Wheel vs. Tire Performance: Which One Gets the Respect it Deserves?

Bob Ulrich
Posted on April 19, 2017

It still bothers me when people refer to tires as “wheels.” Yes, they are inseparable, like peanut butter and jelly (grape, preferably), Hewlett and Packard, and Batman and Robin, to name a few famous pairings

They are a package deal and always will be. Even if a solid tire is invented that performs and rides as well as an air-filled tire (millennials may become centennials before that happens), the wheel will still be necessary in order to attach the tire to the vehicle.

But wheels get all the hype. They have the good looks that elicit stares from everybody else. Car owners ask for them because they want to dress up their vehicles.

It doesn’t matter that tires are the only contact point between the vehicle and the road (or off-road) surface. Wheels get all the attention, while tires do the dirty work. It’s the allure of form over function.

I get it. Tires are almost always a necessary purchase that forces the driver to dip into his or her savings. It is usually unwanted. Wheels, on the other hand, don’t have to be replaced. When wheels are purchased, it is with discretionary income. It’s a fun purchase.

This is especially true when plus-sizing. Wheels are bought, while tires are an afterthought, often purchased only because the low profile of an ultra-high performance tire looks cool with the wheel. Never mind tires are the reason your customer can drive up to 186 mph if he or she so chooses.

This is not a knock on wheels, which add to your bottom line in big way. I understand why there are so many wheel displays in your showrooms.

When wheels are purchased, it is with discretionary income. It’s a fun purchase.

I just think tire performance is too often taken for granted. When I hear of a tire referred to as a wheel, I just get a little defensive.

There’s a reason ultra-high performance tires are often categorized as HVA (high value added) tires: They provide amazing grip and handling under dry and wet conditions, and they do it in a way that keeps the driver safe.

Tread patterns and sidewall styling also can be aesthetically pleasing. Compare a 2017 UHP blackwall tire with any tire from the muscle car era. There is no contest: Today’s tire designs are much more exciting.

To be fair, wheels are not all about the bling. There is a reason one of our most popular online topics is about the importance of wheel offset to vehicle performance.

Sparco Wheels’ Pro Corsa black painted wheel, courtesy of TR Wholesale Solutions.
Sparco Wheels’ Pro Corsa black painted wheel, courtesy of TR Wholesale Solutions.
In last year’s Performance Handbook, Jacques Gordon, a regular contributor to Modern Tire Dealer, wrote about the relationship between the size of a car’s wheels and its influence on ride and handling.

“Changing wheel offset moves the center of the contact patch inboard or outboard, which changes the scrub radius, which changes the way the car feels and handles during acceleration and braking.”

Maybe custom wheels don’t get enough respect from your customers, either.

In the end, I guess it doesn’t matter whether or not the max performance, asymmetric tire or the black mesh, monoblock aluminum alloy wheel gets the most credit when it comes to vehicle performance. If you make the sale and install them properly, you will make the customer happy. Then you will get the respect you deserve. ■

If you have any questions or comments, please email me at

To read more of Bob Ulrich's editorials, see:

Your Next Great Competitor Is... The Odds Favor Over Sears Automotive

Online Tire Sales: Mandatory Sales Tax Collection Would Even the Odds

Is Our Love Affair With the Car Over?

Now That Trump Will Be President... Proactively Offer Your Support or Constructive Criticism

Related Topics: Bob Ulrich, Bob Ulrich editorial, Custom wheels, Performance Handbook, UHP tires

Bob Ulrich Editor
Comments ( 0 )
More Stories
Yokohama will meet with tire dealers across the country during the 2018 ride and drive training program.

Yokohama Takes Dealer Training on the Road

Yokohama Tire Corp. is once again taking its dealer training program on the road. The 2018 experiential Ride and Drive Dealer Training Program kicks off with a multi-city tour May 22 in Anaheim, Calif.

The new Monroe ads will run in a broad range of automotive service industry publications and reach thousands of additional industry professionals.

Tenneco Ad Campaign Touts Advantages of Monroe Products

Tenneco Inc. has launched an extensive print and digital advertising campaign called “If It Doesn’t Say Monroe” which highlights the quality, performance and value benefits of the Monroe brand of ride control products.


Servicing the Next Generation of Cars and Customers

A couple of years ago, one of the consumer magazines compared the cars of 1991 to the cars of 2016 and listed the top 15 automotive milestones over that 25-year period. Hybrid technology, stability control and GPS satellite navigation were the top three in order and amazingly enough, tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) was number nine. The list was a mix of mechanical and driver-related innovations that made cars better, safer, efficient and more convenient.

Continental has released a VDO rubber snap-in TPMS sensor for late-model Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles.

New VDO TPMS Sensor Fits Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep

Continental has expanded its OE-replacement TPMS sensor program with a new VDO rubber snap-in TPMS sensor specifically designed for late model applications on Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee.


TBC Grows With NTB and Tire Kingdom Brands

Since the start of 2018 TBC Corp. has opened eight new NTB Tire and Service Centers and Tire Kingdom stores. The company plans to open another 20 locations by April 1, 2019.

Be the First to Know

Get the latest news and most popular articles from MTD delivered straight to your inbox. Stay on top of the tire industry and don't miss a thing!