I have heard several times over the years that increased tire width increases traction in certain circumstances. Some car experts say it does, while others argue that other factors come into play with gauging the overall traction of a set of tires. The height of the tire, the composition of the rubber, the complexity and depth of the tread-they can all affect traction in different driving conditions.
Traction Depends on Road Conditions
This is why tires are often rated for certain types of driving. Snow tires, for example, are designed for optimized traction in significant snow, while all-terrain tires are designed for peak performance in relatively mild conditions. There are differences between wet and dry traction; tires perform differently when the roads are wet.
Consequently, the correlation between tire width and traction isn’t all that important. What you want to look for in tires is an overall performance rating for the driving conditions you encounter most frequently on the road.
Construction Relates to Tire Width
According to Daryl Garner, a physics teacher in Oklahoma, tire widths often change due to the compound used in the construction of those tires. When softer compounds are used, the manufacturer compensates for the reduced strength by widening the tire itself, thereby ensuring that it is strong enough to support the load.
He goes on to say that as tire width decreases, the longevity of the product increases. However, the harder compound of the tire results in reduced traction, so it’s a trade-off either way.
Cornering on Wider Tires
It is also true that when you put wider tires on your car, there is more tire touching the surface of the road. This can also improve traction when it comes to cornering in normal conditions. According to Cars.com, both wet and dry traction improve with increased tire width.
However, the opposite is true of driving in snow, which again brings us back to the issue of tire construction. Snow tires are made of a softer rubber so the tire can more easily conform to the changes in terrain caused by snowy weather. The flexibility leads to better traction, but the tread is different on snow tires to compensate for wider products.
Considering Tire Width
Increased tire width is often desirable on larger vehicles that carry massive loads on a regular basis. They are also used on sports cars because of the increased traction in cornering, though again other factors need to be considered.
Tire width should not be the primary consideration when buying new tires. Instead, consider the other aspects of tire construction, from the tread pattern to the designation of appropriate driving conditions. This will help keep you safe whenever you go out for a drive.