Do Bigger Tires Affect Turning Radius?


When driving a 4×4 over rocks and through muddy paths, it is important to have a quality turning radius. Will changing your tires to a bigger size affect how your 4×4 turns?

Overall, a change in tire size does not have a significant effect on the turning radius. A change in tire size is more likely to affect acceleration and braking power. However, if the tires are too big, offset and rims may need to be altered as well, thus influencing the turning radius. 

Before changing the tire size on your 4×4, you should weigh the consequences it will have on, not only the look of your vehicle but the function as well. Keep reading to learn what influence changing tire size has on turning radius.

How Tire Size Affects Turning Radius

Although a subtle change in tire size will not drastically affect the turning radius, there will be some difference. If you don’t pay much attention to the radius, to begin with, you may not notice anything.  

That being said, bigger tires will have a bigger turning radius, which in most cases is not a good thing. A smaller turning radius means easier maneuvering around obstacles.

The bigger the tire you install on your vehicle, the more surface area there is. While bigger tires can provide you with more traction, this will also increase the potential of your tires rubbing on the wheel wells. If that happens, it will, in turn, limit the ability of tires to turn. Thus the turning radius is more limited before and the vehicle will be hard to turn.

Rubbing on the wheel well will also have other negative effects on your tire. As the tire rubs on the wheel well, it can affect vehicle alignment and tire integrity. As the tires wear on the wheel wells, they will require maintenance and replacement sooner than if they fit properly.

If your larger tires rub on your wheel wells, an offset package, lift kit, or rolling of the fender can solve the problem. However, these corrections can also have a variety of negative impacts on your vehicle’s ability to function properly, not to mention it will cost you more than you may be willing to spend.

While adding bigger tires to your 4×4 will negatively affect the turning radius, putting smaller tires on your vehicle will do the opposite.

But what is the cause of this? This can easily be explained by cutting the tire in half. (Do not actually cut your tire in half, this is just for ease of explanation.)

If you cut your tires open and stretch them out next to each other, you will see that the larger tire expands a bigger distance than the smaller one. This means the smaller tire will be able to complete one revolution (at the same angle as the larger tire) in a shorter distance. This leads to easier turn control and a smaller turn radius. 

So, it is easier to maneuver, which is what most people want.

However, while they will provide more maneuverability, there will not be as much surface area or traction. Depending on what conditions you plan on driving in, this lack of traction could lead to bigger problems than having to make wide turns.

There are trade-offs to all modifications made on cars and trucks, so it is important to know what you want out of your vehicle.

Other Effects of Bigger Tires

Changing the size of your tires affects multiple aspects of how your vehicle functions. This could include traction, height, ability to stop, acceleration, and gas mileage. While some of these things might benefit you, a lot of these are negatives to consider before shelling out the money for larger tires.

But how do bigger tires influence these various aspects? Let’s take an in depth look.

Speedometer and Odometer

One big factor to consider when changing your tire size is the speedometer and odometer.

The speedometer is determined by the rate of revolutions your tire makes. However, a bigger tire will have a different rate of revolution than a smaller tire. Putting bigger tires on your vehicle will result in a speedometer reading slower than your actual speed.

This will in turn affect your odometer reading. The odometer counts the revolutions of your tire based on speed and displays it as mileage. While a bigger tire turns slower in a sense, it covers more ground.

If you decide to change to bigger tires, be sure to recalibrate your speedometer and odometer for accurate readings.

Traction

As already mentioned, bigger tires can have a positive effect on traction. With more surface area, the tires are able to grip more of the road. This is an important part of having fun and safe recreation. 

Height

Changing tire size will also immediately affect the height of your vehicle. For vehicles that already sit low to the ground, a smaller tire could decrease the clearance beneath your vehicle. If you plan on using your 4×4 for offroading you do not want to lose any of that precious clearance or you may wind up catching on sharp obstacles.

You may even wind up bottoming out and stuck, something no one wants to experience.

On the contrary, adding bigger tires could improve your vehicle’s clearance. Although this sounds ideal, if your vehicle already sits high above the ground, adding larger tires could increase the clearance too much. In this situation, you may find yourself hitting your shins attempting to climb into the taller vehicle.

Brakes

Another aspect affected by bigger tires is the ability to stop, or braking function.

Larger tires also have a higher torque. If you put tires bigger than the stock size, your braking system may not be built to handle the added torque. In other words, it will take more power and time for the larger tires to slow down. Although this change may not be significant, the bigger tires may not be worth the lower braking capability.

Acceleration, an aspect completely different from braking, is also affected by tire size. While a larger tire provides better traction, it can decrease acceleration. This is because more power is required to complete one rotation. 

MPG

This then factors into the vehicle’s gas mileage. Although having a fuel-efficient vehicle may not be what you think about while riding along the paths in your 4×4, it is an important factor to ensure you can keep enjoying this activity. After all, no one has an endless budget for fuel!

As just described, bigger tires need more power in order to complete one full rotation than a smaller tire, this slower acceleration will negatively impact the gas mileage. Additionally, larger tires are heavier than smaller tires, this will further decrease fuel efficiency.

While there are clearly several pros and cons to changing your tire size, which direction you should go depends on what function you are hoping to achieve and what negatives you are willing to deal with.

What many enthusiasts find is that the bigger tires provide a better appearance. If looks are the main motivation in changing tire size, you too may determine that dealing with a larger turning radius and the other issues is worth it.

If the pros outweigh the cons for you and your situation, go big or go home!

Kern Campbell

I've had a passion for four-wheel-drive vehicles since I was a kid riding in the back seat of my Grandfather's Jeep Grand Wagoneer. I have owned a lot of vehicles over the years. They each have their pros and cons and I look forward to sharing my knowledge with you so you can find the vehicle that's just right for your needs.

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