A New Set of Wheels Got Me Falling in Love With My Fiat 500 Abarth All Over Again
The car's standard wheels didn't have many good tire options, so I had to upgrade. I wasn't mad.
So far I’m enjoying rehabilitating my semi-broken stimulus-check Fiat 500 Abarth. I seem to have sorted out all of the running issues, save for a small oil leak or two. Hey, it’s a Fiat, right?
The previous owner told me he had new brakes and tires on the car, and I guess he was technically right. They were new, they just weren’t very good. The brakes had become pitted and warped from rust from sitting too long, so I yanked those off and replaced ’em with a new set of drilled and slotted rotors from RockAuto.
Now, I’ve turned my attention to the tires. In short, they’re crap. I don’t know what brand these are, Haida? What the hell kind of brand is that?
The Haida HD921’s the Abarth had when I got it seem rock hard, but somehow with not very firm sidewalls either. Moderate acceleration or cornering effort results in loud squealing, minimal grip, and overall unpleasantness unbecoming of a sporty hot hatch. The Abarth deserves good tires. It deserves some shoes that let me cane the heck out of the car on the regular.
I decided to take a gander at my favorite online retailer, TireRack.com. My Abarth 500 has the smaller wheel option – 16 inches for me. They’re not as aggressive as the 17-inch OZ genuine wheels, but I’m pretty sure my car rides better and has cheaper tire options than the bigger wheels… or so I thought.
TireRack netted me very few options – two summer tires, two winter tires, and a handful of non-sporty all-season tires from brands I don’t like. My plan was to get either a set of sporty all seasons, or summer tires (and then pick up a set of snows for the winter). My other go-to tire site, Bestusedtires.com, also didn’t have many options either. The Fiat’s tire size is 195/45/R16; not very common. It’s kind of narrow and small without much sidewall.
Basically, I could either get a set of Federal summer tires, an expensive set of Michelin Pilot Sports or Continential ContiPro sports, or some other unknown brand with poorly rated all-season tires, like Haida. For years, I’ve run Kumho and Hankook sporty all-seasons on my Chevy Sonic, and I’ve been impressed with the level of performance they offered for the price, but there are no options for either of those brands in the size I need.
Out of curiosity, I searched up options for the larger 17 inchers (205/40/R17). My tire options jumped from 18 to 40, including stuff from some of my favorite brands: Kumho and Hankook.
YOLO, right? In that moment, I knew I was keeping the car. I wanted to get my windows tinted, I wanted to replace the stereo with something better; why not go all out and get some killer new shoes? The Fiat’s weirdo bolt pattern (4×98) limit my aftermarket wheel options to a handful of ugly, expensive, or heavy rims sold online. Some Fiat owners have used wiggle bolts and thrown on 4×100 wheels, and we at Car Bibles do not recommend this as it obviously compromises safety.
Forever in search of a deal, I got to work doing the typical scouring that I usually reserve when I’m looking for a flip car. Eventually, I found a listing on a Fiat 500 message board, from a man about three and a half hours away, selling his less-than-perfect 17 inchers for a mere $300. A quick chat, and a five-hour round trip journey to southwest Pennsylvania later, I was the proud owner of genuine OEM OZ Rally Abarth 17-inch wheels.
Despite living in the midwest, I’ve never had snow tires. For me, and most of everyone I knew, we just drove around on all-season tires, year-round, rain, snow, sleet, whatever the weather. Yes, it sucked. These nice wheels and the sporty demeanor of this car deserve sticky (but reasonably priced) summer-only rubber. Tire Rack had a deal on a set of Kumho PA51’s for a mere $86 per tire.
Coincidentally, my roommate decided to purchase a tire mounting machine to compliment his speed balancer, a mere day after I picked up my wheels. Paranoid that’d I’d somehow ruin my bargain rims, I opted to not do a trial-by-fire run with my new rims. Neither of us have any experience mounting, dismounting modern alloy wheels with tiny sidewalls, and I could only be mad at myself if I cracked one. To Discount Tire it went.
It looks so good.
The base 16″ wheels had 45 profile sidewalls – the upgrade to one more inch but reduction in sidewall to 40 profile, has had very little effect on the ride.
Gah, I think I’ve fallen in love with this car.