Low profile tires and rims.

Low profile tires and rims add great looks to a lot of good looking cars. But there are many reasons a person might want low profile tires and rims. Many car manufactures are producing cars that have stock low profile tires. There are good reasons for many to have these types of tires, but just as many have them for nothing more than sale appeal.

I want to look a bit closer at the pros and cons of having low profile tires and rims, in hope of helping those that are searching for information. Knowing the benefits and the complications can help you to make informed decisions either to purchase or not to purchase low profile tire and rim packages for your car light truck or SUV.

In general low profile tires do inherently wear out somewhat faster than do standard tires due mainly to the materials used in their construction and the way they are designed to be used. Low profile tires were originally designed to be a performance tire, not just a style statement. The rubber used to make the tires is generally softer, thus providing for better road gripping characteristics. But with softer rubber and better grip comes the inevitability of faster ware, especially if the tires are truly used in a high performance arena. They will last somewhat longer if used as merely a fashion statement on your uptown SUV. But one should never expect them to last as long as standard all weather tires would last under more normal driving conditions.

But that doesn't mean that the average person shouldn't be able to use low profile tires and rims on any vehicle they so see fit. But there are some things that it might be valuable to know and understand about this type of accessory. It may be very helpful for you to familiarize yourself with what is known as the Uniform Tire Quality Grading System that is overseen and compiled by the NHTSA or National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

What this system does is grade tires currently in production across the country and around the world in the areas of Tread wear, Traction and Temperature Resistance. Tread wear analysis is compiled from actual road test of tens of thousands of tires over a relatively short driving distances. Although the actual mileage driven on any tire isn't a great distance, the conditions are real world driving on designated roads and highways in different areas under non controlled conditions. Granted distance for a tire tests are not that great, but those doing these tests feel that real world situation, it is enough to grade tire tread wear based on the material loss measured under very precise measuring conditions. So even at shorter distances tires made of softer materials will experience more material loss and thus rat lower on the scale for tread wear.

Although this might sound rather simplistic, the actual procedure is quite complex. For grading tire tread wear alone the instruction manual is over 28 pages long. Ok, so that doesn't seem all that much when you consider it's a government run test. If you like you can read the test procedure for yourself at NHSTA web site, look for a file called TP-UTQG-W-01.pdf, which outlines the process for tire wear grading. Or you can look for a much larger file called the “Consumer Tire Information Program” which is a pdf of almost 200 pages which outlines most of the information and testing procedures for all of the Uniform Tire Quality Grading system as well as some other tire test information. It is very long and very boring.

Tire wear grading uses a number from 100 to 500, with 500 indicating the best tire wear. So tires with a tire wear rating above 250 would be a harder more durable tire from a tread wear stand point, those below 250 would represent a tire with lesser expected tread life. Higher numbers will usually indicate a tire that is made from harder materials.

Temperature grading uses three letters from A to C to represent the best resistance to heat generations and also the best heat dissipation qualities of a particular tire. Testing is done in nine different ranges of rpm at specific loads. A represents tires with the best heat resistance and dissipations characteristics and C representing the very minimum allowed by law for all passenger car tires. The operating speed range for each is generally thought to be C: 85 to 100 mph B: 100 to115 mph and A: 115 mph and above. These numbers represent at which heat range and speed a tire resists failure under controlled conditions at maximum load and the exacting proper air pressure recommending for the load. One thing to consider, improperly inflation, over or under will dramatically affect a tires ability to maintain proper heat dissipation and could drastically affect its expected life span.

Tire traction grading is a very complex grading system that is done under controlled conditions with very precise monitoring equipment to judge the stopping distance of a given tire on a wet surface at a control speed of 40mph. Only straight line breaking is tested, cornering is not factored into the tires overall traction rating. Ratings are designated by letters AA, A , B and C with an AA rating being the best traction under the very specific NHTSA testing.

So after all of that, how does this information help you, the consumer to have the knowledge you need to ascertain whether or not you can or should consider low profile tires and rims for you vehicle? Actually fairly simply. Armed with the knowledge of the grading systems you can better determine if a specific tire will meet your need.

In the perfect world, a tire with a wear rating of 500, a traction rating of Temerature rating of A and a traction rating of AA would be the IDEAL tire, but all things being equal, I doubt that any tire of that actual rating exists. Because there is a give and take inside this type of rating, it probably isn't possible to have that type of rating. The harder a tire is, then less heat it can dissipate, and the less traction it probably has. So even thought it has a high wear rating, it will most likely have a lower heat range and traction rating.

The best advice I think, might be to look at the rating of the tires from a new vehicle, especially if you are the one that bought the new vehicle. Manufactures generally have figured this out and equip cars with the best possible tire that has the highest rating in all areas for a particular tire class that is available. You can use this as a guide to determine how a given tire might or at least should perform on a given vehicle.

So if you are looking at low profile tires and rims as a replacement, use these numbers to tell you if A: the tires will last. B: if the tires will perform at the speed and heat rating you intend to drive them at, and C: if they will provide the traction you will require for your particular type of driving.

A non specific example might be this. If you have a factory tire that lasted you 50 or 60 thousand miles, provided adequate heat dissipation and sufficient traction for your particular driving needs, look for a low profile tire that is as close to this rating as possible. Keep in mind that low profile tires are generally made of a softer material for better traction control, and because of this they may not have as high of a wear rating as an OEM tire. Generally speaking low profile tires will have better than average ratings for heat dissipation and traction because of their need to operate in the higher performance areas.

Keep in mind that each tire because of its design and material composition is different from the next and will vary slightly in how it meets specific criteria grading. So when selecting a low profile tire, never take for granted that it will meet your needs simply because it looks sweet. Check the hard data before you purchase.

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