Low profile tyres: What you need to know

You may have noticed something a little different about some cars stopped next to you at the traffic lights recently, but can’t quite put your finger on what it is. Well, it could be they’re driving on low profile tyres.

There was a time when you’d only see low profile tyres on sports cars, but there is a growing trend towards them for even the most modest of city drivers. Not just popular from an aesthetically pleasing point of view, low profile tyres are also being snapped up because of their performance credentials, with the prospect of increased steering response, improved dry handling and cornering ability.

What are low profile tyres?

Put simply, low profile tyres have a shorter sidewall or a lower aspect ratio than normal car tyres. They also have larger tread blocks, a stiffer, wider apex and can be made from specialised compounds. A tyre with a 50 aspect or less is generally considered to be low profile.

So what else do you need to know? To find out more, we asked a man who knows a thing or two about tyres – David Wilson, CEO of tyre retailer Tyrepower. He says there is a growing trend towards low profile tyres because of increasing imports from the European market where they emphasise performance as an important driving dynamic across all segments, and a general emphasis by car manufacturers chasing higher performance requirements from modern vehicles.

What are the benefits of low profile tyres?

So what are the benefits of low profile tyres, and are there any negatives? Mr Wilson said: “The advantages are improved handling and reduced rolling resistance for any given section width, but the increased performance potential also leads to increased tyre wear – sometimes without the driver being consciously aware of either attribute.

“Low profile tyres are generally considered to be visually more appealing. Generally they tend to generate a harsher, noisier ride – because of less sidewall to absorb road irregularities – however to a large extent this has been offset by advancements in suspension technology.”

Are there any other things motorists should be aware of before buying low profile tyres? Mr Wilson points to potentially higher cost associated with reduced supply chain economies of scale. “In Australia, this is more a function of fitment diversity than actual low profile size,” he said. “Always buy tyres through reputable outlets to ensure tyres meet Australian standards and have appropriate after sales support – correct pressure maintenance and tyre repairs procedures are critical with low profile tyres. And also ensure you are buying the most appropriate tyre for your needs.”

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