Performance Tires and Your Ride

TireAdding a set of custom wheels to your ride is a great way to add style and flash; however, it is not the end of the story. You’ll need to choose the right tires for your wheels. While that may sound easy enough, not all tires are created equal. That’s obvious, you say? Of course, different brands have different reputations. However, the difference goes farther than simply choosing a brand that you think is reputable. Your choice of tires will dictate everything from tire life expectancy to maximum vehicle speed, maximum load capacity and even ride comfort.

Oversized wheels, (considered anything over a 16 or 17-inch wheel) require special tires. Low profile is the label applied to those tires. You must use low profile tires to keep your wheel-to-hub ratio in proper relation. Exceeding the OEM setup by more than a few percentage points can result in transmission damage, excessively rough ride, speedometer inaccuracy and other problems.

However, the dilemma of correct tire choice extends beyond even this consideration. If you are a speed freak, you’ll definitely want to avoid tires with a speed rating of S (112 mph). Z rated tires are your holy grail in this instance. However, the higher your speed rating, the less wear you can expect from your tires. Why is this, you ask?

Simply put, higher speed ratings are attained by using a softer rubber compound. This allows your tires to grip the road at higher speeds. However, it also results in faster tire deterioration. That can lead to you standing at the desk of the tire dealer claiming a tire defect that does not, in fact, exist. Perhaps your goal is ride comfort. If that is the case, then Z rated tires (and low profile tires in general) are not for you. H rated tires are closer to what you need. These tires are relatively hard, and have a longer tread life expectancy. You’ll also find that tires designed for ride comfort (touring tires, as they are called) have a distinctly square-shouldered appearance.

As you can see, choosing the right set of tires is vital. Knowing speed ratings is part of the equation. Here is a brief list of the most common speed ratings and their capabilities.

S is rated for up to 112 mph
H rated tires can handle 130 mph
V rated tires are good to 150 mph
Z rated tires exceed 150 mph, and have additional ratings for above and below 160 mph

This rating, combined with your tire size and maximum load capacity are listed on the sidewall of the tire.

Chris Burdick

Chris Burdick

Founder, Editor-in-Chief
Hi! I founded in May of 2006. I'm an avid sports car and supercar enthusiast. My favorite cars include the Audi R8, Lamborghini Diablo 6.0 VT, and Koenigsegg CCX. I think the Ferrari 360 Spider is still one of the most beautiful cars in existence. For “normal” cars, I tend to lean towards imports - Nissan, Audi, and of course the Italians. I'm in love with my Pearl Yellow (don't judge) 1990 Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo and plan to get around 550 HP to the rear wheels one day. I'm also a world traveler and have been backpacking Europe since March 2012, writing about cars along the way
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