Thicker Tire Width vs. Thinner Tire Width

by Harry Havemeyer

Tires come in various widths, and while some drivers prefer the aesthetics of different widths it is important to consider the pros and cons of different tire widths before making a purchase. Thickness can refer to the section width of the tire, which alters how much rubber comes in contact with the ground, or it can refer to the sidewall width, which alters the tire's profile. Tire thickness is essentially a zero-sum game, meaning that the advantages gained from a wider tire come at the cost of the advantages gained from running a thinner tire.

Thick Section Width Advantages

Tires with a thick section width distribute the vehicle's weight over a broader area, increasing grip, especially under heavy acceleration. The broader contact area of these tires allows for efficient conversion of torque to the asphalt, as well as decreasing stopping distance. This is why many racing cars are fitted with broad section-width tires. The broader section width also allows the tire to distribute heat more evenly across the rubber surface, increasing the tire's lifespan.

Thin Section Width Advantages

Tires with a thin section width offer more turning ability and reduce the risk of tire-rub during the suspension travel or during hard turning maneuvers. Thinner tires, while offering less contact area with the ground, also decrease the chances of potentially dangerous hydroplaning, making wet weather driving a safer endeavor. In terms of comfort, thin section-width tires offer more driving comfort since they reduce the amount of road surface imperfections transferred to the driver and passengers. Road noise is also reduced when using thin section-width tires.

Broad Profile Advantages

Tires that have a thicker sidewall, also called broad-profile tires, offer some safety and comfort advantages. Broad profile tires have a wide range of inflation adjust-ability, allowing versatility for those on rough roads or off-roading. The thicker sidewall also protects rims from pothole damage and from curb dings when parking. The broader sidewall allows for greater absorption of potholes and other road imperfections, thereby increasing comfort.

Tire Sidewall

Tires with a shorter sidewall, also known as low-profile tires, offer distinct handling and ride characteristics. Thin-profile tires give the driver a more precise feel of the road since there is less rubber between the rims and the driving surface; this greatly increases the ability of the driver to use tactile handling techniques in high-performance situations. Thin-profile tires also reduce the effects of lateral deflection, also called tire-fold; this benefits handling and safety.

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