Benefits of low-profile tires


#1

We recently bought a new car with low profile tires (LPTs). The Owner’s Manual, surprisingly, says little to justify such tires to be original equipment (OE). In fact the manual says the LPTs may compromise ride quality, create more road noise, are easily damaged (an inherent design quality), should be monitored frequently for proper tire pressure and inspected for damage after driving over rough roads, obstacles, or uneven pavement transitions (ie potholes, roadway expansion joints, etc.) It sounds as though the authors of the manual are saying to the owner not to blame them for the selection of LPTs as OE for this vehicle. Are LPTs really a benefit to the typical auto purchaser? If not, who is truly benefiting? Your comments are appreciated. Alan (prefer question/response to be generic regarding LPTs; not specific to only Hyundai)


#2

Who’s Alan?

Low profile tires create a better look for the car. The lower profile helps the handling - sharper steering, more traction in corners. Using low profile tires on larger wheels allows more space for bigger brakes IF the manufacturer chooses to add those larger brakes.

But yes, low profile tires ride a bit harsher but tire brands vary wildly. As for more easily damaged - not the tire the wheel it is mounted on can be subject to damage more easily. Your tire pressure is monitored FOR you by a system called the TPMS and the car will tell when that occurs, but like ANY tire, check them yourself regularly.


#3

Mustangman,

I appreciate your comments regarding handling and braking. However, these attributes are seldom needed by the typical driver except in an emergency situation. I’ve enjoyed driving a Celica and a 3000gt over the years; taking posted 45mph curves at 65mph for the thrill is fine, but not in everyday traffic. I may be old-fashioned, but using the baseball term, ‘3 strikes and you’re out’ is still relevant. LPTs have 5 or so strikes in that they compromise ride quality, create more road noise, are easily damaged, have significantly less tread-wear life and cost significantly more than a comparable, equivalent tire/rim (ie ground clearance). I bought the full size sedan for comfort and ride quality; also, I’m not looking to spend an average of $500 or so per year for a more sporty look over the 6yr life the balloon tires/rims that are now on the car. The car is for utilitarian purposes, going from points A to B, with a noticeably improved ride quality as I drove it from the dealership’s lot, as well as on the city streets and freeways.


#4

I disagree with your 5 strikes but if you don’t want LPTS, don’t buy a car with them. I love them. The highest profile tire on the smallest wheel on any car I own is a 70 series tire on my truck on a 16 inch rim. The other 2 have 40 series tires on 18 inch rims.


#5

Personally, I don’t like anything less than a 50 series and prefer 60s series.

The roads here are so horrible that one needs all the cushion available to have a tolerable ride.

A few weeks ago I had a medical incident (heart kind of quit…) and had to take a 25 mile ride to the hospital in an ambulance.
The stiff suspension/weight almost beat me to death.

Even the paramedics were joking that the roads were going to do me in before I got to the hospital.


#6

Some people might think low-profile tires look cool, but I think pretty much everything else about them stinks.


#7

I agree 100%, low profile tires have mostly disadvantages. The one advantage, slightly better cornering, does not matter to me. The disadvantages far outweigh that one advantage. Cost, wheels easily damaged, cost, looks.

Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more difficult to buy a car without low profile tires. I can see, in the near future, buying a new car and replacing the wheels and tires with steel wheels and high profile tires. Which may change the handling, if it has been tuned for the low profile setup.

Same thing with aluminum alloy wheels. No real advantages, but difficult to buy a car without them.

As to style, that is very subjective, and driven by the auto designers. People think the low profile tires and Al alloy wheels look good because auto designers tell them so.


#8

You have it figured out, LPTs are a style statement for most cars. Mine have 50 series, I’ve not had problems. What size are you dealing with?


#9

A co-worker of mine in the 80’s bought a VW GTI w/low profile tires (for that era). He was always very punctual before the new car; after we all noticed he started to miss some of our morning meetings. He finally fessed up that he was getting flat tires on the way to work. Crossing railroad tracks seemed to be the main problem. For some reason a tire would often just go flat for no apparent reason after the railroad tracks. Besides the tire problem, he also didn’t like the manual’s tight shifting pattern and he thought the gears were spaced too close together, required too much shifting. His solution was to sell the car and buy a Japanese econobox. At which point he became a very punctual employee again.


#10

What about feedback, do they give you warning that you are at the limit, or is everything fine until they just let go all at once, sort of like the way a high aspect ratio tapered wing on an airplane stalls.


#11

Feedback is generally quite good… Generally a sharper edge to that limit warning than a high profile tire. Varies quite a bit by the brand of tire. I’ve driven low profile tires that have a sharp edge at break-away and others that are downright mushy and uncommunicative (that’s a $20 word!) at the limit.

Tires are designed to give the feedback, response, grip and ride the tire engineer thinks they should have. Since you can’t have it all, there are trade-offs made. I’ve found good riding tires to have a bit less grip and response and the opposite to be true on another brand. Tire engineers are wizards doing some amazing stuff with rubber and string!


#12

Going by aspect ratio isn’t always that cut and dry since the width of the tire plays a role as well. For example my car’s rear tires are 275/40/R19 the sidewall is about 4.8 inches. Someone could have a car with 195/60/R16 tires for example, even though they have a significantly higher aspect ratio, because the tire is much more narrow, the sidewall would be 4.6 inches, close to what the 40 series tire has as far as sidewall goes.


#13

I think the biggest benefit of low profile tires is larger brakes! With the banning of asbestos, brake performance degraded and having larger disc diameters allowed that loss to be minimized.

Besides, car designers like the look of wheels a whole lot more than they like rubber sidewalls so when the brake engineers wanted larger diameter wheels, the designers embraced that with a vengeance and forced the shock engineers to develop ways to cope with the increased levels of ride harshness.


#14

Yikes! I’m glad you’re still with us.


#15

I have considered the low profile tires a fashion statement from the beginning. For the vast majority of drivers those tires offer no benefits and a great many problem$.


#16

Funny how much you want those attributes when that emergency situation happens, though…

I’m not an advocate for LPTs on every kind of car, but really if you want the old floaty ride of an American full sized sedan… Why are you shopping Hyundai? You should at least be stepping up to Genesis.

I’m not sure where you’re getting the $500/year thing either. I spend in the neighborhood of $1000 to put tires on my LPT car, and that’s getting high-end tires. And I have to replace mine every 4-6 years, which works out to a lot less than $500/year. Make sure you’re not getting tires with a 15,000 mile treadlife or something and you shouldn’t have to spend that much every year.


#17

I agree 100%. The auto fashion designers, whoever they are, have pushed these on consumers in the name of style. Along with poor visibility designs, ugly headlights and numerous other “features”.

Yes, the designers use focus groups, and surveys, but I doubt those are unbiased.


#18

I have to wonder about the ethics of auto designers.

There are many auto accidents every day. Some of those have to be due to poor visibility designs, or very low profile tires. Some of those are fatalities.

The question is: is it ethical for an auto designers to deliberately design in low visibility, knowing that some people will die due to that decision? Yes, I know it’s a lot more complicated, but still, is that a valid point?


#19

Low profile tires might also prevent a few accidents by allowing avoidance, and lower visibility also increases to some extent crash performance, so I don’t see a major ethical issue here.


#20

If the low visibility you’re talking about is the trend toward wide A/B pillars, it’s 'cause there are airbags in there.