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Why You Should Upgrade Your Mustang's Wheel & Tires

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Putting larger tires on your Mustang first requires bigger rims. Get the traction and control your Mustang needs by throwing a wider set of tires.

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The wheels and tires are the backbone of any car’s appearance, and this is no different for the Ford Mustang. Aside from setting the tone for your aesthetic, upgrading your Mustang’s wheels and tires also can provide you with improved traction and handling. This guide will briefly go over some of the key points to upgrading your wheels and tires and what you stand to gain.

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Why You Should Upgrade Your Factory Mustang Wheels & Tires

Upgrading the wheels and tires of your Mustang will:

  • Improve overall appearance
  • By upgrading to a wider tire, you’ll be giving your Mustang better traction to tackle corners and grip the road while accelerating
  • A staggered setup can lead to better traction and better performance and handling
  • In addition to upgrading your tires, also upgrading your wheels will provide performance and handling advantages that complement a larger tire

To think about it in the simplest of terms, the wheels and tires are what connects your Mustang to the pavement; all the power your pony makes has to be transferred through the wheels and tires. Power aside, all of your Mustang’s body weight is balanced and controlled by the wheel and tire setup you run. 

Your brakes can only stop your Mustang as well as the tires will allow as braking does require traction. Essentially, your wheel and tire setup will make or break your build in more ways than one, which is why it is important to spare no expense on your setup.

Benefits of Aftermarket Mustang Wheels

Wheels are much more than just an aesthetic upgrade; while they do set the tone for your Mustang, they can also offer you performance benefits. The biggest performance gain you can get from a set of aftermarket wheels is reducing the overall weight/rotating mass at all four corners. 

Although it may seem trivial to some, or even a minor upgrade, but reducing wheel weight can have large impacts on track times. Looking at the GT350 vs the GT350R, the latter using lightweight carbon fiber wheels that weigh in at only 18 lbs, the GT350R competed back to back on the same track as a GT350 and ran a 2 second faster lap time which was credited to the R’s lightweight wheel setup.

2013 Mustang with Aftermarket Wheels

Benefits of Aftermarket Mustang Tires

Tires are arguably the most important upgrade you can make to your Mustang. Bar none. It doesn’t matter if you have a daily driver that you only drive on Sundays, a dedicated drag car, or a weekend warrior you run in autocross and HPDE races. Tires are the most important upgrade and can have one of the largest impacts on your Mustang’s performance. 

When it comes to drag racing, a set of drag tires will provide you with the maximum of traction your suspension system can support off the line as they are designed to be soft and ripple when launching for grip. When it comes to road racing/autocrossing, a set of performance tires will afford you with drastically increased grip in lateral maneuvers and give you the footing you need to whip around the course. For daily driving, a good set of tires will provide you with a good mix of grip off the line, in the corners, and in inclement weather; daily driver tires tend to be more of a jack of all trades than a master of one, which is exactly what you want as you never know what you may encounter.

Convertible Foxbody Mustang with Drag Tires

A Standard or Staggered Setup on Mustangs

When looking through your tire/wheel choices, you’ll notice there is usually a choice for going with a staggered setup. This means the rear tires will be wider than the front tires. Ford sticks to the same size all around to make it easier to build and service the Mustang, but you can gain performance by going with a staggered setup. On a high powered rear wheel drive car like a Mustang, getting wider rear tires can be a real help. The more tire contact equals better traction which in turn yields more useable power to the ground, propelling you forward.

Some people prefer to stay with a standard setup because they want to retain the ability to rotate their tires for better wear management. The counterpoint is larger rear tires will last longer because they’re not being overpowered as much. Another concern people bring up is a staggered setup could make your Mustang understeer. This could be a concern if you were leaving your front tires stock. As long as you’re upgrading all four tires, a staggered setup is still going to significantly improve handling overall.

Boss 302 Mustang with a Staggered Wheel Setup
Bosses Came Factory with Staggered Setups

Shorter Sidewalls = Less Flex

Besides increasing tire width, another major reason for upgrading is to get larger diameter wheels. An obvious reason for this is because they look better, but larger wheels can also improve handling. When you change out your wheels and tires, you want the total diameter to remain the same. The larger the wheel, the shorter the sidewall on the tire becomes to compensate. Shorter sidewalls don’t flex nearly as much as larger sidewalls during cornering, which results in a more precise handling and better steering feel.

Picking Out The Right Wheel & Tire Setup For Your Mustang

To select the perfect setup for your ‘Stang, you will need to consider:

  • What your budget is
  • What your goal with the is
  • How often will your Mustang see bad weather
  • What “look” you are going for

Wheel and tire setups can be incredibly subjective and hard to make a definitive decision on. It’s best to get a few options together and then research them all extensively, talking to everyone from forum members to your friends.

2007 GT Mustang with Bullitt Style Rims
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