Any car, from a humble compact to an twelve-cylinder road monster, is only as good as the tyres that keep it on the road, and every motorist should make proper tyre choice and maintenance one of their top priorities. However, with a dizzying array of different tyre models and types available, it can be challenging to find the right set of tyres for your particular driving needs.
One type of tyre that can cause confusion is the so-called 'low profile tyre'. These tyres are thinner than most conventional tyres, with shorter tyre walls that leave the rims of your vehicle's wheels sitting close to the road. A permanently desirable feature, low profile tyres are sold by tyre retailers and offered by car dealers as optional extras; despite this, many motorists are unaware of the effect these tyre will actually have on performance and driving habits.
To help you decide whether low profile tyres will truly benefit your vehicle, their main advantages (and disadvantages) are listed below:
What are the advantages of choosing low-profile tyres?
One of the chief advantages of low profile tyres is their shortened wheel walls, which are much stiffer and less flexible than those of conventional tyres. This stiffness prevents low profile tyres from warping and deforming under the intense shearing forces of high speed cornering, and can subsequently improve the handling characteristics of your vehicle dramatically by keeping the tyres rigid and stable as they turn.
The same principles that allow low profile tyres to improve handling can also improve your vehicle's performance under braking. When your car's wheels are suddenly brought to a halt under braking, conventional tyres will flex along their sidewalls and prevent the outer edge of the tyre from coming to complete stop at the same time as the inner edge; this will only delay your vehicle's ability to apply proper braking for a fraction of a second, but these fractions can make all the difference when it comes to track racers and other high performance vehicles.
The short, rigid tyre walls of low profile tyres ensure that the tyre does not flex significantly when the brakes are applied. This improves braking performance, and can also reduce the likelihood of your tyres skidding under heavy braking, reducing wear and improving their longevity.
These practical benefits can make low profile tyres an excellent choice for the dedicated motorist, but they are also highly desirable if you simple want to make your vehicle more eye-catching. Due to their long association with high performance and luxury vehicles, low profile tyres have considerable prestige, and true motoring enthusiasts will appreciate the clean looks and minimised visual impact of your thinner tyres.
What about the disadvantages of low profile tyres?
Impaired ride comfort
Unfortunately, the loss of height in your tyre's sidewalls also reduces the amount of cushioning they provide over bumps, and low profile tyres can make for a rough ride over uneven roads. Cars that are factory-fitted with low profile tyres have modified suspensions and shock absorbents to account for this loss of cushioning, but fitting aftermarket low profile tyres to a car that originally ran on conventional tyres may require manual adjustment of your suspension to keep your ride tolerable comfortable.
Increased road noise
The shortened sidewalls and decrease internal air capacity of a low profile tyre also reduce its ability to muffle road noise, and a vehicle running on low profile tyres may generate significantly more noise. This can be especially noticeable during highway driving.