Tire Stretch: Is it Safe And Legal?

It’s just like aesthetic plastic surgery, but for cars. The recent craze of stretching your tires has skyrocketed in the … Continued

It’s just like aesthetic plastic surgery, but for cars. The recent craze of stretching your tires has skyrocketed in the last couple of years and ‘stancing’ your car has arguably become a way of life for several car fanatics. By inventing terminology like ‘bagged’ and ‘tuck’, stancers have debatably created a desirable niche within the automotive industry. However, similar to plastic surgery, tire stretching is something people either love or absolutely hate. Read on to discover who you side with in this ongoing war and if the act of tire stretching can be considered as safe and legal.

stretch tire

What is Tire Stretch?

In technical terms, tire stretch is modifying your wheel from an inch to around three inches to allow for a lower offset of the alloy. In other words, it allows you to fit a wider wheel on your car without rubbing the fender. This is a pretty complicated process for any DIY fan to complete, yet many mechanics refuse to carry out this procedure themselves. The large majority of them argue that modifying your tires of your car in such a way is essentially depleting the mechanical integrity of an automobile.

Why would people want to do this? It’s all about the fashion. Examples of Japanese drifts cars like the Moccomans S14 and the Lamborghini Murcielago blow car fanatics minds with their modernist designs. However, there is absolutely no performance benefit that comes from stretching tires. Many argue that this is simply not true; drifting on stretched tires makes a huge difference in comparison to normal tires due to the loss of traction in the wheels. On the other hand, drifting should only be attempted for sport and not when driving back from the mall in an average car with your friends in the back.

Is Tire Stretching Safe?

Safety is, as always, is our number one concern. Although stancers argue that there have been no confirmed horror stories which have resulted after car tires have been stretched, critics of the practice put this down to extreme luck. Below we’ve listed several common statements that are often heard when arguing for or against stretched tires to help form or back up your opinions on the practice.

  • Against: ‘Avoid tire stretching or your tire could pop off!’

Those opposed to tire stretching argue that your tire could potentially pop off the bead when the pressure drops while taking a corner. Engineers have specifically designed the tire bead so it must sit perpendicular on the bead set area of the wheel to create a proper seal – that is, to hold air. If your car experiences a large impact such as going over a large pothole, the tire bead could move and cause your tire to rapidly deflate. Imagine this happening when speeding down a highway and it will give you shivers.

  • For: ‘As long as the correct air pressure is maintained, you’re be absolutely fine.’

Advocates of tire stretching reject the likelihood that stretched tires will pop off the tire bead on the grounds that if you’re going to stretch your tires in the first place, chances are you look after and pamper your vehicle to the maximum. They argue that the only likelihood of the tire popping off the bead is if the correct air pressure is not maintained; and 99% of car fanatics would never dream of letting this happen. It’s essential to use a higher PSI (pound-force per square inch) on a stretched tire than a normal one, so always carry about a tire inflator if you’re going to attempt or already have this modification.

  • Against: ‘Why would anybody want to create driving issues for themselves?’

Excessive stretching places the sidewalls under stress. Additionally, the wear pattern of the tire will become affected and random objects on the road will have the potential of damaging your car to a greater extend than with normal tires, as there is no protection. Just seems like extra hassle for not much of a reward.

  • For: ‘It’s all about moderation.’

Arguably, stretching your tires should be fine as long as you don’t take it too far. Think of it like eating junk food; it’s perfectly ok unless you’re habitually eating two family sized chocolate cakes by yourself every day. As long as the sidewall does not become completely deformed and your rim isn’t ruined, then you should be fine. Just don’t let temptation get to you.

  • Against: ‘Tires are designed for safety, not because they look good.’

Cars have been specifically designed by experts in order to optimize safety. This statement is the same for tires. Tire manufacturers don’t set precise specifications such as approved wheel widths and tread depth just to infuriate buyers, they do it to provide us with information on how to decrease our chances of being involved in an accident. There are markets such as tan-wall tires for those who want to give their tires an aesthetically pleasing edge, so our advice is just to stick to these for now and wait for further developments in this high-demand industry.

  • For: ‘They look so cool.’

By stretching out your tires, attention is drawn to the wheels of your car and in some circles, you’ll be seen to be keeping up with the latest trends. On the contrary, we’d argue that for now, not enough is known about the safety of stretched tires to conduct this procedure all to be seen as stylish and trendy. Maybe best to just buy a cool hat or something.

car tires

Is Tire Stretch Legal?

The answer to this question really depends on where you call home. The European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation has published a manual which includes approved rim widths for all tire sizes. However, this information is not easy to access; if you want to get your hands on the Standard Manual, it will cost you a whopping 150 dollars and the online versions are far from easy to understand. In the UK, MOT guidelines state that a tire cannot be failed because of stretching yet you must be cautious and frequently check their condition, especially for signs of sidewall damage.

In America, tire stretching is still seen to be a contentious subject but one thing is certain, car experts do not like it. Laws on stretching your tires differ from state to state. Many mechanics follow reputable guidelines given by the Department of Transportation to deem if a tire is acceptable or not to have out on the roads.

In terms of insurance, you must inform your insurance company of any changes you plan to make to your vehicle. If this slips your mind and and you become involved in a crash, the insurance company would unquestionably void any claim if a car wasn’t roadworthy. Even if the car could arguably be considered roadworthy, several insurance companies would still refuse to grant a claim as due to not being notified of any previous changes. Better to be safe than sorry, right?

So, despite all the scaremongering, there is no concrete law against tire stretching and the experts don’t make it easy to access any information concerning what we can and cannot do when modifying our vehicles. Just remain extremely cautious or you could be looking at a hefty bill the next time your car is inspected, or even worse, an accident.

Can I Do This at Home?

Most mechanics refuse to carry out this process in fear of compromising the safety of their customers, so if tire stretching appeals to you, chances are you’ll have to go down the DIY route. Please be very careful as attempting this procedure is incredibly dangerous. If you’re going to begin to attempt it, make sure you have an auto fire extinguisher close by for back-up.  We’d also recommend, as stated previously, to only consider mildly stretching your tire if you really have to. Finally, please consult websites like Tyrestretch.com beforehand so you know what tires are recommended for stretching.

To sum up, tire stretching can be safe and legal if modifications are kept controlled and to a minimum. However, we really don’t know enough about the dangers of this recent craze to justify putting our safety in jeopardy. We hope and believe that one day, experts will release a set of guidelines and safety procedures. Still for now, best to just stick to what we know.

Sources:

  1. Tires – NHTSA
  2. Tire Labeling – Department of Transportation