APEX EC-7 +35 on 2022 Model 3 Performance
Have you ever gone back to the Tesla Supercharger to find that you have no idea which Model 3 is yours. This is a buyer's guide to Aftermarket Wheels for the Tesla Model 3 SR, LR, and Performance models. It includes the benefits of installing aftermarket wheels as well as a comprehensive list of considerations. If you are ready to buy, check out Emotive Engineering's curated selection of wheels for your Tesla Model 3. If you have questions about fitment or corrections to this guide please email me!
- OEM / Stock Wheel Specifications
In its short production span, the Tesla Model 3 has posted some impressive sales stats. In 2021, the Tesla Model 3 broke in to the top-25 selling vehicles in both the United States and Europe, and in to the top-10 in China. Built to compete with the likes of BMW 3-series and Audi A4-line, the Model 3 has sold many multiples of those lines with its electric power and simple styling.
This popularity comes at a cost if you are an auto enthusiast. Suddenly every one of your neighbors seemingly has the same exact car. There are so many stories of owner's walking up to the wrong Model 3 in a parking lot! The absolute best and easiest way to set your car apart from a Hertz rental is with a set of aftermarket wheels and tires.
OEM / Stock Wheel Specifications
The OEM Tesla wheels come in 18", 19", and 20" diameters. What they (almost) all share in common is exactly what you are looking for in an aftermarket wheel.
- Bolt Pattern: 5x114.3
- Thread Pitch: M14x1.5
- Centerbore: 64.1mm*
While we are here, the OEM lug nuts are 21mm and require 129lb·ft of torque. A major caveat to the center bore size is the Performance Model. The stock hubs of the Model 3 Performance feature a unique stepped lip. At the wheel mounting point closest to the vehicle the hub diameter is 70.1mm. This lip is 3mm at which point it "steps" to 64.1mm.
The inside mounting hub of the OEM 20" Uberturbines.
Where each OEM wheel differs is in diameter, width, and offset. The following chart shows the OEM widths and offsets.
|18" Aero V1 (2017 - 9/2020)
|18" Aero V2 (10/2020 - present)
|20" Zero G
Finding the best aftermarket wheel for your Tesla Model 3 is often a choice between efficiency and grip. Traditionally, performance enthusiasts have upgraded their wheel setup to accomodate a wider tire for more grip. Modern electric vehicle enthusiasts view range as an important factor, and some choose a lighter and small diameter wheel over the OEM to improve range over the factory wheel and tire combo. Whether you are looking to increase overall grip or overall range, a good set of wheels can improve both while also improving the overall aesthetics of your Model 3.
"Fitment" / Width and Offset
The first question you have to ask yourself when considering a wheel is "will they fit"? We will get to some of the "gotchas" later in this article, but at the basic level the Tesla Model 3 requires a 5x114.3 bolt pattern wheel, drilled for M14 bolts. From the chart above, we can do some math to figure out the offsets that would match the inner clearance from the factory.
A 8.5" +40 has 148mm of total backspacking and is equivalent to:
A 8.5" +35 has 143mm of total backspacing and is equivalent to:
A 9" +34 has 148mm of total backspacing and is equivalent to:
Thinking in positive offsets can be somewhat counter-intuitive. The lower the number, the closer the mounting surface of the wheel hub is to the center. This makes sense if we think about the numbers above. As the wheel itself gets wider the center is a further distance from the sides of the wheel and we have to move the wheel hub closer to the center of the wheel to maintain the same distance. One might assume that we need to match these offsets exactly or have a lower positive offset to fit, but there is a bit of extra clearance on the inside of the wheel which gives us some wiggle room. In fact we know this is true because the 20" OEM Sport wheels have 5mm less of backspacing than an 18" Aero wheel and come from the factory with the same tire treadwidth.
Aside from the inner clearance, we have to of course insure there is appropriate outer clearance to prevent contact with the fenders. Most people are not going for a safari build and will either keep their Model 3 at the stock height or lower the car. At stock height, your new setup is more likely to not make contact with the outer fender should you run a lower positive offset. If the car is lowered, it is important to allow for enough clearance to the fender. A lower positive offset and a wider tire can be run with adjustable camber arms set to the appropriate angle.
For that perfect fender fitment, lower wheel widths you can afford a much wider range of offsets and tune the fitment with spacers. For wider wheels you will need to dial in the offset more from the get go. The range of recommended offsets for the Tesla Model 3 running a square wheel setup are:
|+25 to +45
|+25 to +40
|+20 to +35
|+20 to +32
|10.5" (VERY Aggressive)
|+20 to +30
This is a general guide and, as mentioned before, your ride height and alignment will play a large factor in fitment. Furthermore, an 18" wheel require a lower offset than a 19" wheel. A "Base" Model 3 will allow you to run a higher offset than the Performance model as well. Also, keep in mind that a lower positive offset will fit more flush with the fenders. This is great for style points, but if looking for maximum efficiency you will want to have the wheels slightly sunken in for less aerodynamic drag.
Square vs. Staggered
We mentioned a "square" setup above in the offset recommendations. As with most vehicles, there is room for a larger wheel in the rear of the Tesla Model 3 than the front. The car has to do this pesky thing called steering which takes up much of the wheel well. A staggered setup means the rear tires are wider than the front tires. A square setup means the tires are the same size at all four corners. There is also a reverse staggered setup which some front-wheel drive cars run, where the front tires are wider than the rear.
Staggered setups will generally produce understeer at the handling limit. This means the car will have the tendency to have less rotation and is considered a safer configuration. The large majority of factory suspensions are tuned for understeer. A staggered setup also means more traction at the rear of the car, which may be more desirable in a rear-wheel drive vehicle. Some run a staggered setup simply because of the aggressive look of a meaty rear tire, especially with the ample room afforded at the rear of the Model 3.
The Tesla Model 3 comes with a square setup from the factory. A square setup will generally produce neutral handling characteristics and has one extreme advantage over staggered setups. A square setup can be rotated from front to rear allowing for longer tire life. While the question is one of personal preference, I recommend a square setup over a staggered setup for your Tesla Model 3. It is more economical and helps the balanced handling characteristics of the platform shine.
Most EV owners are seriously concerned about range. While much of the range is determined by the choice of tires for your vehicle, a significant portion of energy is spent rotating the wheel and tire setup from a stop. A vehicle's weight can be divided in to sprung and unsprung weight. Sprung weight is the weight being supported by the vehicle's suspension, while unsprung weight is the weight under the suspension which oscillates as the vehicle moves down the road. Reducing unsprung weight allows the suspension to control these movements more effectively and also, in the case of wheels and tires, requires less energy to accelerate or brake.
The basic categories of wheel construction are cast, flow formed, and forged. While the details of the differences are outside the scope of this article, know that the order listed is from heaviest to lightest, weakest to strongest, and also the order of least to most expensive. A lighter wheel will not only improve drivetrain efficiency, it will improve the feedback given back to you as you drive the car. Pay special attention to wheel weight. The lighter the better, especially if you are concerned about range.
One of the most overlooked specifications of aftermarket wheels is their load rating. The wheel load rating requirements for your car can be determined by dividing the heaviest gross axle weight rating, or GAWR, by 2. The gross axle weight ratings on the 2022 Model 3 Performance are 1110kg in front and 1257kg in rear. This means the absolute minimum load rating is 628.5kg or 1386lbs.
The Tesla Model 3 features a 5x114.3 and wheel manufacturers that meet the appropriate standards will need to meet at least a 690kg or 1521lbs static load rating that has been arbitrarily set for the specific bolt pattern. If you are buying a JWT or VIA certified wheel, you can be assured that it meets the load rating for the Model 3. If you cannot find the load rating on a wheel, run away from it. Fast.
All Tesla Model 3 trims come equipped from the factory with a 235 treadwidth tire. I hope to cover specific tire recommendations in the very near future, but the typical tire size for a Tesla Model 3 ranges from 225 for those who want to hypermile their range to 265 as an easily fitted grippy setup. Some have fit 305 treadwidth tires with proper alignment and careful fitting. Please see the guide to compatible tire sizes for the appropriate choices.
Bolt / Stud Holes
As mentioned above, the Model 3 has oversized M14x1.5 wheel studs. Some have opted to have a machine shop, or random sketchy friend with a drill press, drill their M12 sized wheels out to M14 to fit their favorite wheel. These wheels were not manufactured or tested with machining this material away. There are many wheels on the market available with M14 bolt holes and more and more manufacturers are supporting the platform. Buy M14 wheels from the outset.
Covered above are the general considerations of wheel and tire selection for the Model 3 that you may be able to apply to many platforms. There are a couple of "gotchas" for the platform that you should be aware of in your wheel search.
Tire Pressure Monitoring System
The Tesla Model 3 features TPMS sensors from the factory. Model 3s with production dates prior to approximately September 2020 featured a 433MHz RF tire pressure monitoring sensor. A set of 4 generic RF TPMS can easily be obtained from Amazon fairly inexpensively. Refresh Model 3s with black window trim and door handles produced from about October 2020 and onward utilize a Bluetooth TPMS. The newer style Bluetooth sensors can be ordered direct from Tesla. The prices have recently gone up from $75 in February of 2022 to $95 a piece as of this writing. They are not exactly cheap, so factor that in to your wheel budget. Tesla may at times have a back order on the Bluetooth TPMS sensors. Please reach out if this is the case as our partner shops usually have plenty on hand.
Those running higher offset wheels and wide tires may run in to clearance issues with the front knuckle. Some have chosen to grind away material from the knuckle to clear the tire. Shown in the photo below is a 265/40R18 Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3 on an APEX EC-7 18x9.5" +35. While this fits, a 5mm spacer was added to the car for a +30 effective offset. Due to the profile of the knuckle, 19" wheels have more clearance than 18" wheels for the front suspension upright.
Front Suspension Upright / Knuckle and Wheel Speed Sensor of Model 3
The front brake calipers on the Tesla Model 3 are 4-piston Brembo units, with the Performance models featuring even larger calipers than the "Base" cars. Most modern wheels will clear the brake caliper, but make sure the wheel spoke design allows for the factory brakes.
Model 3 Performance Stepped Hub
The stock hubs of the Model 3 Performance feature a unique stepped lip. At the wheel mounting point closest to the vehicle the hub diameter is 70.1mm. This lip is 3mm at which point it "steps" to 64.1mm. The Model 3 "Base" hub is a simple 64.1mm. The stepped hub on the Performance model can be cleared with a 3mm spacer to accept any center bore larger than 64.1mm. Some aftermarket brake rotors also have a thicker rotor hat that helps to clear the hub step. If you are running aftermarket brake rotors you will need to include this difference in your offset calculations. Alternatively, you can use an overbored wheel greater than 70.1mm with a centering ring to ensure the wheel fits hubcentrically. The wheels should be centered once they are torqued down so a hubcentric ring is not absolutely required, but the ring can help center the wheel for installation as well as reduce vibrations.
Model 3 Performance 70.1mm to 64.1mm Stepped Hub
Rotor Retaining Bolt
The brake rotor retaining bolt on the Model 3 protrudes from the rotor rather being inset as on other vehicles. The torque value for this bolt is 5N·m or 4lb·ft. That is to say, the bolt is not doing much except to position the brake rotor. This can be safely removed should your new wheels not have an allowance for this retention bolt.
Wheel Speed Sensors
Running larger tires on your Model 3, such as a 265 treadwidth, increases the chances of your tires rubbing against the factory wheel speed sensor. This is easily rerouted behind the front suspension knuckle and is a necessary modification for those running coilovers. If your wheel speed sensor wears through the car will start to light up like a Christmas tree with warnings and many of the vehicle's safety systems will be disabled. It takes just a few minutes to zip tie these out of the way and can save a massive amount of headache.
I hope this guide has given you a high-level overview of the characteristics and benefits of Aftermarket Wheels for your Tesla Model 3. If you have already reached the bottom of this guide and are looking for more, I highly recommend the Wider Wheels and Tires thread on Tesla Motors Club as well as the Aftermarket Wheels thread. With amazing weight distribution and electric torque, the Model 3 makes for an awesomely fun daily driver or track toy. This is made even more fun with a stylish set of new wheels and performance tires. If you think of a detail I missed or think should be added to the guide, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. And as always, we are happy to discuss your specific wheel and tire setup. Happy motoring!