Super-Sized Tire Caution

More and more car owners are going for a sportier look — replacing their tires with bigger, flashier wheels. It's known as plus-sizing and it's grown into a two-and-a-quarter billion dollar business. Consumer Reports checked the pluses — and the minuses — of plus-sizing.

Wheels are going high style and getting bigger and bigger. When you switch to bigger wheels, it's called plus-sizing. Consumer Reports Jennifer Stockburger, explains how it works.

"You can see this is the original tire that came on this car — 16-inch wheel, quite a large bit of sidewall. But when you go to this 19-inch size, much larger wheel but a much shorter sidewall."

Out on the test track, Jennifer tested to see what happens to a car's handling when you put on wheels that are bigger by anywhere from one to three inches.

"Some of these larger sizes actually have better cornering grip than the original sizes, meaning they can hug the corners a little tighter than the original sizes."

Consumer Reports' braking tests on dry pavement show plus-size tires also stop a little quicker.

But there are drawbacks. Plus-size tires don't do as well on wet pavement. They're more likely to hydroplane.

And when you drive on poor roads plus-size tires make the ride a lot rougher.

"You can feel pretty much every bump as you're coming through here."

Potholes pose an even bigger problem. Consumer Reports created this pothole test. At just 20 miles an hour, the plus-size tire was ruined.

"You can see that this tire has rim damage and a bulge in the sidewall, which signals that it has internal failure. It needs to be replaced and could be an accident waiting to happen."

Nicole Alexander who plus-sized her tires knows the problem.

"You go over one pothole and it's done. You have to get a new tire, even a new rim."

The drawbacks get worse the bigger the wheels, so Consumer Reports says if you do want to plus-size just go up an inch or two.

Plus-sizing doesn't come cheap. If you go up one size on a sedan, figure on spending at least 800 dollars for your four wheels. And for the largest plus-size tires sold for SUVs and pickups you'll pay a whopping five thousand dollars to outfit your vehicle.


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