16" or 17" for winter tires?

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Jan 7, 2003
OE optional size wheel/tires on my Mazda are 17x7, 215-50-17. I will be buying a winter wheel/tire package and was thinking it might be beneficial to go with the 16" standard OE wheel/tire size rather than the lower profile, 50 series 17" tires. Would there be a real and significant benefit to a 16x6.5 with 205-60-17 tires for winter only use? I think the 16" tires have an extra half inch of sidewall versus the 17 inch, 50 series tires and I'm also pretty sure they are a bit more narrow. So is the difference between these two sizes splitting hairs or will it be worthwhile to go with the 16" wheel/tire?
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=index&cid=1331 If you actually drive much in soft snow, you want a tall, narrow snow tire. The deeper the snow, the more critical ground clearance becomes. For the more usual wet/ice/packed snow, any tire with good wet traction is fine. 7X.50= 3.5 6.5X.6=3.9 With an extra half inch radius on the 17-7 wheel, the overall radius, and ground clearance will be about the same.
Mike, there are several reasons why 16s may be better for you: a. less likelihood of bending a rim, especially in the winter, when potholes may be less visible (covered with snow or water) b. 16" tires are less expensive than 17" c. you'll find better winter tire selection in 16" sizes As far as narrower being better for snow, well, it may be true if we're talking about deep snow, but then again there's only 10mm difference betw 215 and 205 so you probably won't notice much difference there if at all. FYI, I've got 225/45/17 for summer and 205/55/16 for winter.
On my car, a 2000 Acura 3.2TL, I went from the stock 205/60R16 to 215/50R17. Aspect ratio affects the tread width. Even though there's only a 10 mm difference in the section widths of the two sizes, the 10 unit difference in aspect ratio makes a stark difference in the tread width. I had an Olds Custom Cruiser station wagon with 225/75R15 tires and compared to my Mom's Porsche 928S with 225/50R16 tires, there was a distinct difference in tread widths even though they had the same section width of 225 mm. I think the "Minus-1" tire/wheel combo you're contemplating for winter use will give yield a marked improvement in winter weather handling, just choose a good winter tire to complete the package. The difference in overall diameter is <1%; since that means they have practically identical rolling radii, Acura chose those tire sizes to equip the 3.2TL-P and 3.2TL-S and still use the same speedo/odometer calibration. You'll do just fine.
Thanks for the response gang [Cheers!] . I'll go with the OE standard size 205/60-16. I guess every little bit helps and having had the luxury of 4wd for the last few years I'll need all the help I can get trying to re-learn winter driving with a sport oriented car. Now comes the hard decision....Blizzak WS-50 or the new Nokian RSI [Confused] . The Nokian Hakka2 we put on the wife's Pathfinder last year are hands down the most incredible winter tire I've ever driven on. As one might expect, it does come at a price....and a fairly hefty one at that. I can get the Blizzak WS-50 for $80.00 each, mounted and balanced and the Nokian RSI is going to run around $140.00 each [Eek!] . I think the Nokian will last longer than the Blizzak which may even things out. From what I've read and been told by friends the Blizzaks are pretty much toast after two seasons (especially if they see a lot of miles on dry pavement).
Not sure about your local laws and driving conditions (this might be excessive for your weather), but BFG Winter Slaloms are fairly inexpensive, reasonably quiet, grippy, and, most importantly, you can stud them! After one winter with these, the rear tires looked pretty much like new while the fronts had about 20% wear on the rubber, with very little wear on the studs. Good choice on the 205/60R16's. Narrower is better for winter. I'm hoping to find some steel 15" rims that will fit over the enormous front brakes of the Mazda 3 GT so that I can put 195/65R15's on this winter. My OEM summer wheels have 205/50R17's and I could go with 205/55R16's if I have to.
you want narrow(er) tires as can be. Idea is to keep your tires like a knife versus making them a thick sled. Example: Stock Size: 235/55/TR16 (All Season Touring Tires) Winter Sizes: 225/55/QR16 & 215/60/QR16 Whatever you do between the 17 and 16 inch size make sure the new tire load rating is within specification for your vehicle. The even make 17 and 18 snow tires for Corvettes and Vipers, so the products are out there.
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