Can I Put Smaller Tires On My Car or Truck?

It’s common to see a lifted truck with bigger tires and wheels throughout the West. But what about going the other way? Is it okay to put smaller tires on your car or truck for a different look, when your original tire size isn’t readily available, or there is a chance to save some money? We have answers.

Smaller Tires Sometimes Make Sense

When replacing your tires, choosing tires that are within 3-percent of the diameter (the height of the tire) measurement of the tires recommended by the manufacturer can be acceptable if necessary. See our article on tire sizes and what the numbers mean. Those smaller tires, paired with a lowering kit, could enhance the looks of your vehicle.

Before making any recommendations, the pros at your local Les Schwab will double-check that the diameter, width, sidewall, circumference, load index, speed rating, and revolutions per mile match up with your cars or truck specifications.

Disadvantages of Significantly Smaller Tires

Choosing tires that are considerably smaller can cause extra wear to some parts of your vehicle as well as added costs when modifications are required. This could include a lowering kit, as well as new shocks. Depending on your goals, there are tradeoffs. Here are a few disadvantages to consider.

Interfering With Safety Equipment:

Tires that are significantly smaller than those suggested by the manufacturer can interfere with your speedometer, sensors and computers. These include safety systems such as anti lock brakes, emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control.

Adaptive cruise control switch

Overworking Your Engine:

Smaller tires can increase your overall torque, which can cause your engine to work harder as those tires spin faster.

Impacting Transmission Shift Points:

When tires are too small, the revolutions per mile are greatly affected, potentially changing when your transmission shifts. This can cause unnecessary wear and tear, leading to heavy-duty repair bills.

Les Schwab Tip: Changing tire size on an AWD vehicle may cause even more severe transmission issues. Check out our article about replacing all four tires on your AWD vehicle.

Reducing Tread Life:

Smaller tires will make contact with the road more often than those recommended by the manufacturer. The increased revolutions per mile of a smaller diameter tire means they will wear out faster and need to be replaced sooner.

Turning Heads (but Not in a Good Way):

Choosing smaller tires will change the look of your vehicle, but not always for the better, especially if you're looking for less expensive or more readily available tire options. Smaller tires may create a large gap between the top of the tire and the bottom of the wheel well, causing an unproportioned look on your stock-height car or truce. The only aesthetic fix is installing a lowering kit which has additional cost implications.

Looking at Larger Tires?:

Many of the same factors apply when considering a larger tire. However, those larger tires may be heavier than factory tires, causing added wear on shocks and struts. It may be in your best interest to upgrade your shocks and struts at the same time.

Why Would a Tire Shop Suggest I Get Smaller Tires?

At Les Schwab, we make sure to recommend tires that are well within the specifications for your ride. If you want to lower your vehicle or give your truck some height (lift), we have the experience to get it done right.

While some tire shops might do what they can just to sell a set of tires, we worry about your safety on the road. As long as a set of tires is within 3-percent of the diameter (height) measurement of the tires recommended by the manufacturer, you can feel good about the choice. Especially if it can save you some money when those tires are on sale or more readily in stock.

How Do I Tell What Size Tires I Need?

If you’re interested in switching out your tires for a different look, when your tire size isn’t available, or simply as a way of saving money, look for tire size information in your owner’s manual or on the placard located on the driver’s side door jam.

Once your original tires need to be replaced, it can be difficult to know what to choose. We’ve put together a tire sizing explanation as well as tire size calculator.

How Les Schwab Can Help

When you need the right size tires for your car, truck, SUV, CUV or EV, Les Schwab is ready to help. We’ll show you all of your options, mount and balance the ones you choose, and can align your vehicle if needed.

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