Do wider tires actually have more grip?

Tires are an absolutely essential part of any car, truck, or SUV. Compounds can create unique handling experiences suited for any type of vehicle, and they can even make a car much more fun to drive.

It’s also a common saying that wider tires provide more grip. In the interest of science, Jason Fenske of Engineering Explained has tackled the question in a new video. With 27 different trucks and SUVs, Jason is able to give us an answer: Wider tires don’t automatically mean more grip. Instead, the type of tire is a much more important factor.

Looking at tire width and the load on each tire (pounds per millimeter of tire), it’s clear that while there is some correlation between a wider tire and grip, other factors are more important. Oddly, just because a vehicle is heavier doesn’t mean it stops better or worse either. The Nissan Armada was a consistent outlier in Jason’s tests and data collection—for its heavy weight, it stopped better than many other trucks and SUVs.

Instead, the type of tire provides a far better correlation when looking at data. Summer tires provide the best grip on pavement, while wide all-terrain tires perform poorly. Flip it around, and wide summer tires perform poorly off road, but the all-terrain tires do great things off the beaten path. Furthermore, specific compounds can even make a difference as well.

The moral of the story? Slapping on a set of ultra wide tires may not provide all the grip a driver is expecting. Carefully choosing compounds and understanding what the tire will be asked to do is much more important.

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