Wide or narrow tires? Here’s how your choice will affect driving

Many drivers want their summer tires to look flashier than their winter equivalents. That is why wider and lower tires are usually selected for the summer, whereas narrower tires are commonly used in the winter. The tire choice affects the car’s appearance, driving comfort, and many other characteristics. 

In Central Europe, car owners usually have two sets of rims: one for the summer and another for the winter. A common choice is to use slightly larger and more expensive rims for the summer tires.

– If you have your winter tires on when driving to the tire retailer to purchase summer tires, it is important that you know the size of your current summer tire set. Otherwise, your current rims may not fit your new tires, says Martin Dražík, Product Manager for Nokian Tyres Europe.

When shopping for tires, you should follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. You can check your car’s registration certificate for the recommended tire size and any alternative sizes.

Narrow tires are cheaper but wider ones look better

The correct tire width is also affected by the sorts of characteristics the owner is looking for in their car and its handling. The tire width will affect their price and several other characteristics, such as grip, noise level, driving comfort, and appearance.

Replacing narrow tires with wider ones will usually increase rolling resistance and, therefore, slightly increase fuel consumption. In summer tires, size is also a question of esthetics; a wide tire is thought to look better than a narrow one.

– If the driver wants to switch to a larger rim diameter, the tire profile needs to be reduced. This allows the outer diameter to remain within the legal limits and the tires will have enough room to rotate, Martin Dražík explains.

The tire profile refers to the ratio between the height and width of the tire. Since the most popular sizes are narrow with a high profile, they are manufactured in greater numbers than wide tires with a low profile. That is part of the reason why narrow tires are usually cheaper than wider ones.

Both types have their benefits

The volume of air in a tire will particularly affect their driving comfort. The larger the rim diameter, the less air will fit in the tire. High-profile tires with plenty of space for air are more comfortable than wide, low-profile tires.

From a safety point of view, both types have their good sides: On a dry road, wider tires will offer more grip than narrow ones, but the risk of aquaplaning will be higher with wide tires.

– In the winter, narrow tires are better under extreme conditions as they provide higher surface pressure against the road. Narrow tires also work better than wider ones in loose snow and slush. Wider tires, for their part, will offer more grip on hard surfaces, Martin Dražík says.

What do the tire markings tell us?

A tire may be marked 205/55 R16 94V XL, for example. Here’s how to read the markings:

205: The width of the tire in millimeters at normal pressure. The tread width will always be smaller, but it varies depending on the tire model and manufacturer.

55: The tire profile or the ratio between the height and width of the tire. For example, the number 55 means that the height is 55% of the width. The smaller the number is, the lower the tire profile will be.

R: Tire structure. R refers to radial tires that are used on all passenger cars in Central Europe.

16: Rim diameter in inches.

94: The tire’s load index. The number 94 means that one tire can carry a maximum load of 670 kg at normal pressure. Smaller numbers mean a lower load-bearing capacity.

V: The tire’s speed rating or its maximum allowable speed. For example, V means that the tire cannot be driven above 240 kilometers per hour.

XL: If the markings end with “XL” (Extra Load), it means that the tire can carry a higher load than a corresponding regular tire.

Download photos and infographic

Contacts:

Jaroslav Nálevka, PR manager McCann Prague, 00420 725 865 874, jaroslav.pr@mccann.cz

Zuzana Seidl, PR manager Nokian Tyres CE, 00420 603 578 866, zuzana.seidl@nokiantyres.com

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Nokian Tyres is the world’s northernmost tire manufacturer and one of the most sustainable companies in the industry. We offer peace of mind in all conditions by developing high-quality, safe and eco-friendly tires for passenger cars, trucks and heavy machinery. We are especially well known for our innovative winter tires. Our group also includes the Vianor chain, specializing in vehicle maintenance and tire services. In 2018, the company’s turnover was approximately EUR 1.6 billion and it employed some 4,800 people. Nokian Tyres is listed on Nasdaq Helsinki. Further information: www.nokiantyres.com  

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Nokian Tyres is the world’s northernmost tyre manufacturer and one of the most sustainable companies in the industry. We offer peace of mind in all conditions by developing high-quality, safe and eco-friendly tyres for passenger cars, trucks and heavy machinery. We are especially well known for our innovative winter tyres. Our group also includes the Vianor chain, specialising in vehicle maintenance and tyre services. In 2017, the company’s turnover was approximately EUR 1.6 billion and it employed some 4,600 people. Nokian Tyres is listed on Nasdaq Helsinki. Further information: www.nokiantyres.com

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