Learning Center / What Is A Tire Patch?


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Image via Wikimedia

When someone mentions the word tire patch, most people think of a piece of rubber used to patch a hole of some sort. However, a tire patch is actually surface area of the tire that comes into direct contact with the ground. As hard as it may be to believe, the actual tire patch of your tire is only a little larger than the size of your hand.

Is Bigger Actually Better?

So how shocked would you be to find out that bigger doesn’t mean better, when it comes to the tire contact patch of your vehicle? Most passenger cars have a narrower tire, which gives them better control, a smooth ride and traction in snowy, cold weather conditions. Narrow tires have a longer path, while wider tires, have a shorter path. This means wider tires, even though they have the same size tire contact patch, will have greater handling and responsiveness. This is why so many high performance cars have wider tires.

Increasing Your Contact Patch

The only way to increase the size of your tire’s contact patch is to actually decrease the air pressure in the tires and increase the overall weight of your vehicle, as it pushes down on the ground. This causes more of the actual tire to come in direct contact with the ground.

The problem is, this can open your vehicle up to an entirely new set of issues, such as:

The best thing to do is leave your tire pressure at the manufacturer’s suggested standards. You could get a lift on your car or truck. This would allow you to get a taller/bigger tire, thus increasing your tire contact patch.

As you drive, the amount of friction and force put on the contact patch shifts. If you are cornering, it shifts to the outside of the tire. As the intensity of the turn increases, so does the force put on that contact patch of the tire. The wider the contact patch is, the more it can hold on to and hug the road.

Remember the movie Pretty Woman? Julia Robert’s character talked about the Lotus being able to handle like it was on rails. Basically, she was referencing the aspect ratio of the tires, the contact patch of those tires and the low profile of the suspension and vehicle itself. Low and wide, means fast and tight, when you are talking about turns.

On the other hand, if you have a tire that is slender, well inflated and a properly broken in tread, you will see a smoother, more comfortable ride. You will also see better gas mileage and traction control in poor driving conditions, such as snow.

Never pick a tire style based on how it looks. Always learn what each type of tire and style actually does. Once you know what each style does, compare it to your driving habits. The biggest mistake people make when shopping for tires is that they compare it to the type of driving they would “like to do” verses what they actually do. Taking the time to figure out the best solution to your particular tire needs will not only save you money, but will make driving a much safer and more enjoyable experience.

Get all the tire help and advice you need from the experts at Treadhunter.