Your choice of wheels and tires directly impacts your range, handling, and traction. It doesn’t seem like it would make a big difference (especially if you just transitioned from an ICE car), but these little things do matter when it comes to how much energy your Tesla uses.
WHY WHEELS MATTER
Drag is what disrupts the flow of air when a vehicle carves through air, slowing it down. The more drag you have, the more energy is required to keep the car moving, resulting in less range. That’s why Tesla’s Gemini and Tempest wheels have aero covers, and many aftermarket covers have similar designs. These are made with the idea in mind that the closest to a flat surface you have + less air that can flow through = less drag and better aerodynamic ability. If we could have simple disks as wheels, that would be the best for reducing drag, but wheels have to have at least some airflow for brake cooling.
Tesla offers other wheels, such as the Induction on the Model Y and the Sport Wheels on the Model 3. All of them are shown later in this blog. You typically have to choose between efficiency and looks, but there are some good looking wheels out there now that try to tackle both.
The lighter the wheel, the more range you get! Seems like we’re following a pattern. EVs are heavy, so you’ll inevitably have heavier wheels to carry that load. Still, some are heavier than others. An important thing to note is that you need an even distribution of weight throughout the wheel for optimal performance, energy efficiency, safety, and overall driving experience of an EV.
This goes along with weight, because the easiest way to have a lighter wheel is to get a smaller wheel. The smaller and lighter it is, the more efficient. The bigger in diameter usually means it’s also bigger in width as well, adding more drag.
WHY TIRES MATTER
Teslas typically come with Continental, Michelin or Pirelli. Tesla-approved tires are specifically designed for a smoother ride and better handling and range. They have foam inside for a quieter ride as well. Since you don’t have to worry about engine noise, everything else is louder – including wind and road noise. That’s the reason for the foam construction.
We recommend this tire chart if you’re curious about what tires are out there and what’s best for you.
WEIGHT & SIZE
EV tires are heavier, stiffer, and flatter for an equal amount of contact throughout the tire’s surface with the ground. The downside to your range is that they are heavy, so it does add weight. Just like the wheels: the bigger the tires, the less aerodynamic it is and the less range you have.
When a vehicle is in motion, the tires encounter resistance from various factors such as friction between the tire and the road surface, tire deformation, and air resistance. Rolling resistance specifically refers to the energy dissipated as the tire rolls and deforms under load.
Tires with low rolling resistance require less energy to move, resulting in improved fuel efficiency. Several factors contribute to low rolling resistance in tires:
- Tread Design: Tires with optimized tread patterns and compound formulations can reduce rolling resistance by minimizing friction between the tire and the road.
- Tire Construction: Advanced tire construction techniques, such as using lighter materials and reducing internal friction, can contribute to lower rolling resistance.
- Tire Pressure: Maintaining proper tire inflation levels is crucial. Underinflated tires increase rolling resistance and can negatively impact fuel efficiency.
- Tire Compound: The materials used in tire manufacturing can significantly affect rolling resistance. Specialized compounds, such as silica-based compounds, are often used to reduce rolling resistance while maintaining good traction.
- Tire Size and Shape: The size and shape of the tire can influence rolling resistance. Narrower tires tend to have lower rolling resistance compared to wider ones, but they may sacrifice some handling characteristics.
Efforts to reduce rolling resistance in tires have become more prevalent in recent years as environmental concerns and fuel efficiency regulations have gained prominence. Low rolling resistance tires are commonly used in EVs or hybrid vehicles, where their contribution to overall energy savings can be up to 10%. The bigger the tires, the higher the rolling resistance is, decreasing range.
Key takeaway: Before you decide on what tires and wheels you need, evaluate your driving habits and lifestyle needs. Do you want more range or a sick looking ride? Do you mainly use your Tesla for commuting short distances or do you road trip a lot? Wheels and tires will affect your range 3-10% most likely. That can add up of course, but it’s more about what you need.
Here are all the tires Tesla currently offers with your vehicle purchase as of May 2023:
Model 3 18’’ Aero Wheels (Included)
Model 3 19″ Sport Wheels
Model Y 19’’ Gemini Wheels (Included)
Model Y 20’’ Induction Wheels
Model S 19″ Tempest Wheels (Included)
Model S 21″ Arachnid Wheels
Model X 20” Cyberstream Wheels (Included)
Model X 22” Turbine Wheels
You don’t have to do a lot of maintenance on your Tesla, which is great! But there is a very important maintenance requirement – Tires. Let’s talk about what you need to know.
Make sure you check your tread depth pretty often – especially when driving in poor weather or preparing for a road trip. Tesla says, “Tires with a tread depth less than 4/32” (3 mm) are more likely to hydroplane in wet conditions and should not be used. Tires with a tread depth less than 5/32” (4 mm) do not perform well in snow and slush and should not be used when driving in winter conditions.”
THE PENNY TEST
An easy way to check your tread depth is to grab a penny and put it in the grooves head first. If Lincoln’s hair is showing, it might be time to replace your tires. Make sure you check all the grooves all the way inside to the inner part of the tire. Tire wear on the inner tire and not on the outer is a common Model X issue to be aware of.
Your Tesla will show your PSI on all 4 tires in the service settings. If one or more start to get low, it’ll give you an alert, but it’s always good to keep an eye on it and make sure they are maintaining proper levels. You can find your appropriate PSI levels right inside your driver door.
If you have a leak, first look for it. Move the tire around and grab a light. If you can’t find it, try to listen for the air escaping. If that doesn’t work, grab a spray bottle with soapy water and spray around the tire. The area will bubble up where the air is escaping.
Once you find the problem, don’t pull the object out unless you can plug it right away. We recommend keeping a tire inflator in your car. Air up your tire as much as you can and then drive to a repair shop or wherever you need to take it to get it fixed. If you can’t air it up off the rim and it’s completely at a loss, you’ll need to tow it. Teslas don’t come with a spare tire, but you can buy a spare to leave in your car if you prefer. I personally am fine with only having a tire inflator and plug kit in my trunk, but everyone has different preferences.
TIRE ROTATION, BALANCE, AND WHEEL ALIGNMENT
Tire rotation helps maintain an even tread wear pattern which enhances the tire’s overall wear quality, decreases road noise and maximizes tire life. Tesla recommends rotating the tires every 6,250 miles (10,000 km) or if tread depth difference is 2/32 in (1.5 mm) or greater, whichever comes first. The Model X has bigger tires in the back and smaller ones in the front, so you can only rotate left to right. Some tires only rotate certain ways and some are also fixed where they don’t rotate at all. Keep this in mind when picking out tires.
I like to change one of my “trips” to say “Rotation” and then when it gets to 6,250, I’ll know it’s time to rotate.
Discount Tire offers free rotation and balance if you buy from them. Other shops probably offer the same deal, so check around. Rotation is DIYable, but balancing and aligning requires some pretty heavy duty equipment that you don’t have at home.
Unbalanced tires are sometimes noticeable as a vibration through the steering wheel or your vehicle handling just feels off. If you notice anything of concern, get it checked and balanced right away. Also, if your tire wear is uneven or becomes abnormally excessive, check the alignment. After service, make sure you reset the tire configuration.
All Teslas have lift points that require jack pads to be able to safely lift the Tesla without damaging the battery underneath. Jack pads are good to keep around in case you ever need to jack up your car yourself.
Curb rashes aren’t harmful to your driving experience, just maybe not the best to look at. You can go to shops that will fix these by sanding them down and repainting. It should look good as new after it’s done.
Tesla recommends that tires are replaced every six years – But we suggest checking your tire rating and tread level to base your tire life on instead. If tires need to be replaced early, for example due to a flat tire, we recommend replacing the tires in pairs (such as the back or the front) unless they are brand new or without much wear. Make sure you reset the TPMS sensors after you get new tires installed by going to the service menu in your touchscreen and following the prompts.
TIPS TO GET MORE MILES OUT OF YOUR TIRES
- Maintain tires at the recommended tire pressure. If PSI is too low, it’ll decrease range. Underinflation makes it less stiff and heat dissipates more as you’re driving. This requires it to work harder for traction and steering.
- Go the speed limit.
- Limit hard acceleration – limit your 0-60 take offs even though I know it’s fun!
- Limit fast turns and heavy braking
- Avoid hitting curbs and potholes