Choosing Your Next Tires and Wheels


What do you think of first when you hear the words “style” and “car” come together?

The curves of the car’s silhouette, most likely. The gleam of the scratchless paint. The whiter-than white headlights. The buttery leather seats. The stereo system which makes it sound like you’re having a private concert in your car. The way it looks when you ride it freely on a two-lane open road.

But what about those things that make the car, stylish or not, roll down that open road in the first place?

You know – the tires and wheels?

Once upon a time, it was enough for a car to have a polished chrome dome in the center of each wheel, which was surrounded by a whitewall tire (remember whitewalls?). Today, the trends which go hand-in-hand are low-profile tires and concave wheels.

A low-profile tire is a tire with a short sidewall height. “Regular” tires have a sidewall height of 65% of the tire’s width, but low-profile tires have a sidewall height of 50% to even 45% of tire width – a significant (and visible) difference. That is why low-profile tires look “thinner” than regular ones.

Low-profile tires, not surprisingly, weigh less and use less rubber than regular tires, which is important as the price of rubber rises worldwide. Low-profile tires also have less rolling resistance, which creates greater gas mileage, and are wider, giving more cornering force while making tight turns.

On the other hand, low-profile tires also offer less of a buffer on bumpy roads, and they can increase the risk of bent wheels. Moreover, they are not made for driving in the snow (which is not much of an issue in Southern California, unless you travel to the mountains to ski).

Low-profile tires go hand-in-hand with concave (or bowl-shaped) wheels, usually with few, widely spaced spokes. A traditional flat, opaque wheel would look odd on a low-profile tire, but the concave wheel looks just right because it gives an impression of speed and sportiness.

Concave wheels don’t always come in chrome (or dull, factory silvertone plastic, thank goodness). Physical vapor disposition (PVD) coatings, created by NASA in 2010, are more corrosion-resistant, allow a greater variety of finishing materials, and are easier on the environment. Other surface options include hypersilver, which makes the wheel surface look like it is glowing from the inside, and black-tone wheels which can add dark, sleek elegance to a vehicle.

No one knows what trends will appear in tires and wheels in the decades ahead. But for now, thinner tires and fatter wheels are the way to go, if they look good on your vehicle and match your lifestyle. Visit to find high-quality wheel installers.

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