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I own a Hyundai Elantra GT SEL 2014 which is currently equipped with stock Hankooks 205/55r16. I am looking to buy a set of winter tires and I was originally looking at 16" tires but a friend suggested I get 15" instead. From what I can see the manufacturer does not forbid it (should not void the warranty) and there seems to be people indeed doing it according to a quick Google search. Considering there is almost 200$ difference between the 16 and 15 for the set of tires I am considering to buy, is there any major drawback ?

I am an inexperienced, cautious driver. I will drive mostly in the city and may have to do highway from time to time. I'm told the roads are mostly icy (vs full of snow). I was considering Michelin Xi3

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There are several things you need to be aware of when doing this.

First, you'll incur the cost of getting new rims (which I'm sure you already realize). This is actually pretty common when fitting snow tires, though. Having a second set of cheaper rims (steel is cheaper than alloy) you can change out yourself versus having to take them to the shop to get done is a large cost savings, not only in money, but time as well (do them at home at your convenience).

NOTE: When you take one set of tires off, ensure you mark them for placement on the vehicle. Tires should always rotate the same direction or wear will increase tremendously. If you just write on the tread area with some chalk the position of the tire when it comes off the car, you can put it right back where you got it without issue. (ie: DF=Driver's Front; DR=Right Rear; PF=Passenger's Front; PR=Passenger's Rear)

Secondly, you need to see whether your car can actually fit smaller rims. It is quite common for there to be interference between the brake rotor and the smaller rim. A side consideration when getting your new rims is that you need to ensure you have the correct offset. Not just any rims will do, they must stick out the correct (enough) distance or the new rim will interfere with body and brakes. There is a lot to put into consideration here. You will also need to make sure the size of the tire will fit on the rim (tire width and what it needs to go onto).

Thirdly, when considering a snow tire, make sure the rolling distance or "rotations per mile" (RPM) is the same or nearly the same between the two tires. Having a huge difference between the two tires will cause your speedometer calibration to be off. It will also affect how the vehicle behaves (ie: a taller tire will require more torque to get a vehicle rolling and stopped; a shorter tire will cause worse gas mileage on the highway because the engine has to rev higher to achieve the same ground speed.) Most major online tire stores (like tirerack.com) have this or at least the diameter of the tire. You can compare the two and make a decision from that.

With all that said, you shouldn't have an issue with running the smaller tire, especially considering the small amount of difference there is between the two.

  • Thanks ! I checked the RPM and there's a difference of 4 between the two sets. I will ask the guy at the Costco shop where I plan to buy if the tires will fit. I'm pretty sure they guarantee tires to fit your car when you buy them from them. I also planned on buying a set of used rims, have them mounted on the snow tires and change them myself. – ApplePie Oct 13 '14 at 16:31
  • 4 RPM won't make that big of a difference. Do the math and see what the percentage difference will be and just realize it. 4 RPM is probably well under O.5%, so not much at all. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Oct 13 '14 at 18:18
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I can't comment on whether or not it's a safe practice for your exact configuration. However, downsizing to smaller diameter and width tires is a common practice for snow tires in general. Not only is smaller cheaper, but it also works better in most Winter conditions.

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Yes, it's actually a good idea. Just note that you can't fit 15" tires to 16" rims or vice versa, meaning you'd have to get a set of rims too. If you're not terribly image conscious, you may very well get your hands on a set of steel rims that look ugly, but will take your 15" snow tires. Plastic trimmings for steel rims are cheap though, so there's that. You should be able to source a set of 15" steel rims for less than $200. Just make absolutely sure that they will fit. They should have the correct number of holes (either 4 or five) as your car AND have the same PCD (which is a fancy way of saying they should be the same radius from the center of the rim) as your car's. And the rims should clear your brake calipers.

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I have 205/55 R 16 tires on my Hyundai I30 and have a set of five wheels for same which will take 195/65 R 15 tires. The outside diameter of the wheels/tires are exactly the same, as the spare will still fit snugly in its place. Besides, the 195/65 tires are much cheaper and a smoother ride.

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