Pros, cons, and much more!
Many automotive manufacturers today are equipping their vehicles with low-profile tires. Tires, like many other automotive technologies, has improved over the past few decades. In the late-1960s, the first low-profile tires were made and they quickly became a favorite for sports car owners and manufacturers for their performance. These types of tires have many advantages but also a few disadvantages. In the end, it all comes down to what kind of driving and ride quality that you want with your vehicle.
Low-profile tires are basically tires with a shorter and stiffer sidewall that is also wider than a traditional tire. Stamped on the side of each and every tire is a numerical code, such as ‘205/45-R16’. This number after the ‘205/’ is the aspect ratio of the tire. In this example, it means that the height is 45-percent of the width. Typically, if this aspect ratio is under ‘50’, then the tire is considered low-profile. The lower the aspect ratio, the lower the profile.
Low-profile tires are different than their traditional counterparts. The sidewall of tire typically flexes to absorb impact or during heavy loads such as spirited driving. When the latter happens, there is less of a contact patch, resulting in lower grip. A lower profile tire has thinner, stiffer sidewalls along with a wider size than a traditional tire, allowing them to maintain more contact and traction with the pavement under spirited driving conditions.
Thanks to the thinner sidewalls, low-profile tires allow for bigger wheels to be used. This can improve many different aspects for driving performance such as braking, handling, traction, and even acceleration. Thanks to the added width and thinner sidewall, the tires are more responsive to input from the driver, which can dramatically change the performance and feel of a vehicle.
Low-profile tires also offer a sportier, cleaner aesthetic than traditional tires with larger sidewalls. The thinner sidewall allows for the wheels to grab more attention. It also allows owners to install custom wheels with a larger diameter due to the added room beneath the fender. In turn, that also allows for bigger brake discs and calipers to be installed for a more athletic look and better stopping performance.
Due to the performance-oriented nature of low-profile tires, they are typically made from a softer rubber compound that also helps to generate more grip and improve overall performance. The sidewalls are also stiffer to prevent flex and ensure proper contact with the surface of the road.
While the softer compound helps increase overall performance and handling, it can also result in increased wear, a harsher ride, and more. The softer compound means that low-profile tires typically wear faster than traditional tires. The wider contact patch and tread that tends to be geared more for performance results in more road noise while driving as well.
The thinner sidewalls mean that they have to be reinforced with harder materials by manufacturers in order to ensure proper performance and contact with the road. This causes more impacts to be felt by drivers and passengers, and puts more stress on the suspension. Sometimes, this requires modifications to be made to the suspension to compensate. Harsher road conditions and potholes can often cause fatal punctures and damage to not just the tire, but the wheel as well due to less sidewall to absorb the impact.
Another downside to low-profile tires is the fact that they cost more than a traditional tire. These types of tires tend to cost more due to the materials used, construction, and lower production volumes compared to traditional passenger, all-season, or touring tires.
As with any tire, it is always very important to follow the guidelines for low profile tires air pressure. Having underinflated low profile tires will quickly cause damage to the sidewall and rest of the tire, along with the wheel itself. Overinflated tires can also result in damage to the tire and increase wear while decreasing performance. Always read instructions in your vehicle’s owner’s manual and on the inside of the door panel to ensure that your low profile tires air pressure is correct.
Buying and using low-profile tires on your vehicle can have many performance and aesthetic benefits. They may not always be the most cost-effective and efficient, but the enjoyment they can provide can be worth more than the price tag.