Tesla tires are designed to give your Model the best performance and range. When the time comes to replace them, the question is can I buy any tires? Let’s look at the difference in tires and why you must choose correctly.
Tesla tires are designed for EV driving. Although you can put alternative tires on your Tesla, they must be the correct specification to manage the car’s weight.
This article will examine how Tesla (and EV) tires differ and what to look for when choosing a tire.
What tires are on a Tesla?
Tesla doesn’t manufacture their tires. They have decided to collaborate with Michelin, Pirelli, Continental, and, more recently, Hankook. All very high-spec parameters. These tires are built for Teslas. Teslas drive very differently than an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) car.
The tires that support the car have to be capable of managing the three things that make Tesla different.
- High torque
- Extra weight
- Brake regeneration
High Torque Tesla
Tesla is known for its high speed and incredible take-off speed. This ranges from 0-60 in 1.99 seconds to 4 seconds. Compare this with an ICE car, BMW, or Mercedes, which takes an average of 4-5 seconds, and the average SUV is approximately 7 seconds.
The incredible acceleration of the Tesla has a high impact on the tires. The torque and acceleration are immediate. The compound must be different from an ICE tire to counteract the high torque take-off.
You can, of course, put your Tesla in Chill Mode; the torque is reduced, but hey, what’s the point of owning a Tesla if you’re going to only half appreciate it.
The other thing that needs to be considered is the extra weight of the high-voltage battery. The average ICE car weighs in at 3000-3500 lbs, but a Tesla can weigh more than 5000 lbs.
And that’s with no passengers.
The average weight is 150lbs – 200lbs (male and female), so that could be another 800+ lbs plus additional luggage or cargo. Tesla-specific and EV tires can handle this weight, but other generic tires may have a lower load index and are unsuitable for any Tesla model.
We’ll look at where you can identify this tire information a little later in the article.
All Teslas have regeneration brakes. It’s a new sensation to get used to if you haven’t previously driven an ICE. It’s a sense that the car is continually braking to some extent but a delayed reaction if you need them in a hurry.
If you’re slowing down a lot and then accelerating, this will increase the wear on your tires. Regeneration kicks in as soon as you stop accelerating. It can also be your driving style that alters it, but on the upside, your brake pads and rotors won’t see as much wear.
EV Tires are Different
As we have said, EV tires are different than regular ICE tires. (Because of the extra weight). EV tires have ‘EV’ on the sidewall at the end of the identifier numbers.
So how are they different?
The physical difference in EV tires is the compound construction and the thread pattern. The tires must be heavy but light enough not to impact the driving range.
The thread pattern is entirely different on an EV compared to an ICE. The thread pattern moves water away from the tire to prevent aquaplaning. Because an EV is 1500 lbs heavier than an ICE, the car’s weight is already displacing the excess water on the tire, so the grooves don’t need to be as plentiful in design.
Higher Resin Compound
We never actually know the full breakdown of any tire – it’s the tire manufacturer’s secret sauce – but EV tires need stronger makeup. The sidewalls need to carry the weight of the EV without compromising on any safety aspect.
The heavier weight means more abrasion with the road. EV tires degrade quicker than regular tires (that are on an ICE), but if you have ICE tires on an EV, they will wear even quicker.
The compound needs to be strong enough rubber to take the weight but not too hard to make the journey uncomfortable.
The main thing you’ll notice about driving an EV is the noise (or lack of it!) from no engine. With no motor, noise brings other issues.
Most drivers aren’t aware of how much noise is generated by tire and road contact. The engine noise on an ICE drowns it out.
But in an EV, it’s very noticeable. Tire companies strive hard to reduce this. The primary way they accomplish noise reduction is by having foam-lined tires as sound absorbers. It is literally just a piece of foam glued to the inside of the tire.
It’s a very effective noise reduction method.
However, if you get a puncture in a sound absorber tire, it can be repaired, but it takes additional work to do so. You should inform the tire repair company that there is foam internally. If the puncture is because of a nail or other sharp object, the foam has more than likely torn and needs to be replaced.
Not all shops will have this knowledge, so ask before you agree to the repair, or you will be back in the shop again very shortly, asking why the noise in your car has dramatically increased.
Rolling resistance is the amount of energy used to move your car at a certain speed from point A to point B. Energy consumption is a top priority in a Tesla, and getting the most range available is of the highest importance. Rolling resistance is based on the weight of your car, the force against it (i.e., gravity or wind), and the friction between the tire and the road. If we want to be super technical, it’s called hysteresis, meaning the energy lost as the tire rolls forward.
If the pressure in your tires is incorrect, moving is more challenging. If the compound in the tire is too hard or too soft, this will affect the rolling resistance. If the tire width is incorrect, this will also play havoc with your rolling resistance. This is why having the correct tire on your Tesla is so essential. So let’s look deeper at what all those numbers and letters on the tire sidewall actually mean.
Tire Numbers and What They Mean
Did you ever look at a tire and wondered what all these numbers and letters mean?b Most people don’t give them a second glance, to be honest, but when you’re selecting tires for an EV, those numbers are significant. If you select a tire incorrectly, the driving and handling of your Tesla can be compromised.
If we look at a tired number recommended for a Tesla S, we’ll find the following number letter sequence:
(P)255 / 45R19 104W
The ‘P’ at the start refers to the type of vehicle the tire is on – and is not always there. P refers to passengers; they also could have LT (Light Truck) or ST (Special Trailer and generally only on trailer tires). If no letter exists, the tire is a European or Metric tire.
The ‘255’ refers to the tire width in mm from sidewall to sidewall.
The next two digits (45) are the Aspect Ratio. This, in my opinion, is a little more involved than it really needs to be. The number is the height of the sidewall from the rim to the thread top, shown as a percentage of the overall width.
If the number is 45, this relates to the sidewall being 45% as high as the overall width of the tire. (Phew!)
The letter ‘R’ refers to the tires that are made with Radial Construction. This means the internal materials used (steel, fabric, and rubber) are placed perpendicular to the road. The majority of modern tires are Radials for better grip and road handling.
Other letters that can be found are ‘D’ (diagonal), sometimes called Bias, and some have the letter ‘F’ for run-flat tires.
All EVs should use Radial tires.
The following two-digit number is the measurement of the wheel rim between the bead seat edge to edge. In our case, the rim is 18″.
The next three digits (sometimes only two) are the load index. How much weight each tire can carry?
104 on the load index is equal to 1984 lbs per tire. A Model S, in our case, is 4744 lbs. So four tires at 1984 lbs = 7936 lbs less the car’s weight still leaves us with over 3000 lbs. Even with the average weight of four adults at 200 lbs and luggage, your 104s are more than capable of carrying this weight. But Tesla cars are all about weight and range reduction, so the better the load index for your vehicle, the better your Tesla will drive and handle.
|Tesla Model||Weight of Car (lbs) (+ additional weight)||Load per tire (lbs)||Load Index|
The weight of your car can fluctuate depending on what you are carrying in terms of luggage and passengers. It’s always better to err on the side of more weight when selecting the load index for your tire. But Tesla has studied the load index and recommends certain load indexes for each model’s tires.
The letter at the very end is the speed rating. This is the highest speed that this particular tire can travel without losing handling performance or grip. A car is only handled as well as the driver behind the wheel, and speed limits should always be followed.
Our letter is a ‘W,’ meaning these tires’ top speed is 168mph. The tire is built to withstand higher heat levels generated by contact between the tire and the road surface.
Choosing Tires for Your Tesla
With all the knowledge that we now have about tires and specifications, it’s essential when choosing new or replacement tires for your Tesla to keep within the given parameters.
If you bought your Tesla new, the tires on your car are good for up to 30,000 miles if they have been looked after and rotated every 6,250 miles.
If you have bought a used Tesla, you can check when the tires were replaced (if they have been). They may have been replaced with different or incorrect specifications if they have. See the table below for guidance on which are the best or most appropriate tires for your Tesla model.
|Tesla Model||Recommended Tire Spec||Brand||Cost per tire (approx $)|
|Model 3||235/35R20 92Y||Pirelli||$300|
|Model S||245/45R19 102W||Pirelli||$160|
|Model X||275/45R20 110Y||Pirelli||$260|
|Model Y||255/40R20 101Y||Pirelli||$215|
When you check the table above, you can see that the more expensive tires are the recommended specification for each model, but the budget tire varies slightly in the parameters. Especially in the load index, which is very important considering the weight of all Teslas.
When replacing your tires, you should note the tire number and order the same or a very similar one. Tesla uses Continental, Pirelli, Michelin, and, more recently, Hankook. But these can be expensive tires when looking for an exact specification. There will always be a budget tire, but the parameters usually won’t be exact, or you’ll find they don’t have them in stock, and they need to be placed on special backorder.
Your tires are the only thing between you and the road. When choosing tires, select the most expensive that you can afford. Don’t just select the nearest specification available because it’s less money. Keep searching until you have the correct match, according to Tesla.
As I say, some of the less expensive tire brands don’t carry the full line of options for each tire rim or car.
The two most important things to note are the Aspect Ratio and the Load Index.
If your tires don’t fit correctly, you’ll end up with problems, and if the load index is too low, the car will handle really badly, and safety can be an issue.
Some tires come with a warranty, but the warranty will be void if you purchase the incorrect tire spec for your rims.
Here are a few common questions folks ask about Teslas:
I’ve written a ton on common Tesla issues, which hopefully you won’t ever experience, but if you do, we have you covered with these posts:
Check out the Tesla troubleshooting page for problem Teslas.
Check out the Tesla charging page for common Tesla charging problems.
Check out the Tesla category page for a list of popular Tesla posts.
If you are curious about other EV models, check out the EV FAQ category.
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