If you enjoy taking a corner or two a bit crazy once in a while or you have found that you needed to swerve to miss another car you may find your car’s current handling performance a bit lacking. There are a number of things that affect the way a car handles corners including the width of the tires. Improving some of these elements may increase the handling capabilities of your car.
Sliding off the road:
One of key components to how well your car corners is the tires. Tire width and compound of the rubber play crucial roles in keeping your car from sliding off the road. Wider tires have more surface area in contact with the road which will help to improve traction in all sorts of conditions. Wider tires also have the unfortunate side effect of decreasing your gas mileage due to increased friction with the road. Many people find that after they install wider tires that they see their gas mileage go down by 50 miles per tank!
Car makers routinely put such skinny tires on their vehicles to improve gas mileage claims. Wider tires with low tread depth may also turn into skis in winter driving conditions.
Installing stickier or softer tires will help your dry traction considerably. Softer and stickier tires will wear out much faster. Snow tires which are considered a soft tire and are excellent in cold winter conditions and will wear out much faster during hot summer conditions. They are softer so that they can conform to the hard ice surface of the road and bite into snow conditions. They also have much more tread on them that is deeper and can allow your tire to find traction in snow conditions.
High performance summer tires may also perform very poorly in wet and icy conditions, since they are too hard and do not bend or adapt to the road conditions, which means you’ll probably want another set of tires for winter driving.
Wide tires often have a shorter side wall which will improve handling slightly when you go around a corner at high speed your tires will actually flopp over sideways. If you have the shorter the sidewalls are the less likely to let this happen, but unfortunately this also leads to a slightly rougher ride as there is less tire height to absorb bumps in the road.
Low profile tires are not mass produced and as a result you will find that the prices are much higher for a set of four tires.
Your speedometer is attached to your transmission, so regardless of what size of tire you have on your car your speedometer will register a specific speed based on the RPM’s of the transmission. I once borrowed a car and got a speeding ticket because the owner had installed oversize tires on his car. Although the speedometer registered that I was doing 60 miles an hour on the highway, I was actually doing 70 miles an hour.
He was not willing to pay for the ticket! If you are changing your tires from narrow to wide and not changing the diameter you should be ok, Going to low profile tires will change the registered speed on your speedometer. Note the changes and drive accordingly.
Does your car feel like it is leaning over sideways when you tear around a turn? This is what is known as body roll. There are a couple ways to deal with this problem.
The easiest of which that is also the thing that has the least effect on ride comfort is to install a set of sway bars or anti-roll bars. They are usually thicker than the stock sway bars, which flex less and keep your car from leaning as much during cornering. The difference these bars make can be tremendous. They can be installed yourself in a few hours and shouldn’t cost more than a few hundred dollars at most.
Another thing that effects body roll is your car’s center of gravity. The closer your car is to the ground the less effect the forces of cornering will have on it. Installing a set of lowering springs which bring your car an inch or two closer to the ground will improve handling considerably.
You should be aware though that putting lowering springs on your stock shocks will cause them to wear out faster, so it is recommended that you replace both at the same time to save money on labor in the future. Lowering springs also have a different spring rate than the stock springs and will most likely result in a much stiffer ride than you’re used to.
Remember: Drive safe, wear your seat belt at all times, and have fun!