As you're shopping for winter wheels and tires, you'll likely come across the recommendation of going to a narrower tire. This is the exact opposite approach that you would take for summer traction, where wider is better. If you're likely to drive through deep snow this year, you'll want winter / snow tires and wheels in sizes that help put the laws of physics on your side.
The reason for this is that traction is achieved in winter by cutting through the ice and snow. With wider tread, you're more likely to start snow plowing or floating on top of the surface instead of pushing down and through. This floating will result in loss of traction sooner than with a thinner or narrower option. A good way to picture this is imagine a pizza cutter slicing through a pizza.
Another way to think about this is from the perspective of the contact patch. A tire's contact patch or "footprint" greatly influences its performance. On the same vehicle, the area of the contact patch essentially remains the same with different width tires. When the footprint gets narrower as it will with a narrower width tire, it has to get longer. And the mechanics of the longer footprint help with the longitudinal traction for acceleration and braking.
You can try to achieve a narrower solution for your vehicle in different ways:
- Shop by vehicle in the winter section of our site and we'll list alternate sizes if applicable. You can also refer to the owner's manual found in your vehicle. Sometimes you will find recommendations there on different tire sizes. For example, it may list the alternate size for the base model of your vehicle.
- Most vehicles will allow for minus sizing, too. Minus sizing is where you purchase both a wheel and tire by dropping the wheel diameter by an inch. This will typically lead you to a narrower tire in the process. Build a Winter / Snow Tire & Wheel Package for optional minus sizes after entering your vehicle's year, make, model and trim level on our website.
For more information on selecting a narrower tire, read "Size Selection of Winter / Snow Tires."