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Why Do Sports Cars Have Large Wheels?

The Auto Sunday is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Why do sports cars have large wheels? I’ve always wondered why.

Why Do Sports Cars Have Large Wheels
Why Do Sports Cars Have Large Wheels?

Is it the exclusivity of having such expensive large tires? Does it actually have an effect on the vehicle’s performance when sports cars have large wheels? Why does it look so cool?

Sports cars have large wheels to provide better road traction and grip. Since most sports cars are intended for racing around the track and doing high speed cornering maneuvers, the added stability increases your confidence to go faster. Slapping on new, larger wheels also enhances the overall look of your sports car.

If you’re reading this, chances are, you’re not a professional race car driver. Perhaps you’re just one of us who like having a powerful car that can do 0 to 60 in less than 10 seconds. Perhaps you just want to make your sports car look better with larger wheels.

Well read on and find out more about the decisions you’re about to make. This is also a great way to find out why sports cars have large wheels and the science behind it.

Here’s A Little Physics Lesson And Why Sports Cars Have Large Wheels

Large Wheels Peeling Out
Large Wheels Peeling Out

Although most people think racing is a mindless sport where you just point the car in the right direction, put the pedal to the metal and go as fast as you can, it actually involves more than that. A lot of science goes into designing a sports car from how aerodynamic it is, how much horsepower your engine generates to match the weight of the car and how well-balanced it is. 

As an added note, sports cars have large wheels to provide the traction and grip needed to take advantage of the engine’s power. During sharp cornering maneuvers, the centrifugal and centripetal forces involved, plus the velocity at which the car goes, pretty much depends on its ability to remain in contact with the ground. 

Without any road contact, you will find yourself inside an uncontrollable car. 

The large wheels also provide the necessary weight and balance to keep you grounded while still going around the track at full speed. 

Should Sports Cars Have Large Wheels?

Large wheels do play an important part on the race track but not necessarily on your everyday paved roads. In fact, it’s actually detrimental to your daily driven car’s performance.

You’ll also get tagged as a wanna-be racer if your car has large wheels but doesn’t have the performance to back up its looks.

Ok, so you’re dead set on replacing your stock tires to larger wheels. Alright, that’s a personal choice. But if you’re going to do it, you might as well be informed on what you’re getting yourself into. 

What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Having A Sports Car With Large Wheels?

Advantages

All Show And No Go

When sports cars have large wheels, people stop and look. Even regular, daily-driven cars benefit from this type of attention when they have large wheels installed. 

That’s what large tires primarily do: improve your sport car’s look.

It doesn’t necessarily add to the car’s performance or speed. Unless you swap out the engine to handle the additional weight.

Improved Road Grip And Traction

Road Grip And Traction
Road Grip And Traction

If there’s one thing that larger wheels do, it’s providing more road grip and traction. This is especially important if you’re hitting corners at high speeds. The added traction prevents you from slipping and sliding giving you a more accurate driving experience.

Better Braking

Larger wheels give you better road-to-wheel surface interaction. We’ve already covered grip and traction and the effects of a large contact area leads to better and shorter braking distances. So, even if you’re going at really high speeds, if you want to stop, you’ll be able to stop.

Disadvantages 

Increased Fuel Consumption

Larger tires equals a heavier load leading to an overworked stock engine. Because there is more need to press the accelerator pedal down just to get your car to roll forward, so too is there more need for the engine to burn fuel.

Steering Issues

Race car drivers don’t seem to have a problem with this. But then again, they don’t really have to deal with street corners. Turning hard to your left or right is going to be challenging if you have a daily-driven sports car with large tires.

The larger contact area requires more muscle to turn your car left or right. Say goodbye to expensive gym membership fees. Now all you have to do is drive from your driveway to the ice cream store and get a good upper body workout.

Tires Wear Down Quickly

Larger contact area plus the total weight of the car and you’re looking at a never-ending, six-month tire replacement interval schedule for as long as you have that bad boy in your garage.

Speedometer Issues Result In Unwanted Tickets

This is a big issue if your sports cars have large wheels (assuming you have more than two). Speed limits are imposed on a lot of states, especially in rural and suburban areas. Even highways have a speed limit that you just can’t go over. If you do that, you’re at risk of being tagged by a speed gun and being clocked at going even just a tad bit over the limit warrants a ticket.

You don’t want that.

Your speedometer is set to accurately measure the number of revolutions your stock tires make over a given distance. You’re definitely asking for trouble with the law if you just slap on a set of larger tires on your sports car without having your speedo recalibrated to match your altered wheels. 

Riding Out In The Rain Increases The Risk Of Hydroplaning

Want a total adrenaline rush? Then go out riding in the rain if your sports cars have large tires.

Chances are your larger tires are going to cause you to slide uncontrollably if you hit a patch of water on the road. This is called hydroplaning. This happens when your tires ride on a thin film of water that isn’t fully displaced due to the large surface area of your tires. When this happens, you lose effective contact with the road.

You Don’t Need To Have Large Tires All Around

There are two general types of wheel setups for sports cars. You can either keep it square or staggered. Each one comes with its own unique pros and cons.

Square Tire Setup

Square Setup
Square Setup

This is the typical setup that is usually found in daily-driven sports cars. The balanced setup prevents any weight bias on the wheels causing an even wearing all throughout the car. It also helps with balancing the car on regular runs from point A to point B.

The square setup gives your sports car a squat, muscular look that is favoured by a lot of people who like it when sports cars have large wheels.

Staggered Tire Setup

This is the preferred tire setup for hot-rodders. This means having two wheel sizes or a combination of large tires and small tires. For front-wheel-drive sports cars, large wheels are often up front while slightly smaller wheels are placed in the back. The more popular rear-wheel-drive car setup is having small tires at the front and ridiculously large rear tires for the back.

This is all about grip first. The larger tires provide the traction needed to keep the car from siding in place while the rear tires are used to lessen the trailing weight (front-wheel-drive staggered combo) or to provide better handling (for rear-wheel-drive staggered combo).

Staggered Front-Wheel-Drive Combo

The staggered front-wheel-drive combo is usually for larger vehicles turned into racing machines. This allows the race car to surge forward because of the added grip on the road. Usually, the front tires are deflated to a certain level to maximize the contact surface of the rubber and the concrete.

Staggered Rear-Wheel-Drive Combo

The staggered rear-wheel-drive combo has been around for a really long time and is very popular not just among old time racers but also the newer breed who enjoy the benefits of getting an “aggressive” stance as an extra feature with the smaller tires up front. 

The benefits to having this tire setup is the additional handling ease with the lessened weight up front. The rear tires take all the brunt of the engine’s force though. This can cause early tire wearing.  

Related Questions:

What Big Tires Are Best For My Sports Car?

Check out what the leading tire makers offer to get the top-of-the-line shoes for your street machine if you want the best big tires for your sports car. Michelin, Continental and Pirelli are the top tire manufacturers to choose from. You won’t have to worry about the competition with these tires.

How Do I Deal With Hydroplaning If My Sports Cars Have Large Tires?

Before we get into how to deal with a hydroplaning car, the best advice we can give is this: When it’s raining, slow down. There. If you do begin to slide, back off the accelerator and steer towards the direction in which you are going and wait for the car to align itself. Breathe. Now drive slowly.

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