It’s about that time of year when most people start thinking about shopping for winter tires in preparation for the cold and snowy months. We’ve written about the importance of winter tires before, but here’s how you can decide what size tire to buy.
Tyre Reviews is back with a comprehensive video about winter tires and how different sizes can affect how they perform and feel. To conduct the tests, host Jonathan Benson got together three sets of winter tires: 16-inch 205s, 17-inch 225s and 18-inch 225s.
Here’s what he found.
When buying winter tires, a common rationalization that gets thrown around is that narrower is better, with the logic being that a skinnier tire results in greater pressure exerted over the road surface, thus sinking the tire into the snow better. Benson’s snow results indicate that much, but strangely enough, the difference in performance between the skinny tire and the wider ones wasn’t as big as you’d think it’d be.
He found that despite a small decrease in performance figures, the 17-inch tires actually felt better balanced and more favorable. Also, it should be noted that not everyone does performance driving in extremely snowy conditions. So, he was able to conclude that winter tires are great in general, but if you want ones that understeer slightly less, go for a wider diameter.
For wet testing, the narrower, 16-inch tires performed the best in aquaplaning situations. And though the 18-inch tires were the worst in the wet braking, they did feel the best in wet handling.
Yet, you can also see that the test results across all three tires were pretty close to each other. Subjectively though, Benson said that he’d personally like to put the 18s on a sports car because they keep a more spirited feel to things.
Without a doubt, the 17- and 18-inch tires out-performed the 16-inch tires in terms of dry braking, handling and subjectivity. That’s because the more rubber that comes in contact with the road, the better control you’ll have. Obviously, nobody should be tracking with a set of winter tires, but just in case you have a set on and need to perform some kind of emergency maneuver, the bigger tires seems better.
But if you are a fan of overall comfort and noise, the smaller tires were definitely superior.
Now, you might be wondering why the wet and dry handling tests were conducted in southern France as opposed to another cold location. Benson revealed that it was a matter of being able to conduct the tests at all; it was easier to wet a track as opposed to use one on a rainy day because water depth wouldn’t be consistent across runs.
He also admitted that while dry performance does drop off a bit with the cooler temperatures, the differences in performance across the three tires would still be consistent, as he kept the tire compound the same.
You can take a look at the full test here. As always with tire buying, it comes down to what you are looking for and what kind of environment you live in.