Should You Get Low Profile Tires?
It’s not uncommon for people to buy a new car and immediately exchange the stock tires for low-profile tires. After all, they usually look good and many performance cars come with them right out of the factory — clearly, this must mean they’re worth it, right? Well, not quite.
Related: The importance of tire rotations
Pros of low-profile tires
First, let’s get the definition out of the way: a low-profile tire refers to a tire that has a very short sidewall. In other words, what you might call the “width” of the tire is very narrow. This comes with advantages and disadvantages that you should know about before buying a set.
When you drive your car, everything you do puts energy through your tires, causing them to compress and flex. The less rubber there is to flex, the stiffer the ride, and that can lead to better cornering performance. Another upside is that low-profile tires often come hand-in-hand with larger wheels, which may enable you or the manufacturer to fit a larger brake system, if you expect to need it.
Unfortunately, that’s about as good as it gets for low-profile tires.
Cons of low-profile tires
Tires with thinner sidewalls come with several major downsides. That stiffer ride we talked about above is often not just stiff, but harsh. With low-profile tires, you’ll feel bumps and road imperfections a lot more, which is not ideal if you plan to drive the car off the race track with any regularity.
Additionally, your expensive aftermarket wheels are more likely to get bent or cracked as low-profile tires provide significantly less protection against potholes. And because the tires are absorbing less energy, your shocks are absorbing more of it, which could be an issue if you’re thinking about repair bills over the long term.
Finally, and most importantly, automakers design their cars’ suspension systems with specific sidewall profiles in mind. Swapping out your tires for a type different than the car was meant to use can seriously compromise the car’s intended ride and handling characteristics.
Related: How to get the right tires for your car
If you drive your car on the road daily, don’t get low-profile tires. In fact, unless you’re tracking your car, there’s really no meaningful benefit to them beyond their aesthetic appeal. Of course, that single appeal may be enough.
Kurt Verlin was born in France and lives in the United States. Throughout his life he was always told French was the language of romance, but it was English he fell in love with. He likes cats, music, cars, 30 Rock, Formula 1, and pretending to be a race car driver in simulators; but most of all, he just likes to write about it all. See more articles by Kurt.