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What are Low Profile Tires?

By Darrell Laurant
Updated May 23, 2024
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Like many "performance" products used in automobiles, low profile tires are somewhat of a trade-off. They increase performance, but in the process often decrease the comfort of your ride. They grip corners tenaciously, but can be scary on snow.

Low profile tires shrink the amount of rubber between the wheel and the road, shortening the sidewall quite noticeably. They are also lower and wider than standard tires, which leads to a broader contact with the highway. Along with that, these tires offer a more sensitive "communication" with the steering wheel, a factor sought after by sports car drivers. The bigger wheel allows for bigger brakes, which mean quicker stops. There are also aesthetic factors to be considered. A narrower sidewall means a larger wheel and a sportier look. Your vehicle will sit slightly lower.

If you're considering low profile tires for your primary transportation, however, an inventory of your driving habits and favorite roads is in order. A daily dose of twisty mountain curves is tailor-made for these tires. If the majority of your driving is on straight turnpikes, however, there will be little payback — except in looks — for the shakier ride. Because of the broad profile of the tires, they not only contact more of the asphalt or concrete, but any slippery winter substance that may be covering it. They turn more quickly, which can affect the drive train over time.

Because of the height differential, it goes without saying that these tires don't play well with others. You either put on four, or none at all. In terms of tread wear, it is also important to find out if the tires are high or low performance. The former will tend to be softer, and thus more susceptible to tread wear.

Like them or not, low profile tires have become standard on some sports cars and gradually making their presence presence felt in the family car, truck and SUV lines. Where once a 13-14 inch (33-35 cm) wheel diameter was the norm, some of the larger wheels used with these tires now top 22 inches (55 cm).

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Discussion Comments

By anon978132 — On Nov 15, 2014

My Hyundai Accent SE has the upgraded 16" factory alloy wheels, but I've broken 1 rim and 2 tires in the last 6 months due to their "low profile" (205/45ZR16). I'm seriously considering ordering a smaller set of rims (14 or 15") and tires with more sidewall. My Hyundai isn't exactly a race car and doesn't need this nonsense.

I also live in a "northern" state, and low pros handle poorly in the snow.

By anon942751 — On Mar 29, 2014

I agree with anon111414. I just replaced three of brand new tires I put on my Acura last year at the cost of $750. It's an expensive proposition.

If you live in northern areas and have to contend with potholes and beat up roads (like I do in Massachusetts), it's best to avoid them.

By anon143931 — On Jan 18, 2011

whoever anon 111414 needs is to invest in better rims because I only roll low profile and my rims are fine. LOL.

By anon111414 — On Sep 16, 2010

I am about to swap my Mercedes E350 after seven tires and five rims in 15 months. Low profile tires put very little room between the road and the aluminum rim. Result is that the rims bend easily, often and destroy the tires.

By anon107219 — On Aug 29, 2010

Thanks. Always good to get some objective information. It will help me decide what car to purchase next.

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