Physics Reference Page:
Acceleration: There are two factors to consider when looking at a wheel’s effect on acceleration: Weight and Tire Size. Wheel & Tire weights play a big role in acceleration due to moment of inertia. Moment of inertia can be defined as:
“A quantity expressing a body’s tendency to resist angular acceleration. It is the sum of the products of the mass of each particle in the body with the square of its distance from the axis of rotation.”
This simply means it is harder to speed up and slow down the rotation of heavy things. The reason heavy tires have such an impact on performance is that the larger the concentration of mass further from the axis of rotation, the greater its tendency is to resist acceleration. In layman’s terms: More weight to the outside of a spinning object makes it harder to spin. Acceleration includes both speeding up and slowing down –
“An object’s acceleration is the net result of any and all forces acting on the object, as described by Newton’s Second Law.”
In summary, heavy wheels & tires will have a negative impact on your acceleration due to the added rotating mass (weight).
Width and Diameter greatly affect the weight of your wheels as well as the weight of your tires. As you can see from the factory wheels alone, the 20 inch option is around 7 lbs heavier than the 18 inch option. This doesn’t sound like much, but try holding 7 lbs straight out in front of you and you’ll get a decent impression of the extra energy expended by your car to move the extra weight. Now we aren’t saying to go for 18’s just because they weigh less, but we want you to keep this in mind as a factor. Now you may be thinking “now hold on a minute, wheels come in different widths, wouldn’t that affect the weight as well?” Good catch, you are absolutely correct! However, while a wider wheel can also be heavier, the weight difference is generally far less drastic (Example Below)
- VMR V710FF in 19×8.5 +45 = 22.6 lbs
- VMR V710FF in 19×9.5 +45 = 23.2 lbs
- VMR V710FF in 19×10.5 +45 = 24.2 lbs
As you can see in this example, each inch of width adds around 1 pound or less to the weight. So the real impact on acceleration from wider wheels comes down to the tires. Tire’s impact on acceleration is a double edged sword though in some respects. On the positive side, a wider wheel allows you to run a wider tire which means a wider contact patch and better traction/more grip for acceleration*. However wider tires for acceleration benefits have diminishing returns. While you may get better traction the larger you go, you are also increasing the weight of the tire and the rolling resistance. For example, a 235/35R20 Michelin PS4S weighs 24 lbs while a 275/30R20 weighs 28 lbs. That 4 lbs difference has a significant impact on the moment of inertia. So while you are gaining traction, you are using more energy to spin the wheel. This trade off is more valuable for RWD models as their traction is significantly more limited than AWD models (we know this may be obvious but again, bear with us if you know the basics). With this we must also note that there are always limits and going too wide will simply hamper performance with no upside. We do not recommend anything over a 285 wide tire, and even that may be too wide.
*Note: We understand that there are a lot of factors when considering the traction of tires. We did not want to get into too many details, but as a general rule of thumb, a slightly wider tire will give you better traction to a point because roads are not perfectly flat or uniform.
Braking: The same rules apply to braking as acceleration because slowing a wheel down is simply “negative acceleration”. The only exception is the case of a wider tire impacting braking. On both AWD and RWD a wider tire will improve traction for braking.
Handling: While a lot of Model 3 owners may not have considered handling when purchasing their vehicle, we feel it is something important to discuss as it affects your driving experience every day. Similar to acceleration, the effects of wheels on handling is based on weight and tire size, but for different reasons.
In regards to weight, we will be looking at the effects of unsprung mass on the vehicle. Unsprung mass or weight is simply weight that is not supported by the suspension of the vehicle. This generally includes The Wheels, Tires, Brakes, Axles, and even parts of the suspension (control arms, struts, etc), but we will just be focusing on the first two. The weight of the wheel and tire’s impact on handing deals with acceleration, but this time in a linear way. Your wheel and tire accelerate up and down with the suspension travel as weight shifts while speeding up or slowing down, turning, or encountering road imperfections. More weight means more inertia that the suspension must cope with. This means the increase in unsprung weight from the wheels and tires make it harder for the suspension to maintain a consistent contact patch with the road. This translates to less traction when encountering road imperfections.
Tire size is very important for several reasons. Obviously it impacts weight which we went over the effects of above. A wider tire will generally give you a wider contact patch which is beneficial for lateral traction (the traction that is used when the vehicle is turning therefore exerting lateral forces on the vehicle and subsequently the tires). Again there are diminishing returns here due to factors such as vehicle weight, spring rates, and need for balance between acceleration, braking, and handling.
Tire size also incorporates sidewall height and subsequently sidewall stiffness. While sidewall stiffness varies from brand to brand and between types of tires (Ultra High Performance, Touring, etc), the general rule of thumb is sidewalls are stiffer as they become smaller/shorter. A stiffer sidewall impacts handling by improving turn in response and roll resistance (the tendency for the tire to deform and “roll over” under lateral g forces). There are downsides to stiffer sidewall which we will cover in the comfort section.
*Note: We understand that suspension and alignment factor into handling and lateral traction. These are more advanced topics for most people so we will not be going over them.
Comfort: Some of you care about this more than others, but I think we can all agree that if we had the choice between a smooth and comfy ride and one riddled with bumpiness and jarring impacts, we would choose the former. The main culprits when it comes to decreased ride comfort (aside from increased spring rates and aggressively tuned dampers) are unsprung weight and tire sidewall stiffness.
Reducing unsprung weight (or at least not increasing it) will yield a smoother ride because the suspension does not have to deal with as much mass (and subsequently inertia). So when you hit a bump the dampers (struts/shocks) have an easier time absorbing the force and returning to their normal state. So when looking at wheels and tires, considering the weight will improve both performance (acceleration, braking, and handling) as well as ride comfort.
Inversely, a tire with stiffer sidewall will have a negative impact on ride quality. Because some of the road imperfections you encounter are absorbed by the tires as well as the suspension, a stiffer sidewall will transmit more of those small bumps and dips directly to your posterior.
Range: While some of you might not care, that extra 10 miles of range can mean the difference between reaching a charging station or having to call roadside assistance. Wheel weight and tire size again both come into play. For the same reason heavy wheels and tires hamper performance, they also negatively affect range. Wider tires also offer more rolling resistance which will also decrease range. So if you are going for maximum range on your Model 3 while still looking good, pick something that keeps a stock size tire and ideally a lighter weight wheel. Tire compounds also factor into rolling resistance but that is a simple factor of stickier tire = higher rolling resistance. If a tire is made for performance driving (for example an Extreme Performance Summer tire) then it is a safe bet that it will negatively effect your range in exchange for better performance. If range is your concern stick with low rolling resistance economy tires.
Stock Fitments (Page 1)
Effects of lowering on fitments (Page 1)
How different setups will affect the Model 3’s Performance and Range (page 2)
Wheel Spacers (page 3)
Stock Height Fitments (page 4)
Lowered Fitments (page 5)
Aggressive (lowered) Fitments (page 6)
Recommended Wheel Brands & Models (page 7)
Tire sizing & types (compounds) (page 8)