Finding the Correct Tire and Wheel Combination for Your Vehicle
Aftermarket wheel and tire combinations are one of the most popular choices for the enthusiast looking to upgrade the look of their car, truck, or SUV. However, with so many wheel and tire sizing options many people have trouble getting it just right. Compiled and discussed by our lead technician, here are a few key guidelines to follow when shopping for wheels and tires.
1. Size Matters!
When replacing your factory wheels and tires it is always more appealing to ‘size up’ your wheel and tire combination? A larger wheel/tire diameter fills out the wheel well for a sportier, cleaner look. A wider tire not only increases the effective contact patch on the pavement, but also gives a vehicle a wider, more aggressive stance. Be wary of tire and wheel combinations that are too large! Installing oversized wheels and tires is a dangerous game because without suspension modification, the tire itself can rub on any number of surrounding parts of the car. A tire that is too large in diameter can rub on the edges of the fender well when turning or encountering large bumps or dips in the road. A wheel with an extreme offset or backspacing, or a tire that is too wide can rub on the frame, steering, or suspension components causing premature tire wear or component failure. The desire to ‘Go Big or Go Home’ can leave you going home in a noisy vehicle with a costly repair bill.
2. Watch Your Back…spacing and Offset
In general it is best to stick with a backspacing and offset that closely resembles that of your factory wheel. On passenger cars components such as brake calipers, ABS sensors, and suspension arms come in very close proximity to the inner surfaces of the factory wheel. Installing or attempting to install wheels with a backspacing or offset that is much different from the factory setup can cause the inner surfaces of the wheel to contact these components. Premature wear and failure of these components as well as the wheel itself can occur, as well as an undesirable noise in the passenger compartment.
Wheels manufactured for trucks and SUVs have a much wider offset and backspacing to accommodate larger braking systems, wider wheelbases, and four wheel drive components. It is sometimes popular for truck and SUV enthusiasts to purchase wheels with a significantly wider offset and backspacing for an extremely wide stance. While this can look great and increase the handling of the vehicle it is easy to get carried away. Many people don’t realize that this can also cause tire rub. Basically the farther out from the hub centerline that the wheel extends, the wider the arc that is created by the front wheel as it turns from side to side. If this arc is larger than the diameter of the wheel well, the tire will rub on the outer edge of the fender lip or the inner surface of the wheel well liner.
An even less commonly accepted but still important issue can arise with wheels that have an extreme offset and backspacing. The laws of physics tell us that the farther out on a supporting boom a load is extended, the more force is in turn exerted on the fulcrum of the boom itself. As it applies to our conversation this means that the farther out from the wheel hub the weight and body of the wheel extends, the more force is exerted on the hub itself. This can mean damage over time to the lug studs, ball joints, and hub bearings as well as increasing the risk of damage to the wheel.
3. Get Everything You Need the First Time
Once you have picked out a wheel and tire combination that works for you, YOU’RE NOT DONE YET! In addition to the basics, there are a few items that you will need to get the job done. The most important item to remember is a set of lug nuts. Sometimes the factory nuts will be compatible with aftermarket wheels, but this is not something you can count on. Factory lug nuts are often too large for aftermarket wheel lug wells, as well as showing an unsightly contrast to a shiny new wheel. There are a myriad of aftermarket lug nut styles available, and you should choose a style that not only works well with your wheel, but also compliments its looks. Things to keep in mind are thread pattern and thread pitch, socket size, seat style, and overall length. Examples of some common lug nut styles are shown below.
In addition to the necessary hardware there are a few operations that need to be performed on newly mounted wheel and tire packages. Every wheel must be balanced once a tire has been installed on it, new or used. Balancing involves placing weights on the wheel at specific locations to eliminate any difference in the rotational mass of the mounted wheel and tire. Valve stems must also be installed on all wheels before tires can be mounted.
Here at Film At Eleven, we include valve stems, wheel weights, and balancing in our labor charges, which will be listed clearly on your invoice at the time of final checkout.
A Word On Fuel Economy
Many of our customers have a lot of questions about fuel economy. With gas prices so high who wouldn’t? We are all suffering at the gas pumps, but there’s something you can do about it! Most people who are concerned about gas mileage want to know what they have to buy in order to increase their fuel economy The biggest change you can make won’t cost you a penny, but it’s up to YOU to make it happen. If you change your driving style just a little you can see big benefits in the long run. Here are just a few things you can do without dropping any cash to get a few more MPGs.
1. Green means ‘go’, but not ‘go as fast as you possibly can’. When that light turns green try to ease into the accelerator instead of making every traffic signal a weekend at the drag races. Your engine burns the most fuel during acceleration, so the more lead in your shoe the more often you’re going to fill up the tank.
2. Drive the speed limit! Especially on the highway, your vehicle will need to maintain a fairly high RPM in order to climb hills and overcome wind resistance. The faster you’re going the higher the rate of fuel consumption. It’s also important to realize that exceeding the speed limit by 5-10 mph really doesn’t get you to your destination all that much faster. For example if you have a 50 mile commute to work and the speed limit is 50 mph, you will arrive in 1 hour. Driving 55 mph would only save you 6 minutes, and driving 60 mph would only save you 12 minutes. Compare that with the amount of extra gasoline your engine burns running at 3500 rpms instead of 3000 in order to maintain a higher speed. Unless you like to push the limits to get to work on time every day it’s probably worth it in the long run to keep your highway speeds at the posted limit. You’ll also enjoy not having to pay those speed violation fines in court!
3. Keep your tires aired up to the recommended pressure. Not only does under inflation of your tires promote uneven tire wear it also increases the amount of work your vehicles engine must do to get and keep the vehicle moving. An underinflated tire has a larger contact patch on the pavement, and therefore encounters more resistance as it rolls along. DO NOT overinflate your tires thinking you can improve your vehicles economy even more. This can be dangerous and costly in the event of a tire failure. Follow the tire manufacturers recommendations stamped on the sidewall of the tire when checking and adding air. If you have your tires filled with Nitrogen instead of air your service shop will fill them to the correct pressure.
4. Don’t be afraid to roll down the windows on a nice day. Your vehicles air conditioning system uses a pump that is run by the engine, so any time you have the A/C on your engine is under a slightly higher load. No matter how slight, any extra load on an engine means higher fuel consumption. If you can stand it, try leaving your air conditioner off for the extent of an entire tank of gas and see how much farther you go. You might be surprised at the difference. You can even compromise and run the air conditioner ONLY when you are at a steady speed, turning it off while you accelerate from a stop, during stop-and-go driving, or bumper to bumper traffic.
If you follow these simple guidelines not only can you save yourself some money at the pump but you just might contribute to a better driving experience for everyone on the road. Once you’ve got the hang of that come down to Film At Eleven, Inc. to find out what other solutions we can offer you to improve your fuel economy.
Gettin’ Hitched: A Beginner’s Guide to Towing Basics
Moving to a new home? Buying a boat/jetski? Starting a contracting business? Kids starting/finishing college? These are all real-world examples of the advantages of having a vehicle with towing capabilities. The truth is most people will encounter the need to tow some form of trailer in their lifetime. It’s a lot more convenient when you can do this on your own instead of paying someone else to do it. While setting up and operating a trailer seems like a daunting task in reality anyone can safely and effectively do it, and using almost any production vehicle on the market today! In this article I will discuss the basics of trailer towing including equipment needed, proper loading and hauling practices, and safe operation techniques.
1. Equipment Basics
In today’s fast paced industrial world the need for efficient cargo hauling solutions has brought a vast number of different solutions to the automotive aftermarket. There are many variations on the basic concept of towing but for the purposes of this basic guide we will focus only on those designs employed most commonly in the world of light trucks and passenger vehicles. This will provide the majority of people with information relevant to their own needs. To begin with I will briefly define some important terms relating to towing and hauling in general.
Trailer – A vehicle lacking any form of self-propulsion that is designed to be pulled behind a self-propelled vehicle in order to transport cargo that is too large for a conventional vehicle.
Trailer Tongue – An assembly mounted to and extended from the front of a trailer that provides the attachment point for the vehicle and trailer hitch. Most commonly, the tongue of a trailer will exist in a ball and socket type design.
Tongue Jack – A lifting device attached to the trailer tongue that allows the tongue to be lifted from and lowered onto the ball and mount assembly. Some trailers can be manipulated by hand when empty but a tongue jack is highly recommended for ease of use and safety, especially when a trailer is loaded with cargo.
Trailer/Receiver Hitch – An assembly mounted to the chassis in the rear of a vehicle to provide an attachment point for and support and load distribution of a trailer. Depending on the weight rating of the hitch it will have a receiver tube that is either 1 1/4″ or 2″ in diameter.
Ball/Mount – The adapter that is mounted in the receiver tube of a trailer hitch to provide the correct size ball for a specific trailer. Mounts come in a wide variety of dimensions to accommodate different tow vehicle applications. Not only is the size of the tube important, the vertical drop height from the receiver to the actual ball location will allow vehicles of different ride heightsBall sizes include 1 7/8″, 2″, and 2 5/16″. Each ball size corresponds to only one tongue size.
Gross Trailer Weight Rating (GTWR) – The total weight of a trailer that is fully loaded including the trailer itself and the cargo. Different vehicles are capable of towing different loads and trailer hitches are manufactured accordingly with varying weight ratings. It is important that the capacities represented by these ratings are followed closely to avoid property damage and/or injury. In the United States the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has defined four main classes of trailer hitches based on the load they are capable of handling.
Class I – 2000 lbs. GTWR
Class II – 3500 lbs. GTWR
Class III – 5000 lbs. GTWR
Class IV – 10,000 lbs. GTWR
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) – The total weight of a towing vehicle including fuel, cargo, passengers, and the trailer tongue weight. This rating is usually located on the driver’s door jamb. If only the vehicles ‘curb weight’ is listed the GVWR can be found by adding to it the weight of any fuel, passengers, cargo and the trailer’s tongue weight.
Trailer Tongue Weight – The static weight of the trailer at the tongue. Because part of the cargo weight on the trailer is supported by the axle(s) the weight present at the tongue is significantly less. Usually if a trailer is loaded properly and evenly the tongue weight will be 10-15% of the Gross Trailer Weight Rating (GTWR).
Trailer Wiring – Almost all trailers on the road today are equipped with a minimal array of lighting for safe operation day and night. Four basic lighting functions are required on all trailers, and some trailers require wiring for additional functions. These are brake lights, parking/running lights, left turn signals, and right turn signals. Most trailers use lights that combine the functions of the brake lights and turn signals to be more efficient. When the brakes are applied the lights illuminate with a steady glow. When one of the turn signals is activated with the brake still applied the corresponding light on the trailer will begin to flash while the other stays on steady.
Trailer Brakes – Due to the extra work a towing vehicle has to do to make a trailer accelerate and in turn decelerate and stop many larger trailers are equipped with their own independent braking system. This braking system supplements the brakes of the towing vehicle and reduces the amount of stress it undergoes during deceleration. While these brakes can be activated by the brake light signal from the trailer wiring it can also be controlled using a stand-alone controller mounted in the vehicle, giving the driver the opportunity to apply the trailer brakes at varying force independently of the towing vehicles brakes.
Trailer Brake Controller – An electronic module used to control the functions of a supplemental trailer brake system. Usually fairly small in size and mounted within reach of the driver of a tow vehicle, this module allows the driver to activate the trailer brakes independently of the vehicles braking system.
2. Getting Started
The first step in preparing to tow a trailer or camper is to outfit your vehicle with a receiver hitch. It is beneficial to you to do some research on your trailer, especially if you have not yet purchased it. While trailer hitches for some vehicles such as trucks and SUVs will have a range of different classes and weight ratings (GTWR), most cars and CUVs cannot be equipped with hitches that are capable of attaching to large or heavy trailers to avoid overstressing the tow vehicle.
When given an option between trailer hitches of different classes it is best to choose a hitch that meets and exceeds the weight ratings of your trailer.
Once you have selected the proper hitch for your application and needs have a professional perform the installation to ensure safety and proper functionality. In addition to the receiver portion of your hitch you will also need a mount and ball. These two items come in a variety of sizes to accommodate different trailer sizes and different tow vehicle applications. Once the mount and ball are assembled as one this assembly is inserted into the receiver portion of the hitch and secured with a heavy duty deadbolt and locking cotter pin. This is the main point of attachment for your trailer. It is also the pivot point that allows the trailer to turn corners. It is very important that these parts be carefully selected and installed to ensure safe towing operation. The experts here at Film At Eleven, Inc. can assist you in every step of the process from ordering parts to installation as well as answering any questions you have along the way!
At Film at Eleven, we take four-wheeling and performance seriously. We are the premier accessory shop for all your off-road, performance, lighting, and stereo needs. We will install our parts or yours from lift kits, lowering kits, grill guards, custom bumpers, winches, exhaust systems, lockers, ring and pinions, lighting, and audio.
We can align your vehicle also, even lifted or lowered cars and trucks.
We sell and install new and used toppers and new Tourneau covers.
Gooseneck & fifth-wheel hitches by B&W are expertly installed and normally in stock for most trucks. Bumper hitches for just about every other vehicle are available also.
We sell and install wheels and tires for both cars and trucks and can even diagnose and replace TPMS (tire pressure monitor system) sensors.
Our window tint professionals are second to none, and offer a lifetime warranty on our Solar Gard Window Film and installation.
Adding electronics to modern day vehicles has become a challenge for the 12 volt industry, but our experienced technicians have the ability and resources to tackle almost any vehicle. We stay current on new developments so we can integrate your audio, video, remote start, cruise control, backup system, or alarm seamlessly into your vehicle. Film at Eleven’s professionals can install replacement leather for your seats, heated seats, seat covers, new headliners, and many other interior items. We sell and install trailer brake controllers and trailer plug-ins.
Our team of professionals have over 75 years of combined experience to give you peace of mind when working on your vehicle.
Performance and Economy General Information
Automotive Physics 101
Don’t let the title scare you away! We want to educate our customers about the science behind automotive performance and fuel economy without making it complicated. To begin with we will go over the basic ins and outs of today’s automobiles and what effects different variables have on how they perform. Then we will show you what we can do at Film At Eleven, Inc. to optimize your vehicles performance AND economy for your needs.
Lesson #1: The Internal Combustion Engine
The cornerstone of today’s vehicles is the internal combustion engine, a machine that is engineered to convert energy created by a chemical reaction (in this case the burning of fuels such as gasoline and diesel) into mechanical energy to make the vehicle move. Below is a diagram of a traditional engine design today and how it fundamentally operates.
The important thing to remember here is that the rotation of the crankshaft is what eventually turns the wheels. Sure there’s a transmission, driveshaft, u-joints, bearings, seals, gears, and half shafts in between but that’s not the point. We’re sticking to the basics here. As the pistons cycle back and forth in sequence they produce enough force to move even the largest and heaviest vehicles.
Lesson #2: Engine Efficiency and Fuel Mileage
Now that we have a basic understanding of the action behind the scenes, we can focus on the aspects of this action that determine how an engine will perform, and how efficiently. Take a look at the combustion chamber in the first of the two diagrams. The small blue and red dots represent an airborne mixture of fuel and oxygen that is being pulled directly through the vehicles intake system. Because the air/fuel mix is an airborne cloud it behaves somewhat like a gas, especially once it is compressed by the piston. Physics tells us that a gas will expand to fill any container it is put into, therefore a larger combustion chamber will hold (and burn) more fuel. This is the most influential aspect of the fuel consumption and efficiency of an engine. Now imagine that we could increase the number of those dots without increasing the size of the combustion chamber, and how easy it is for the engine to pull them in. With more fuel and oxygen readily available for combustion we have a more powerful, more efficient engine. This is one of the key factors that determine that most talked about rating, Fuel Mileage. Efficiency and fuel mileage are synonymous in our little study, meaning that they are directly related and the higher your efficiency the higher your fuel mileage.
Lesson #3: Power to the People
Since we obviously have no control over how large the combustion chambers are in a particular engine aside from buying another car, you may think that there is nothing you can do to make your car more efficient or more powerful. In essence this is true because the design of the engine itself determines the power and efficiency it is capable of. What most people don’t realize is that the engines in most passenger cars and trucks are not optimized for power and efficiency. You’re probably saying to yourself “How can they get away with that!?” Due to restrictions on emissions, noise, and power output automotive companies must include mechanisms for reducing them. Many times these additional parts or design changes make the engine less capable of reaching its peak operating efficiency. That’s where we come in! Film At Eleven, Inc. has a wide range of parts and accessories to increase your power and fuel mileage. Let’s take a look at some solutions that we offer to improve your experience on the road AND at the pump.
High Flow Air Filters and Intake Systems
Replacing your vehicles factory air filter or intake system is one of the least expensive modifications to make to improve power and efficiency. High flow filters are made out of high quality materials that allow your vehicles engine to breathe better, increasing the amount of available oxygen to the combustion chambers. The difference between the two is simple. A replacement air filter increases air flow to the engine using high quality fabrics and wire mesh as a filter material while utilizing your vehicles factory intake system ducting. An aftermarket intake system builds upon this concept adding large diameter, low resistance ducting to a high flow air filter as well as eliminating noise reduction devices that actually slow air induction into the factory intake system. For most vehicles adding a high flow filter or intake system shows real gains in horsepower and fuel economy when tested on a dynamometer and on the track.
Wheel And Tire General Information
The arrangement of holes surrounding the center of the wheel that allows it to be bolted to the hub. Differences in vehicle make and model determine how many holes there are and the diameter between them. This is the most important information to know about your car when replacing your existing wheels, as only one bolt pattern will work on any given vehicle.
Back Spacing (Rear Spacing)
The distance from the surface of the wheel mounting pad to the outer edge of the wheel flange. Back spacing is typically different for cars than it is for trucks. It is often important to know what backspacing your vehicle can accommodate when shopping for aftermarket wheel and tire packages.
The distance from the vertical centerline axis of the wheel to the wheel mounting pad. Offset is also an important factor to consider when buying an aftermarket wheel. When combined with back spacing, an extreme positive or negative offset can cause problems with wheel fitment or tire rub.
To find offset reference the width and the backspacing of your wheel on the table above.
The inside diameter of the center hole in the wheel. Certain cars have a raised hub center and their factory wheels are machined to fit snugly around it as a more stable method of wheel centering. Such wheels are called ‘hubcentric’ and will not fit on certain other vehicles with larger hub diameters.
The letter or letters preceding the numbered size codes indicate the type of vehicle and recommended usage for the tire. Some common service types are:
- P – Passenger. Used primarily on cars, minivans, SUV’s and light trucks
- LT – Light Truck. Used primarily on light to medium duty trucks, SUV’s and ORV’s
- T – Temporary. Indicates a tire that is to be used only as a spare until a failed tire can be replaced.
- C– Commercial. Indicates a tire that is rated for vehicle that carry heavy loads. (see Load Range below)
- ST – Special Trailer. Used only on boat, car, or utility trailers.
A three digit number that represents the total width of a mounted, inflated tire at its widest point from the outer sidewall to the inner sidewall. Using the metric system, this dimension is measured in millimeters (mm).
Sidewall Aspect Ratio
A two digit number following the section width that represents the height of a tires sidewall as a percentage of the section width. In the example above the tire has a section width of 205 mm and the sidewall is 70% as tall as the tire itself is wide. The combination of the sidewall aspect ratio and the section width are the most important determining factors of the actual dimensions of the tire.
Internal Construction and Speed Rating
The letter or letters following the sidewall aspect ratio indicate the type of materials that make up the tire itself and the speeds at which the tire will safely perform. Most tires on the road today have a ‘radial’ construction, hence the letter ‘R’. Some tires are rated with the letters ‘D’ or ‘B’ to signify diagonal (bias-ply) or belted construction. A tires speed rating indicates the maximum speed at which a specific tire can operate safely without losing grip on the road or coming apart due to excessive centrifugal forces.
Wheel and Tire Diameter
The final letter in the sequence represents the total diameter of the tires mounting bead. This measurement must match exactly the total diameter of the wheel.