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Plus sizing tires on your stock car

A popular modification for both hot rodders and the average car enthusiast alike is the installation of aftermarket tires and rims. While a new set of tires can really make your car stand out from the rest of the pack, and even improve its handling and performance capabilities, there are many factors must be considered when replacing the factory-installed tires on your vehicle.

Probably the most popular tire modification is to increase the overall diameter of the tire, which is called plus-sizing. Plus-sizing can modernize the look of a vehicle, as it typically reduces the sidewall height of the tire, and imparts a sporty, race-inspired appearance. However, upgrading the size of your tires and rims can have a significant impact on other vehicle components.

A car is a very complex machine, with many different parts and systems working together. Tires are part of the suspension system, and they are also part of the driveline - they are directly connected to your shock absorbers, as well as to your transmission and engine. Increasing the size of a tire throws off the calculations made either electronically by computer, or mechanically by a gear system that control your speedometer display and your transmission computer. This system is programmed from the factory to use the stock tire size and the speed of the spinning wheels on your car to determine how fast the car is actually going. A change in tire size can cause your speedometer to show an incorrect vehicle speed - which can lead to either a traffic ticket, or worse, a dangerous highway situation. It can also lead to your transmission shifting erratically as it attempts to react to the data being fed to it by the wheel speed sensor. Luckily, both of these problems can be avoided by either installing the speedometer gear specific to your new tire size, or having your car's computer reprogrammed to reflect the new wheel diameter.

Some drivers also make the mistake of installing wheels and tires that are too big for their vehicle. We have all seen sport utility vehicles that look like monster trucks with giant tires sometimes measuring 33 inches in diameter or more. While this may give a truck an aggressive, attractive look, a stock suspension is simply not designed to deal with the increased weight of such a large tire and wheel combination. This weight can put great stress on suspension components, and could lead to catastrophic failure while on the road. It is very important to consult with a trusted mechanic before installing a set of oversize wheels on any vehicle - not just trucks. With cars as well, rims and tires of 20 inches or more in diameter are no longer uncommon. The same questions of weight and suspension apply in this situation as well.

That being said, do not let this information scare you away from upgrading the tires on your own vehicle. As long as it is recognized that tires are an important part of the overall system that is your car, the aesthetic and performance benefits of larger rims and tires can be enjoyed safely.