Wheels and Tire Stretching

Advance Auto PartsPretty is as pretty does.

Many people take this old saying to mean something to the effect of, “Don’t judge a person by how they look, but rather by how they behave.” I’d like to apply that thought to the trend of tire stretching, and then to vehicle wheels.

Looks matter, and that’s probably the only reason there is for stretching tires. Some might argue what better reason could one possibly need? If you’re not familiar with tire stretching, it’s essentially installing a tire on a wheel size that’s larger than what’s specified for the tire, causing the tire to have to stretch to fit the wheels. A lot of online forums give credit to the VW-crowd for starting the trend, but whether or not you agree with that, it seems to be growing in popularity, and polarizing car aficionados who either love or hate the look.

I’m going to remain neutral and not jump on either side, but rather encourage you to do your homework and get the facts before you decide to go for this look.

Here are some considerations that fall on the “minus” side of the equation. Tire stretching probably isn’t good for your tires’ longevity. The stretching places undue stress on the tire sidewall and bead and can cause premature and irregular tire tread wear, particularly if you have an aggressive camber setup. Plus, the tire companies don’t like it.

“We follow the RMA (Rubber Manufacturers Association) guideline, beginning on page 42, under Tire Rim/Wheel Selection,” explains Jim Davis, PR Manager – North America, for The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. “If it doesn’t fit in the rim width range that is published in the tire data books, then we don’t approve.”

Food for thought. They are, after all, the tire experts.

Now the pluses. Ok, there’s probably just one. Stretched tires just look cool — to some people — and draw added attention to the wheels.

Wheels are undoubtedly an important part of the appearance equation, but also play an important role in performance, specifically when it comes to weight. Here are some thoughts on wheels from someone who knows a thing or two about competition and performance parts – Kevin Wells, Technical Manager for FORMULA DRIFT.

“Wheel weights matter to our drivers,” Wells explains. “Less rotating weight is preferred, especially in drifting. The wheel speed changes very rapidly – 100 mph to 0 mph (ebrake) to 100 mph. Excessive rotational weight places additional stress on the drivetrain and the slower this reaction takes place, not to mention suspension setups from excessive wheel weight.

“Other considerations when it comes to wheels are sizing, fitment, and sponsors,” he adds. “You will see drivers use spacers, front and rear, to get available sizes with the incorrect offset to suit their needs. And as for sponsors – free wheels are good wheels unless you can afford to buy something better!”

So what’s it going to be – looks, performance, or both?

Editor’s note: When you need to pretty-up your tires and wheels, make Advance Auto Parts your first stop. Buy online, pick up in store.