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AAA World Article

Tire Talk

Style plays a big part in wheel selection.

AAA World Article

We usually buy three-year-old vehicles when we need to buy a car. Recently, we went shopping for an off-lease luxury SUV and found large selections of a model that we wanted at two area dealers. Some of the vehicles came with 19-inch wheels, and others had 21-inch wheels. A salesman said that it was just a matter of style. While we liked the look of the 21-inch wheels, we selected a vehicle with the smaller wheels. Is it really just a matter of style, or is there more to it?

Style plays a big part in wheel selection, but there are some practical matters to consider, too. The larger wheels will usually have a lower-profile tire with shorter sidewalls that flex less during turns than the taller sidewalls on the tires used with the smaller wheels.

Lower-profile tires produce sharper, sportier steering responses. Unfortunately, these shorter sidewalls also absorb less shock over broken pavement, so the ride can be rougher. Those shorter sidewalls may also be more prone to damage when striking potholes, and they are more likely to transfer the force of these impacts to the wheel, which can produce costly wheel damage. Finally, when it comes time for replacement tires, the lower-profile sizes that fit the 21-inch wheels may be more expensive.

If you value riding comfort and saving money, you made the right choice.


This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 edition of AAA World.

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