Can a Sticky Set of Performance Tires Make Your Car Faster?

If you have ever thought about modifying your car, then you have probably considered adding parts like a performance exhaust, a turbocharger, nitrous, or even just some ECU tuning. But what good is having the extra power if you can’t get it to the ground?

In that case, a good set of sticky Summer performance tires can do the trick and the plus side is that they typically don’t cost as much as any of those aforementioned modifications. But can a good set of performance tires really make your car faster?

A new set of tires provide a lot more traction

With a new set of tires, your car will have the optimal grip needed to accelerate, turn, and brake safely on the street. But not all tires are created equal and it’s important to have the proper tires for the season and for the region that you live in.

For example, if you live near the coast in California, then you can typically get away with Summer or all-season tires considering the harshest weather you’ll likely face is rain. But if you live in the mid-west or in the north, then your best bet is to use summer or all-season tires in the warmer months and then switch to winter tires in the winter months.

Having the proper tire compound for each season, due to the fluctuations in temperature, can do wonders when it comes to the way your car performs on the street. But if you’re driving on a race track, or compete in the occasional autocross event, then the stickier the tire the better.

A mechanic installs new tires on a car in a shop.
A mechanic installs new tires on a car. | (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Stickier tires can increase your car’s performance

No, having a sticky set of Summer performance tires won’t give your car any more horsepower or torque. But installing a set of soft compound tires, or even racing slicks, will ensure that your car has a better contact patch with the ground under all types of driving. This means that your car will not only handle better in the corners, but it will also be able to stop at a shorter distance and enter each corner at a faster rate.

According to Engineering Explained, a car with a set of performance tires that are just 10% stickier than the stock tires can lap a track faster than a car with double the torque and horsepower ever could, in theory. Of course, we can get into arguments about which car has the better driving and so forth, but the truth is still in the numbers when it comes to one car versus another car. Check out his presentation below:

Ultimately, tires can make all the difference

Popular Mechanics also had a great anecdote about fitting a Ford Mustang with a set of wider, grippier tires meant for a Dodge Viper and having it beat a 1999 Porsche 911 around a track by nearly three seconds. Take into consideration that the Porsche had more power, less weight, and more “sophisticated suspension,” and it’s easy to see that a good set of tires can make all the difference.

An Arrows mechanic checks the Bridgestone tires before the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park.
An Arrows mechanic checks the Bridgestone tires before the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park. | Mark Thompson /Allsport

Do You Really Need To Break In New Tires?

If you’re ever thinking about modifying your car, no matter what kind of car it is, by all means, go ahead. But first, you might want to think about the big round black things that it’s riding on, as opposed to the modifications that you can to its engine.