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Snow tire size vs Summer tires

I am planning on purchasing a new car which comes with 20" sport/summer tires. The dealer said that I should get a smaller tire size for snows, like 18". Do smaller tires handle better in the snow? should they also be narrower?

much thanks


18 inch tires will require wheels also which is a lot of money plus storing them when not in use. You don’t say where you are and how much snow you will have. If this unnamed vehicle is all wheel drive then a really good set of all season tires might work. Yes, a narrow tire is better in snow.

Narrower tires for snow is the way to go. But you don’t want to go too narrow where it affects handling.

You don’t want to go to a shorter tire/rim combination because you want maximum clearance. Again going too high can cause stability problems…although usually not a problem when dealing with just tires/rim

That is definitely true, but the other issue is the question of whether 18’’ wheels might conflict with the car’s brake rotors. If the vehicle came with 20" wheels, it may also have oversized rotors that could make it impossible to use 18" wheels.

Thank you. I live in Connecticut and the car is an Audi SQ5 SUV. I am on the fence on weather to order the car with all seasons or keep the sport tires. I have been swapping summers and winters for the last 2 cars I’ve owned, 20 years, and it is getting a little old.

thanks again

thanks for the reply,

You don’t want to go to a shorter tire/rim combination
I don’t know exactly what that means. Lets say I get the car with 20" wheels. Should I get 18" snows? By going to 18" does that mean they will be narrower?

thanks again


Smaller wheels don’t interfere with the brake rotors.

But instead with the brake calipers.


John, just being 18 inch instead of 20 inch they still can be the same width.
Nice thing about forums is you can post thoughts even if not asked for. Here goes. I looked at the Audi web site and at the price of that thing I would have some sort of cheap vehicle to drive in snow and bad weather. I say that because in bad weather our Volvo ( cost 4 times what our first house was ) stays home.

To determine the overall height you take the tires width aspect ratio and multiply it by two + the rim size.

If you buy a 265/70 R 20 tires the overall height will be just under 35"

The same size tire on 18" rims will be just under 33"

To keep the same height you want a higher aspect ratio. So to keep the same height for an 18" tire you’d want to buy 265/80 R18.

Go to and look up winter tire/ wheel combinations. You’ll see if 18" wheels are an option. Up to you if it’s worth the trouble.

I’ve previously had good luck with wanted to buy winter tires on steel wheels, ended up with a nice set of allow wheels for less than I would spend on steel ones: sometimes they run promotions, giving additional discounts if you buy both tires and wheels in one go

they also have a magic option for “yes, I know I have to install TPMS, so I’m asking you to temporarily install tires on wheels and then I will ask a local shop to install my TPMS sensors from my old set” :slight_smile:

Hmmm…I think that local weather conditions should dictate whether you order all-season tires, or retain the “sport” tires.

I used to live in Connecticut and did exactly what you are asking about, bought rims that were smaller diameter and put on somewhat narrower tires with a larger aspect ratio (which is the proportion of the rubber tire’s height from rim to tread to its width). That gave me a slightly narrower tread, with taller rubber and smaller rims. Both winter and summer set-ups had the same circumference. That combination generally gave me better control in snow, think of controlling a sled with skinny runners with a toboggan with a very wide footprint.

It’s a good idea for winter driving areas to own two sets of wheels, one for the summer, and another for the winter. That way all you have to do is change the wheels seasonally, no need to take it to a shop where they dismount and remount the tires on the same wheels. There’s some advantage of having smaller diameter wheels for the winter, especially if you drive a performance-sedan. For example there’s extra room if snow accumulates in the wheel wells, so it is less likely to interfere w/the tires or steering. And if you ever need to install chains on the side of the road, it’s an easier job and less likely to damage the brake fittings with a smaller tire.

becomes quite involved to store them right, so they do not deform by next time you are going to use them - pretty much rules out storing them on the edge as they get deformed in half-deflated state

I stored my set hung on individual hooks I bolted to the garage walls next to ceiling… but my ceiling is 10 foot high, so I have space to walk under them and not hit them with a head

Summer tires on a SUV in Connecticut. That just seems unnecessary.

I’ve driven in winter weather, most of it in the Northeast including Connecticut, for half a century.

The Audi SQ5 is an AWD SUV with all the latest traction and control technology. My son has the same vehicle (2016 version) and takes his north to the mountains in California to go skiing. He lives in southern California. Get yours with good all season tires (stock size) and, unless your technique is really terrible and/or your common sense totally absent, you’ll be perfectly fine in anything Connecticut will throw at you.


Off Topic – Hey Mr. Mountainbike, hope you are well and you have been missed.


According to the Tire Rack 19" would be the size, with 20" as an option for winter tires/wheels

Tires can develop flat spots over time when stored on the vehicle. A set of tires on wheels stacked or placed vertical in the garage? This won’t be a problem. Tires aren’t stored on hooks in the warehouse.