Proper Way To Stretch Your Tires – Calculations & Stages Included

If you frequent a forum owned by car owners, you might have come across the term “Tire stretching”. What does it mean? And why would people want to stretch the tires?

Here’s everything you need to know about stretched tires.

Stretching Tires: What It Actually Means

Stretching a tire sounds very obvious as to what it is. You essentially stretch a narrow tire over wide wheels.

The question that you might find yourself asking is if it’s safe to do so? As you know, every component of a car is specifically designed for that car’s model.

Not every car component you’ll find in your local shop is going to be appropriate for your car.

It is also told to never stray past what has been recommended by the manufacturer. So, how are stretched tires different? And are stretched tires safe?

The problem usually happens when you over-stretch the tires. It can increase the risk of potential blowouts or deflating tires.

With that out of the way, you don’t have to worry about your safety if you follow the proper guidelines.

That means staying within the recommended range of tire stretching.

If you go over and beyond, you can end up in trouble by increasing uneven tire wear and lowering the durability of your tires overall.

Is It Bad to Stretch a Tire?

The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might have hoped.

There’s a reason why stretching a tire has become so popular. The numerous benefits that come with this, such as better appearance, act as the main incentive for people to stretch a tire.

But, when it comes to the technical side of things, you’ll find that stretching a tire makes it more vulnerable to damage.

That’s because a stretched tire no longer has the same sidewall set up as a normal tire and hence, will not be able to withstand as much pressure as before.

Why Do People Stretch Their Tires?

The main reason behind people stretching their tires has to do with improving the appearance of their car.

You shouldn’t underestimate the appeal of your car looking remarkable.

Besides this, an added benefit of stretching your car’s tires is that the wheel doesn’t rub against the fender.

This also contributes to the stretched tire by providing a better contact patch.

When Shouldn’t You Stretch Your Tires?

As much as you want, there are some situations where you’re absolutely advised against stretching your car’s tires.

for example, if you’re someone who frequently travels through rough terrains and on harsh road conditions, you should stay away from stretched tires.

As mentioned before, stretched tires are far more vulnerable compared to the average tires you can find in your local auto shop.

These tires can easily get damaged.

Moreover, stretching a tire exposes the rim. This can be very dangerous. Similarly, high-performance drivers are also recommended to avoid using stretched tires.

Top Tire Stretching Techniques

The best way to stretch your tires is also the most commonly used technique.

This involves using fire to stretch the tire.  As a tire is made of rubber, the fire helps stretch the material to cover the rim.

However, this isn’t the preferred method for beginners as it requires highly technical skills to accomplish.

Before you begin, be fire to understand that stretching a tire can be dangerous and should not be done at home.

Calculating A Tire Stretch

Calculating tire stretch is difficult.

You can’t always be sure about the calculation as everyone has different definitions. However, the following is a common system used for most wheel setups.

The system divides the stretch into different stages to break the process down.

This guide applies to wheels from 13” to 23”. As stated, you don’t really have to worry about the diameter while you calculate, what you need to focus on is the width and height of the tire.

The Stages of Stretching Your Tires

The system uses different stages to calculate the perfect tire stretch. The following takes a close look at them.

Stage 0 or The Baseline

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of stages, here’s a baseline that you can work through.

Consider a tire of 255/35 on an 18×10. 10 inches is equal to 254mm. This stands as the perfect fit for the width of a 255-section tire.

On the other hand, that 35” sidewall is almost perfectly identical to an up and down sidewall on a ten wide.

From here, we’ve set up a baseline that you can use to determine the stages of the stretch, such as using either the aspect ratio or going down the tire size to get the stages.

Essentially, stage 0 acts as the perfect neutral spot for you to calculate the stretch.

What you need to know before you begin is that the section changes are to be measured in intervals of 10 while on the other hand, sidewalls change is measured in intervals of 5.

Stage 1

This is considered a mild stretch but is the maximum limit allowed on the road because it falls at the highest-level tire manufacturers recommend.

Generally, you won’t feel any performance difference with a stage 1 stretch but some people claim that this calibration stiffens the sidewall which results in more feedback for the driver.

The aesthetics, however, will be a bit different when you go for a stage 1 stretch.

The tires will be inside the fender and your sidewall will be a little stretched with an angle.

Stage 2

The stage 2 stretch is a solid stretch that gives off a maximum angle of the sidewall without exposing the edge of the wheel.

While it’s not allowed, you can drive in road traffic with a level 2 stretched wheel but with some discomfort.

Your ground clearance and the overall driving experience would have a negative impact with a stage 2 stretch and you won’t be able to go to very high speeds.

Stage 3 and beyond

Finally, the stage 3 stretch is the full stretch where the entire rim is exposed to the road. With stage 0 as the baseline. A full stage 3 stretch reduces the tire size by three units.

For your and everyone else’s safety, it’s important that you don’t take stage 3 tires in regular traffic because of the associated risks.

The biggest risk is the tire slipping off. With stage 3 stretches, you also significantly increase the risk of damaging your rim because of contact with the ground.

Beyond stage 3, it’s possible to further stretch your tires but that is never recommended. It will be as if the tire isn’t on the rim at all because that would lead to the maximum reduction in the sidewall height.

Step By Step Guide on Stretching Tires

It’s not recommended, especially if you are a beginner, but you can stretch tire at your home as well.

Anyone experienced would be way over their head when it comes to safely stretching the tires, but it’s better to still cover all the basis to help you make an informed choice. 

Here’s what you need to do. 

  1. Select the small tire and rim you want to use and clean it properly
  2. Lay the rim on a flat surface and slip the tire on it. Use soapy water to make the process easier
  3. Connect the air compressor to the tire and fill it partially. Keep the compressor connected
  4. Take any flammable spray, gasoline, brake cleaner, or even hair spray, and spread it across the rim
  5. Start the compressor and fire up your tire. You’ll notice a minimal amount of fire, so don’t be alarmed
  6. The tire will immediately pop to fill the space. Now all you’ll have to do is to fill it until you reach the required pressure
  7. That’s it. Congratulations, you’re done now!

The above process may seem simple but note that you are dealing with flammable material. The rubber in tires is also flammable, so you can start a fire. 

Even if you don’t see it, too much flame can also damage your tire. Stretching tires is already a risk, so you shouldn’t take it anymore.

That’s why it’s always better to get your tires stretched by a professional instead.

Negative Tire Stretch: What is It and How it Works?

As its name suggests the negative tire stretch is the exact opposite of the regular tire stretch. In this case, you fit a bigger tire on a smaller rim which increases the performance at the expense of the looks.

In the case of a negative stretch, step 1 is the only viable option. Any further than that, your driving experience deteriorates significantly and makes it harder for you to control the car.  

Final thoughts

Stretching the tire is your choice. There are some aesthetic advantages of doing that, but the overall risks make it not worth it for many drivers.

Whether you want to stretch your tires or not depends on your preference, but one thing is certain.

A car with stretched tires will definitely turn some heads.

We hope this guide was able to give you the basics regarding stretched tires and help you make an informed choice.

You can choose to stretch your tires but you better be very careful and should be ready to invest in a new set of tires sooner than expected.


Dean Alvarez, TireForge Head Author

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