No one ever wants to damage their wheels, but this is especially true if you have expensive Tesla wheels. As reported by Engineering Explained, original equipment wheels for the Tesla Model 3 cost $340 per tire and $710 per wheel, making them incredibly expensive to replace in the event of even minor damage. This video explains the benefits — and detriments — of switching to smaller, higher profile wheels in order to prevent wheel damage.
Avoid Low Profile Tires
In the video above, Engineering Explained switches from low profile 20-inch original equipment wheels to high profile 18-inch aftermarket wheels. To prevent costly damage to your Tesla wheels, making the switch to higher-profile tires is one of the biggest steps you can take. While many luxury car brands are choosing low profile tires for aesthetic reasons, increasing the distance between the wheel and the ground serves a very important purpose: if you hit a pothole while driving with low profile tires, the wheel is much more likely to scrape the ground and become damaged.
Although the exact measurements will differ between wheels, this switch from Tesla wheels to aftermarket wheels created a 42 percent greater distance between the wheel and the ground — a significant amount if you’re looking to prevent damage.
Tesla Wheel Damage from Curbs
Replacing low profile tires with high profile tires has another benefit: larger sidewall means that you are less likely to curb your wheels if you happen to drive too close to the edge of the road. Having tires that stick out past the wheel also means that if you need to remove the tire and rest it on the ground, the wheel itself will not be scraped and damaged.
Smaller wheels mean lighter wheels—in this particular example, the reviewer managed to save a total of 34.4 pounds by switching to 18-inch wheels. This has numerous benefits, but one of the biggest is that by reducing the weight of your wheels, you are reducing your vehicle’s unsprung mass. If you were to hit a pothole with large, heavy wheels, the increased unsprung mass means that your wheel will bounce up into your vehicle with much greater force. Smaller wheels—and less unsprung mass—means that hitting a pothole will decrease the force with which your wheels bounce into your Tesla.
Improve your speed
Another benefit of switching to smaller wheels is that you will experience an increase in acceleration time. Larger wheels—even low profile ones that appear smaller—have a much longer moment of inertia, and are more resistant to accelerating. In this example, the reviewer found that the 20-inch original equipment wheels experienced approximately 80% more inertia than the smaller wheels.
In an acceleration experiment, the reviewer reported that with the 20-inch wheels, the Model 3 went from 0-to-60 mph in an average of 3.42 seconds, while the 18-inch wheels led to a slightly quicker time of 3.34 seconds.
EE found only one real detriment to switching wheels: braking to a stop from 60 mph took 105 feet with the 20-inch wheels and 107 feet with the 18-inch wheels. This is because the original equipment tire is Tesla specific, and Tesla wheels have a larger contact patch with the ground. However, this two-foot braking distance is not necessarily significant enough to detract from the numerous benefits of switching to a smaller, higher-profile wheel.
If you’re concerned about switching, don’t worry—the Tesla recognizes that you’ve replaced the wheel and will recalibrate to ensure optimized performance, meaning that your ride should be smooth and your wheels should be safe.