The Ways Tires Can Affect a Car’s Performance

The roar of a car’s engine is what gets your blood pumping. So when looking to upgrade your car’s performance, your immediate instinct might be to boost the horsepower. However, a modified suspension and the right set of tires can often do just as much, if not more, to increase your vehicle performance as an improved engine. By understanding the ways tires can affect a car’s performance, you can identify the characteristics you desire when purchasing a set for your vehicle.


The diameter of a tire measures the length of the tire from top to bottom. The typical tire diameter sizes are 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, and 22. When reading your tire, you should see one of these diameter sizes listed in the number and letter sequence on the wheel. For example, if a tire read “P215/65R 15,” the “15” would be the diameter. If it said, “P225/70R 16,” then “16” is the diameter.

You might not think about it, but your tire’s diameter can have a massive impact on the wheel’s stability. With an increase in diameter, more rubber is making contact with the road on each rotation. This improved stability is essential at high speeds, and it can accommodate larger brake rotors for more stopping power. This is why race cars use such large tires compared to standard vehicles. Since they are driving at such high speeds while braking at speeds over 150 mph, they need the added stability to keep their tires from skidding and losing control.

Tread Depth

Your tread depth impacts your traction. When looking between different types of tires, the most notable differences between all-season and snow tires will often be the type of tread. With the proper tread, your tire can cut through rain, snow, mud, and other challenging terrains. Performance tires designed to go at high speeds on clear, fresh pavement will have less tread, while snow tires will use deep grooves for long-term stability.

The entire wheel is making one point of contact on a smooth surface tire, so the slightest loss of traction will quickly compound into a more significant problem. However, the tire is making hundreds of tiny points of contact with tread, so if one tread loses grip, the others can make up for it. This is why when a tread wears down and the groves get smaller, the wheel also loses traction.


A tire’s rigidity describes the rubber compound it is made of. A soft compound will give an excellent grip when it’s fresh, boosting the car’s performance and speed. However, they also will wear down quickly because of their lack of strength. Also, you’re more susceptible to punctures from road debris with a soft tire. Then, harder compounds sacrifice performance for more durable tires. Hard tires will last longer and be able to withstand rougher conditions. So, while the soft tire will perform better initially than the hard compound, over time, as they each wear down, that will reverse. Ideally, for a road tire, you’ll want something in between that is durable on country roads but still gives you enough power to drive effectively on the interstate.

To better understand the relation between soft and hard compounds, if you’ve ever watched Formula 1, you can see the teams strategizing how to use the different rigidity of tires to their advantage. These races where the tires wear down in minutes give an excellent insight into the changes our road tires can undergo over a few years.


The width of a tire measures from shoulder to shoulder; it’s the length of the part of the wheel where the tread is. A wide tire will stick out on the sides of the chassis, increasing the car’s presence on the road. However, increasing the width of your tires isn’t directly related to improved performance. A tire’s width is directly related to the suspension; if you increase a car’s width, you must also modify the suspension to accommodate it. Otherwise, the added width will have adverse effects on the performance.

If a car’s tires are too wide, it will become hard to handle and steer. Also, the wheel is sensitive to debris on the road, so it becomes more likely that the car will lose control on the road. This is why when buying a new tire, you need to pay attention to the scrub radius of your vehicle.

A scrub radius is the distance from the kingpin axis and the center of the contact patch on the wheel, and it can be either positive, negative, or zero. So to understand what your current vehicle’s setup allows in terms of width, speak with a tire technician. They can help you read and understand tire sizes, so you only invest in boosting the performance.

Low Pressure

Low tire pressure can decrease your tire’s lifespan, your car’s fuel efficiency, and performance. As the tire is warped and forced to flex because of the reduced pressure, this will cause the tire to wear down faster. Then, the performance decreases as the car becomes more difficult to control at increased speeds. You’ll have to drive much slower to maintain the grip you’d typically have. So in bad conditions like rain or on rugged terrains like mud and gravel, you won’t have the grip to drive safely.

High Pressure

However, you also need to be wary of over-inflating your tires. A wheel with high tire pressure will feel every bump in the road. Rather than absorbing and flexing to the bumps and potholes, it will send that sensation straight into the cab of the vehicle. Also, high pressure makes the wheel more susceptible to punctures and will cause the tire to wear down faster.

So, whenever inflating a tire, check for its desired psi. This figure will be between 32 and 35 psi for most tires when cold. On hot days or right after use, the tires might be too warm to give an accurate reading, so you’ll want to check the reading a few times over the span of a couple of days to get the most precise reading.

Now that you’ve learned the ways tires can affect a car’s performance, and when looking at buying your next set, you can find the perfect kind for your needs. If you’re looking at tire shops in Meridian, Idaho, to help you get a set, visit us at Commercial Tires to speak with a trusted technician today!