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Selecting the right tyre width: A beginner’s guide

Although OxWheels has been in the business of selling tyres for many years now, it still surprises us when people completely disregard tyre width when enquiring about new tyres. Curiously enough, those who ask questions about tyre width always seem to want wider tyres; never thinner. If you would like to understand more about tyre width and whether or not you can increase tyre width, read on.

Tyre width is basically the distance measured from side to side of a tyre when looking at it from the front. You can find out your tyre width by simply reading the set of numbers on the tyre. This set of numbers looks like “205/40R17”, in which the first numbers denote the tyre width. So, here, 205 is the tyre width in millimetre; 40 is the tyre profile or height represented as a percentage of the tyre width, and ‘R17’ implies that it is a radial tyre with a diameter of 17 inches.

Most people seem to be smitten by the fact that increased tyre width gives better road grip. While it is certainly true that increased tyre width provides increased traction and grip, as the contact area with the road is larger, that is not the complete picture. When you change your car’s tyres, the car behaves differently on the road and only an experienced person can tell you what to expect when you prioritise tyre width over other aspects.

The question that takes precedence over all other factors is whether the wider tyres can safely and comfortably fit under the car’s body? If they do, then you can get those new tyres fixed to your car. However, you must bear in mind that there are other factors such as a tyre’s tread patterns and a tyre’s rubber, which influence traction. For instance, Run Flat Tyres (RFTs) are generally made of harder rubber and may not offer the same traction as non-RFTs which are made of relatively softer rubber. Wider tyres are also pricier than other tyres and will set you back by quite a few extra dollar bills.

Most importantly, from the safety point of view, increased tyre width translates to decreased traction under rainy conditions due to hydroplaning. Hydroplaning is what happens when the tyres go over more water than they can push from under the tyre. This means that the tyres momentarily lose contact with the road surface and glide over a layer of water. Hydroplaning severely impacts braking, steering and may also lead to a complete loss of control for a few seconds. In an ordinary scenario, it has the potential to cause a dangerous collision either with other vehicles on the road or with the median. Thus, it is advised that you keep yourself fully informed about what to expect when you change your car’s tyres.

To make it simple for the ordinary blokes, we can say that tyres are a lot like shoes – one size does not fit all and you cannot be absolutely sure until you try them on. It is a good idea to change your tyres if you are not comfortable with the ride quality or if the traction is low. However, at the same time you must understand that every kind of tyre has its pros and cons.

If you are planning to buy new wheels, tyres or rims, speak with one of the experts at OxWheels for great tyres and even greater professional guidance! You can call us on our toll free number 1300 60 90 96 or visit us at 12 Apollo Ct, Blackburn VIC 3130.