This story highlights the pros and cons of low profile tires, and helps you decide whether or not they would be a good choice for your car.

What are low profile tires?

Low profile tires have a much lower aspect ratio than normal tires (the typical value of aspect ratio for a low profile tire is less than 50). They have shorter sidewalls and wider treads due to which give the car a sleek look. Sports cars have tires designed in such a way that they enable better braking at high speeds.
A new buzzword has emerged in the automobile industry―low profile tires. Many people are enamored by the new trend of fitting these wheels on their cars simply because they look cool. However, the performance-conscious lot extol them for their speed rating as it improves the tire's handling response.
Cashing in on their rising popularity, car manufacturers have even started offering customers this option to get cars straight out of the showroom.

The real questions to be asked are, is all of this just an over-hyped gimmick?
What is their long-term impact on the vehicle itself? Is it wise at all to have low profile tires on a new car? Allow us to put things into perspective for you.

Plus Points

♦ The Look
Undeniably, low profile tires are aesthetically pleasing and give the car a sportier look. They are wider than regular tires, have larger rims, and skinnier sidewalls.

♦ Speed Handling Ability
Being wider, they have a greater tire clearance, and hence, offer better braking.
Also, because they have a smaller negative ratio (which means that the tire surface is in contact with the road for a longer duration of time), they offer a better grip, especially on dry roads.
♦ Improved Steering Response
Shorter sidewalls correspond to better steering response. Thus, the car smoothly turns corners. If you were, say, driving up a winding mountain road, these tires would be your best friends.

Minus Points

♦ Passenger Discomfort
Not a surprise at all. The suspension system, of which tires are a part, is responsible for absorbing majority of the shocks and bumps on the road; however, these tires which have sidewalls that are narrow and stiff, cause the ride to be rough and uncomfortable, especially, on irregular and imperfect roads.
♦ Need for Strict Consideration
One cannot simply decide to fit these tires on any car. Factors like, the load carrying capacity and internal volume of the tires, need to match the requirements of the car.
If the car in question has not been designed to handle low profile tires, fitting them would not only make the car unstable but also cause rim and sidewall damage.
The rim, itself, could push through the sidewalls of the tire.

♦ Rapid Deflation
Due to thinner sidewalls, even minor potholes could sometimes lead to tire damage. In the event that a low profile tire lands a pothole, the same thin sidewalls will cause it to deflate very soon, causing great inconvenience to the driver.

Myths Debunked

♦ It is, in no way proven that, tire blowouts would be more frequent if you are driving cars with low profile tires. Naturally, if they are fitted onto a car that was absolutely not designed for such tires, their wear and tear is impending.
There is no factual evidence to suggest that these tires are more susceptible to punctures due to road debris as compared to the regular ones.

♦ In spite of having superior performance as compared to normal tires in dry weather (where they are in fact excellent in terms of grip, speed, and corner handling), low profile tires are not of much use in snow.
Driving a truck with low profile tires, up a slope, in the snow, will result in the vehicle getting stuck in a ditch. The reason is wider tires offer a terrible grip in snowy terrain.

Should You Or Shouldn't You?

If you have made up your mind to purchase low profile tires, then you need to be sure of a few things.

✏ Firstly, check if your car is capable of coping with low profile tires. Also, sports cars are better designed to handle low profile tires than an SUV or a truck.

✏ Secondly, take into account the kind of terrain you usually drive on.
If you live on the snow belt, or your driving route includes roads that have a rough terrain, low profile tires are a big NO-NO.

✏ Thirdly, how useful are they to you? Do they provide comfort while driving? However, if you are insistent on purchasing these tires, be mentally prepared to face the monstrosity of irregular terrain to its maximum.
If you are in a carpool, it is your job to drive, you may want to steer clear of fitting these tires onto your car in the interest of everyone's convenience.

These tires remind one of the adage, "If looks could kill", as they make your car look great; however your fascination with its looks will soon wear off once you start driving on rocky and bumpy terrain.
Even if you are generally inclined towards driving within the city, the amount of wear and tear a few potholes bring about will have you looking at these tires as a liability.
If you are willing to pay the price of frequent need for maintenance as well as reduced comfort in exchange for envious looks and situation-dependent performance, you could opt for low profile tires. It's your call!
We are not against or in any way trying to dissuade you from opting for low profile tires; however, it does not seem wise to replace the high profile tires that are not only optimized for your motor vehicle but also are in perfect working condition.
If you are about to purchase a new car, and are being offered this option by the manufacturer, make your decision after careful consideration. If you do fit low profile tires on your car, do make sure that you uniformly change all the four tires. It is always advisable to check and seek firsthand advise from your mechanic.