Changing wheel size

My 17-year old son bought his first car over the summer. He bought a 93 Honda Civic hatchback with only 43,000 miles on it. He bought it off my father, so I know it was well maintained. It spent most of the past 10-12 years in the garage as my mother was unable to get into it due to it being so low to the ground. My Dad would just drive it once a month or so. Before he sold it to his grandson, he had his mechanic check it out. The only fault he could find was that he said it would need new tires by Winter. This brings me to my question.

The car has 13-inch wheels. My son wants to get 14 or 15-inch wheels. He says it would give him better ground clearance. I’m skeptical. I think he just wants to do it for looks. I’m trying to impress on him that this would increase his costs, obviously, as he would have to buy new wheels as well as the tires. I have also heard that changing the wheel size can make your speedometer inaccurate. So, my question is, are there any advantages or disadvantages to him increasing the wheel size?


Go to and put in the year, make, and model of the car. Usually Tirerack will list +1 and +2 wheel sizes for a car, i.e. 13" to 14" or 13" to 15". As the wheel diameter increases, the recommended tire’s side profile will decrease, i.e. 70 series to 60 or 50 series to keep the overall wheel/tire diameter the same regardless of the wheel diameter. Tirerack is also a good place to do some research on the effects of changing tire sizes.

Ed B.

Generally people increase the wheel size and decrease the tire “thickness” to get the same overall diameter. This can improve handling at the expense of comfort and risk of damage to the tires and wheels. You may be able to increase ground clearance a very little, but not significantly. The tires will start to rub the wheel wells before you get significantly more clearance.

Oh comeon, Dad, let the dude upgrade to some 15" wheels and tires, at least the 14s, don’t make him keep those dorky 13s. A set of 195/75 R14s will work great on there. At least he’s not wanting to put a huge exhaust tip on it yet.

He’s not going to get any appreciable ground clearance, but there’s no harm that’ll come from it, and honestly it’ll probably make the car look a lot better if he picks out some tasteful rims.

Mostly, the advantages go to the people collecting the money. Ground clearance can be achieved by changing the 13" tire profile to a taller 13" tire. It is good that your son is talking to you. My brother got good advice right at home about his future and he got in the habit of saving his money. We all should plan to be fifty years old. You would rather have more money saved than spent by then. The wheels are a minor step, but from my own experience, I feel better about spending before the money is gone. After that, the wheels don’t look so good. If your son does what is best for him, he will live right at home until he gets married and save at least ten percent of his paycheck, permanently. The rest should go to the bank for a (for now) $1,000 emergency fund. Some should go into temporary savings for tires, recreation and car upkeep. Don’t forget clothing and such. The car is not the person, and some day the car will be sold and a newer one bought. My word on the subject follows. Don’t leave the money trail behind where others get all the benefits. The first way to save is by stacking one dollar on top of another. In later years, spending money is what you make on the interest on your savings. Right now, there is very little of that. Ten percent of all you make is yours to keep, but you have to want it.

Usually when you change the wheel size you also change the tire size such that overall tire diameter is the same, thus no change in ground clearance or speedometer accuracy. To increase ground clearance would reuire changing the suspension by adding spacers or such, and then you could change the wheel and tire size to be larger overall and get more ground clearance, and have to get the speedo recalibrated. That gets expensive.

Now, it might be worthwhile to change to 14" wheels if there is a better selection of tires in that size, but that’s about the only good reason I can see. The larger wheel with low profile tires looks silly to me, though I know it is the current fad. On the other hand, I saw a 1950s Buick station wagon the other day (real wood sides and tailgate) with huge white sidewalls. That was fad once, too. has a great primer on wheels and tires. I recommend a visit. Sit and visit the website with your son and you can both learn together as well as have some quality time.

I have been pretty satisfied with my new tire and wheel package I bought from I went with the gray Kosei K1 TS with Michelin Pilot Exalto A/S. While they were pretty expensive(I bought 5 rims and tires), they’ve been great so far. And the tires are rated really good for all kinds of traction issues(hydroplaning, deep and light snow traction, etc.)

i just got done watching “the fast and the furious.” you should rent that and see what your son may be trying to emulate. (just a possibility)

first: the wheel size on this car will be limited by the wheel well.

second: the arguement that more ground clearance will be gained is a misnomer. just how much clearance is going to be gained by adding 2" of rim diameter? (that will be 1" total) dont forget half the diameter is actually going UP into the wheel well.

third: by having bigger (high profile) rims you have to use smaller height tires (as previously mentioned FAD) remember the wheel well is the limiter in total size.

fourth: by switching to much larger rims you have to change suspension. the shocks must be stiffer so the car doesn’t settle down on the wheel wells. all this is going to cost. the more you do to spiff up the car is going to really, really cost.

sit down with your son and discuss what he really expects out of this car, and just how HE is going to pay for it.

Running “larger” wheels from 13" means he will run 185/60/14’s or 195/50/15’s if sticks to the stock size. These were OEM sizes on Civic’s in that vintage typically with alloy wheels.

You can find some reasonably good prices for steel 14 or 15" rims at a junk yard, er you-pull-it, recycler etc. The 185/60-14 or 195/50-15 are the same diameter as the 175/70-13 OEM tires. Sometimes you can get a good deal on alloys on ebay.