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Subject says it all, really. Is there some technical reason (i.e. aside from the bling-bling factor) that people want/install the combination of larger-than-OEM-diameter wheels and lower-than-OEM-sidewall-height tires?
 

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The sidewall being shorter is much stiffer so turning responce is improved. The stiffer sidewall reduces the amount the tire sidewall will flex, as the sidewall flexes the inside of the contact patch of the tire begins to lift reducing grip.

Also with a larger rim that is wider a wider tire is used.
With a wider tire there is more lateral grip because if the tire contact patch lifts 1 inch (from body roll and sidewall flex) a wider tire will maintain a higher percentage of contact patch in contact with the road compared to a narrower tire.

Disavantages of larger rims with lower sidewall height tires:
Decrease comfort,
increase noise
increase weight
huge increase in rotational inertia

Advantages:
More turning grip (assuming same tire model)
More precise steering feel
Bling Bling
 

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I'm more important to use a much better tire then just getting larger rims and wider tires.
For example a top quality 14" ultra high performance tire will provide more performance then a wider 15" or 16" all season tire of the same outer diameter.
 

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Disavantagem in a pothole, there is more chance to break the rim and/or the tire. As the sidewall is smaller, it takes less flex for the rim to hit the pavement.
 

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Notice that I race with lightweight 13" rims and tires!
 

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I've heard that low profile tires supposedly give better performance on cornering because there less sidewall to flex. Personally, I would say that the benefit attainable through the use of low-profile tires is likely minimal, if present at all. If that were the case, logic would dictate that high performance racing cars would have low profile tires when in fact they have much "higher profile" tires. "Higher profile" tires are able to deform more, which allows you to get more traction, which is arguably a good thing. However, conversely, one might reason that reduced sidewall flex might mean less rolling resistance. So it might make sense from an efficiency standpoint.
 

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The amount of "flexing" will change depending on the presure, the surface area, and the rigidity of the sidewalls. In most cases the sidewalls are too flexible to add significantly to the equation. Tye problem with a low sidewall height is that the amount of "flex" takes place over a shorter distance. This will case heat buildup to increase at an exponential rate over a linearly decreased area. This means that a low profile tire will get much hotter due to "flex" and will waste significantly more energy. The ultimate expresion of this scenario occurs when you get a flat. Low profile tires do look cool however, and the larger the surface area in contact with the road and the larger the outside diameter of the tire , the less it will be affected by small potholes. :)
 

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Foxpaw said:
I've heard that low profile tires supposedly give better performance on cornering because there less sidewall to flex.
Actually it's because tires with short sidewalls are designed to have significantly stiffer and thicker sidewalls. It's not the fact that they are shorter but the fact that because they are shorter they HAVE to be stiffer to prevent rim damage etc...

logic would dictate that high performance racing cars would have low profile tires when in fact they have much "higher profile" tires.
You are talking about Formula cars and Nascar etc... their rules force them to use a specific rim diameter. If you look at powerful race cars based on street cars you will see wide low profile tires like WRC rally cars set up for tarmac stages, and british touring car racing on tracks.

"Higher profile" tires are able to deform more, which allows you to get more traction, which is arguably a good thing.
The best example of this is on drag racing tires with ultra soft sidewalls, but these tires are not designed for turning!
In a corner a soft sidewall will deform so much that the tire contact patch will begin to lift and the corner of the tire and sidewall will make contact with the road. That's why in an auto-x high tire pressures are required to prevent this. With normal all season tires 45 to 55 psi is required on the front tires to reduce sidewall flex. Race compound tires or low profile tires have very stiff sidewalls so 40 to 45 psi is all that's required on the front tires for maximum turning grip.
 

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b1shmu63 said:
The amount of "flexing" will change depending on the presure, the surface area, and the rigidity of the sidewalls. In most cases the sidewalls are too flexible to add significantly to the equation.
My experience instructing at a skid pad has taught me that me that sidewall construction is a HUGE variable that determines how much a sidewall will flex. A common tire size that many cars have is 205/55R16. Tires in this size come in all flavours including : extreme condition soft winter tires, all season touring (comfort) tires, ultra high performance summer tires and Race compound tires. A skid pad is used to determine the minimum tire pressure required to prevent the tire from flexing onto it's sidewall in a maximum grip turn. The tires of the same size and profile but of different sidewall construction require a minimum pressure of anywhere between 35 psi to 55 psi to prevent flexing when driving the skid pad at about 50 km/hr.

The problem with a low sidewall height is that the amount of "flex" takes place over a shorter distance. This will case heat buildup to increase at an exponential rate over a linearly decreased area. This means that a low profile tire will get much hotter due to "flex" and will waste significantly more energy.
When one upgrades to a larger rim with a lower profile tire it has the same outer diameter but it is wider. The contact patch is the surface area of the tire that makes contact with the road. The size of the contact patch is only determined by the weight on the tire and the air pressure in the tire. Going to a wider tire does not increase the contact patch surface area, it only changes the shape of the contact patch. With a wider tire the contact patch is wider so there is less flex in the tire. For example think of tire with zero flex, it would be made of something like steel. The contact patch would be a line not a patch. With something soft like a balloon when you push it against the ground you will see that a flat contact patch appears and gets bigger as you push down harder on the balloon.

A tire that is narrow deflects like a balloom to have the contact patch of
a certain surface area. Now take a wider tire with the same air pressure, it will have the same sized contact patch but the shape is wider therefore the tire is not flexed as much when it has the same contact patch area.

Wider lower profile tires are meant for high performance so they have stiffer sidewalls not only for turning but to reduce flex to minimise the amount of heat they create. That is why low profile tires have much higher speed ratings then tall sidewall tires.
But for efficiency the wider tire is much less aerodynamic and that is a much larger factor then rolling resistance at higher speeds. Specially since you can reduce the contact patch therefore decrease the heat producing flex of a narrower tire simply by increasing the tire pressure.
That is why it's more efficient to use the skinny OEM Insight tires at 50 psi.
[/quote]
 

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Guillermo said:
You are talking about Formula cars and Nascar etc... their rules force them to use a specific rim diameter. If you look at powerful race cars based on street cars you will see wide low profile tires like WRC rally cars set up for tarmac stages, and british touring car racing on tracks.
What about the tires on a dragster? They have very "high profile" tires, but I don't believe that there are any controls on rim size in top fuel classes.
 

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Quite right Guillermo about the wider tire deforming less. I had not considered width as a factor but only height of the sidewall. also construction and material must be important factors because our LRR tires look normal externally.
 

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Foxpaw said:
Guillermo said:
You are talking about Formula cars and Nascar etc... their rules force them to use a specific rim diameter. If you look at powerful race cars based on street cars you will see wide low profile tires like WRC rally cars set up for tarmac stages, and british touring car racing on tracks.
What about the tires on a dragster? They have very "high profile" tires, but I don't believe that there are any controls on rim size in top fuel classes.
Right, but they only go straight.
 

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You also have to realize that race cars use larger wheel to clear the larger brakes necessary for slowing them down at high speeds. The bigger brakes also give them the ability to brake later into a corner in order to pass someone.

Also, drag cars don't use conventional road worthy tires. They use drag racing "wrinkle walls" or "slicks". These special tires are designed to be run at very low tire pressures to allow maximum tire contact and friction upon acceleration to preven the tire from slipping. They are practically deflated. Again, the dragsters only race in a straight line. The front tires are skinny to minimize rolling resistance down the 1320ft (1/4 mile).

The performance advantage from a stiffer lower profile tire is a lot more than you may think. Yes you can get better handling by switching to a slightly wider tire of a sticker compound on your factory size wheels. However if you keep the width and compund the same but get larger wheels and making the side wall shorter/stiffer, you net even more gains in handling.
 

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Manuel you wrote "However if you keep the width and compund the same but get larger wheels and making the side wall shorter/stiffer, you net even more gains in handling"

I am no race expert but are you refering to the fact that a 165/65/R14 tire have less tread width than a 165/60/R15 and that this one has less tread width than a 165/50/R16 ... 165/45/17 ...

Just because physically, the tire is the same width but the tread touching the ground is wider as the tire is less high (cut out view goes from round to rectangular).

The tread being where the tire is about flat, there is more flat area on a tire that has less height
 

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I am no race expert but are you refering to the fact that a 165/65/R14 tire have less tread width than a 165/60/R15 and that this one has less tread width than a 165/50/R16 ... 165/45/17 ...
Yes, but only when turning. The tread width will be the same on all tires '165' the difference in 'contact patch' (the part of the tire that touches to pavement) will become evident when latteral forces are applied to the side of the tire (side wall 'flex'). Driving in a straight line the tire width will vary little, but turning a corner will cause the 'contact patch' to become smaller. A 165 tire with short side wall will have very little lateral flex, but a 165 tire with tall side wall will have a lot of flex.

Imagine the following happening to the right front tire.

This is what the cross section looks like driving straight ahead |_|.

In making a left hand turn the side walls will flex to the outside of the turn (to the right). \_\ As the side wall flexes to the outside the contact patch on the outer righthand side \_\<--- begins to lift off of the pavement. The more speed you take a corner the more the 'contact patch' will lift. At the same time the inside of the side wall will begin to roll under -->\_\

Now, imagine the contact patch of one of your tires being no bigger than the size of your fist. Not much rubber holding you to the ground right? Combine all four contact patches together and it will be no bigger than a standard 8.5X11 sheet of paper. Think of this for a moment the only thing preventing your 1900lb Insight from sliding around on the road is a swatch of rubber no larger in surface area that a piece of paper. That is amazing! A pair of sneekers have the same amount of surface area as your car and look at all of the trouble whe have staying on the ground.

This is where tread width vs sidewall height plays a huge factor in tire performance or 'grip'. The less grip (friction surface) you have in proportion to force applied the sooner you will exceed the tires ability to 'grip' the pavement. After you loose 'grip' you are sliding, and you are out of control. This is a determining factor for most road racing groups. (Note: some racing organizations place restrictions on tire wheel dimensions to standardize and even-out competitors)

Hopefully, this made sense. There are so many factors involved in vehicle dynamics while 'cornering', but this should explain side wall flex and why its considered 'bad'.

I personally have 205/50/R16s on my Insight. They are quieter than stock, corner insane amounts better than stock, ride a little rougher (but I like that) and Yes, give me plenty O' da bling-bling. :)
 

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Hrmm.. So, if low profile tires are better because they prevent flexing, why don't we just have solid tires instead of ones filled with air?
 

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Foxpaw said:
Hrmm.. So, if low profile tires are better because they prevent flexing, why don't we just have solid tires instead of ones filled with air?
With a solid rubber over a solid rim the contact patch will be tiny therefore have little grip. And the tires are also a significant contributor to the total suspension system in cars. Also tires need to maintain a decent contact patch while driving over road irregularities like small stones.

And adjusting tire pressures is an important way to make adjustments to a car's handling characteritics.
I race with 44 psi in the front tires and 30 psi in the rear.
 

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...but this should explain side wall flex and why its considered 'bad'.
I should append this, sidewall flex is 'bad' in terms of Road Racing, and not so much a concern for normal commuting.

Guillermo is correct, a solid rubber tire will not 'deform' the tread to conform to the irregularities in pavement and aid in 'grip'. :wink:
 

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Hrmm, not a big enough contact patch eh? Well, what if we made solid tires that were hexagonal prisms! It'd be great!*

* NOT a serious suggestion.
 
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