How Does Wheel Size Affect Car Performance

How Does Wheel Size Affect Car Performance?

When the tires that came on your vehicle start to wear out and need to be replaced, you’ll probably want to get replacements that will enhance performance and fuel economy. But as you make your choice, you should understand tires and all the things to think about, including size. So, today I’ll answer the question: how does wheel size affect car performance?

Let’s find out how wheel size affects car performance and fuel economy, and whether you should choose a smaller or larger tire.

Does My Tire Size Affect Car Performance and Fuel Economy?

Tire size, along with other factors, will affect your vehicle’s fuel economy and performance. For most tires, the larger the tire, the lower the fuel economy (at least, on short trips). Why? Well, it’s because a larger tire weighs more than a smaller one. Also, larger tires have a higher rolling resistance than smaller tires. So, it takes them more effort to get started. However, if you go on a long trip when you drive on the highway and maintain steady speeds, larger tires may provide better fuel efficiency.

Does My Tire Size Affect Car Performance

If you do most of your driving in the city, though, with a lot of stopping and going, you’ll get better efficiency from smaller tires.

Smaller tires have less weight to them and they tend to do better when you need to stop and go quite a bit.

What Affects the Fuel Economy of My Vehicle?

Tire size is just one determinant of fuel economy. I’ll talk about other factors here.

Air Pressure

To start, the air pressure in the tires will determine whether you’re getting good fuel economy or not.

What Affects the Fuel Economy of My Vehicle

Underinflated tires mean there is too much resistance as you drive. As a result, your car expends more energy just to move.

To avoid this issue and no matter what kind of tires you have, you need to air them up to the proper PSI.

Tire Treads

The tire treads are another thing to consider. Too much tread, which is more common on the bigger tires, can slow you down and provide more resistance.

This can be great news if you plan to do a lot of off-road driving with your tires or driving on the ice and snow.

But it just provides resistance for routine driving. If you plan to just drive in normal conditions, be careful about the amount of tread you have on the tires or it will ruin your fuel efficiency.

Does My Tire Size Affect Car Fuel Economy

Certain customizations to your tires will help you get better fuel efficiency, as well.

While the metal parts of most tires are made out of steel, it is possible to find tires with metal components constructed from a lighter alloy.

This will make your vehicle weigh less, reducing its resistance and helping you to get better fuel economy overall.

However, these tires are wider, and this could cut down on some of the fuel efficiency you’ll get.

Other issues like tire type, tire balancing and alignment, and the way that you drive will all factor into how fuel efficient your tires will be when you hit the road.

While the size of the tires will matter, you need to consider all of these factors to help you choose the right tire for your car.

How Do Bigger Tires Affect Your Miles Per Gallon?

For most vehicles, larger tires will negatively impact gas mileage, meaning they will need to go to the pump more often.

There are several reasons for this, including:

Rolling Resistance

Rolling resistance is the force exerted against the tire as you drive. It’s a key factor in tire performance.

Car Tire Rolling Resistance

There is a lot of math and physics in it, but factors like vehicle weight, tire tread, and tire diameter will all contribute to the rolling resistance.

When it comes to how rolling resistance affects fuel resistance, it’s easiest to understand that the more rolling resistance your vehicle has, the more fuel you will need to keep it moving at any speed.

Larger tires have increased rolling resistance. This means that it will take more fuel to get the tires to move and keep them moving.


The weight of the tire will also affect fuel efficiency.

A bigger tire is generally going to be heavier than a smaller tire. All that extra weight means the vehicle is harder to move around.

This means that the heavier tire, which is the bigger tire in most cases, will need more fuel to move forward.

Contact Patch

Take a look at the contact patch of the tire as well. This is simply the part of the tire that will come in contact with the ground as you drive.

The shape and the size of this spot is important because it will help you with the handling, performance, and traction.

Car Tire Contact Patch

It’s also a factor when you are looking at fuel economy. When you have a larger contact patch, it can translate into a higher rolling resistance.

Remember what I said about rolling resistance earlier. It cuts down on fuel efficiency, so you get fewer miles per gallon.

Wide tires often help you to get more traction, which is why you may want to install them on your car to start with.

But the traction makes it harder to spin your tires, which makes it take more gas to get the tires moving well. That means less fuel efficiency.


Most large tires on the market have a thicker tread than small tires.

A thicker tread is helpful if you want to off-road or have to drive through a lot of snow and ice. But it makes the vehicle harder to move and will cut down on your fuel efficiency.

You will have to decide whether the fuel economy or the added traction is more important to you when driving.

Fuel Economy: Small vs Big Tires

Many drivers want to know how many miles per gallon they’re going to lose when they get bigger tires.

Fuel Economy Small vs Big Tires

It is going to depend on your type of vehicle, the tread on the tires, the width of the tires, and how many sizes you go up.

If the two tire sizes you’re choosing between have a big size difference, you could see a fuel efficiency difference of between 2 and 25%.

If you get tires much larger than the ones you currently have, you’ll probably enjoy a fuel efficiency improvement of between 5 and 6 miles per gallon.

Are Big Tires or Small Tires Better for Performance?

Smaller tires are often going to be one of the best options when you want to make sure that you get good fuel economy on the road.

You need to consider which ones will provide you with the best performance. In many cases, larger tires will give you better performance.

This is especially true if you have a SUV or a truck as smaller rims and bigger tires will be a good option for you to choose to get the best performance possible.

The larger tires have all of the components that you need to stay safe on the road and have great performance.

Deeper treads, a larger surface area, and stronger materials mean you can stay safe no matter the road conditions.

The tires will be less likely to blow out. You will notice that they will be great no matter where you want to trave.

When performance is important, larger tires are a much better option.

When Is It Better to Have Bigger Tires?

For city driving and short distances, smaller tires are usually best.

They’re lighter and easier to move, which will provide you with the good gas mileage that you’re going to look for when picking out a new tire.

When is It Better to Have Bigger Tires

However, you may wonder when it will be a good idea for you to pick out a bigger tire rather than a smaller one.

In some cases, the larger tires are going to help you increase your miles per gallon. This will happen if you spend most of your time traveling on roads where you can go 60 miles per hour or more.

If you drive on highways and for long distances frequently, though, you may benefit from larger tires.

Larger tires are necessary for off-roading. If off-roading is your thing, you need to find tires that are specifically made for that purpose, like all terrain tires.

Final Thoughts: Does Wheel Size Affect Car Performance?

All other things being equal, a smaller tire is usually the better choice. It’ll provide you with better fuel economy overall and will probably give you better performance, too.

As we learned here, there are many factors that determine how well a tire will do on your car. Consider all of them when deciding on the right tires for your vehicle.

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