Do Wide Tires Mean More Grip for Your Corvette?

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Yes, wider can be better, but here’s why you’re wiser spending money on a tire with the right tread and compound instead.

You’ve probably noticed that the tires on high-performance cars tend to be wider than those on your average Ford Fiesta. But do manufacturers put fat tires on performance cars because they need them, or just because it looks aggressive?

Recently, Jason Fenske from the YouTube channel Engineering Explained attended the Northwest Automotive Press Association’s “Mudfest” to test 27 crossovers and sport utility vehicles to see how changing their tires affected performance. As can be expected from Engineering Explained, Fenske goes into great detail breaking down the data from the massive tire comparison.

ABCs of Tire Design

Yellow Continental Tire Stickers on C6 Corvette

Spoiler alert: The answer is that a wider tire doesn’t necessarily translate to more grip. This is particularly true in off-road conditions, where Fenske tested a number of these vehicles. The type of tire used and the tire compound are much more important. But what exactly does that mean?

To understand what Fenske is getting at, let’s go over the qualities you’ll find in a typical street tire. The first one Fenske mentions is tread design, and this is indeed critical in determining how grippy a tire is. A typical all-season tire has a level design with some tread variation and grooves called “sipes” that allow for better traction in wet conditions.

The second variable you’ve got to understand is tire compound: the rubber and other materials used in constructing the tire. An average passenger car tire uses a compound that compromises performance in the name of durability. This yields better value through longer tire life, but at the cost of ultimate grip.

How Fenske’s Facts Affect you

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Tire

As the data will attest, you’re wiser spending money on a tire with the right type of tread and compound for your application than simply sizing up, but that doesn’t mean it’s a waste.

As a Corvette owner, just about every tire you buy will be a street-performance tire. That means if you’ve exhausted the grip you can get out of a soft-compound tire because you have a modified car with more power than stock, you could potentially benefit from a wider footprint.

Fenske’s data is 100 percent correct, but as with so many things in motorsports, there are a lot of plates spinning here. It’s important to know your application and just how much tire your car needs.


ALSO SEE: What the Forum Has to Say About this Tire Chatter

Scott Huntington is a regular contributor to Corvette Forum and JK Forum, among other auto sites.

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