If you have spent any amount of time on Tesla internet forums you will see complaints of Model 3 Performance or 20" Sport Wheel owners bending wheels or blowing out tires. A common retort is that these owners need to learn how to drive, but blaming the driver for inclement weather or a lack of room to react is not exactly fair. This article covers quite a bit of information about why the Model 3 Performance is at higher risk of wheel and tire damage, so if you are looking for specific tire recommendations, jump ahead to the end.
A gaping hole in the side of our stock Pirelli PZ4.
Model 3 Performance Stock Wheels and Tires
Before we talk about replacement options it is helpful to discuss what came from the factory. To date, Tesla has had 2 factory 20" wheel options for the Tesla Model 3. The first is the 20" Sport Wheel package offered as an accessory in the Tesla store as well as an option for the Performance Package Option. The 20" Sport Wheel has a size of 20x8.5" and a +35 offset wearing 235/35ZR20 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires from the factory. This was the Model 3 Performance standard wheel for 2018 models through September 2020.
Photo: Tesla. 20x8.5" +35 Tesla Sport Wheel
In October 2020, the Uberturbine became the standard Model 3 Performance wheel. The Uberturbine measures 20x9" with a +34 offset and is shod with 235/35ZR20 Pirelli P Zero PZ4 Elect tires. This is the stock Model 3 Performance wheel and tire for the foreseeable future.
Photo: Tesla. 20x9" +34 Tesla Uberturbine Wheel
There exists a third less common Model 3 Performance wheel. The elusive "Zero G" was offered as an early reward for Tesla's now defunct referral program and sold as part of the $5,500 Model 3 Track Package. The Zero G is a 20x9" +34 offset wheel just like the Uberturbine, however it was shod in 245/35ZR20 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 when bought with the Track Package. Those are some serious track tires. I presume the Zero G moniker to mean light weight. The same Sport Wheel Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires were included on wheels acquired through the referral program. While these wheels are relatively rare, I have seen a few of these examples while driving around the San Francisco Bay Area so they are not unobtainium. The Track Package tire size also provides a clue as to how to prevent or reduce bent rims and blown out sidewalls.
Photo: Tesla. 20x9" +34 Tesla Zero G Wheel
The non-Performance Model 3s come with seemingly pedestrian 18" or optional 19" wheels. The reason that Tesla put 20" wheels on the Model 3 Performance is... Look. I don't know exactly why. The 20-inch wheels are heavier and have reduced range. They are more prone to road damage and have cost certain individual owners thousands of dollars in repairs. There is no doubt that the 20" wheels have a sportier look and feel. They are hard to miss aesthetically and the thinner sidewalls provide more stiffness to the overall suspension. And therein lies the rub.
A 235/35R20 tire has (235mm * .35 =) 82mm of sidewall between the wheel and the road. For the metric-ly challenged among us that is just 3.2". Furthering the problem is that the 82mm of sidewall is measured from the inner rim where the tire mounts to the wheel, not the visible part of the face of the wheel. My somewhat imprecise measurements show that just 55mm (~2.2") is available between the outer lip of the wheel face and the road. If you are currently making a caliper with your hands to see how much that is, you can see that it is not a lot.
The other challenge with the 235/35R20 is an issue of stretch, especially on the wider Uberturbine wheels. A "stretched tire" is a tire that is mounted on a wheel that has a wider width than the tire's section width. Not all stretch is bad. A slight stretch in the tires can reduce flex in the sidewall of the tire. This improves steering response and control with quick direction changes. It also maximizes the contact patch of the tire's section width that can remain in contact with the ground.
Easy to be a best seller if you constantly need replacing!
Without hard data, I would postulate that the Uberturbines have been subject to more damage than the 20" Sport wheels. The 235 section width Michelin PS4S that comes standard with the 20" sport wheel has a measuring rim width of 8.5". This means the dimensions provided by Michelin for the tire are quoted specifically around an 8.5" width wheel.
A 9" width wheel is well within the parameters of the stock Pirelli PZ4, however the Pirelli also carries an 8.5" measuring rim width. So while the stock tire of the Uberturbine is nowhere near the limits of a 9" wheel, it does stretch more when mounted. Keep in mind that the quoted wheel width is the distance from bead seat to bead seat, not the outer face of the wheel to the outer face of the wheel. So while 235mm is 9.25", that does not mean that the tire sidewalls will be square with the outside of the wheel. This clearly evident when looking at the tire mounted on an Uberturbine. An increase in stretch also means a lack of protection from accidentally curbing your wheels afforded by some tires.
The 235 section width stock tire was likely chosen for reduced rolling resistance, but the increase in contact patch with the road from stretching also means an increase in the heat generated. There is nowhere else for that heat to go. Furthermore, the more stretched a tire is, the more stress and strain is placed on the tire sidewall. This stress is even more pronounced when a stretched tire is used on a heavy vehicle and the Tesla Model 3 is certainly no flyweight. This is absolutely not a claim that Tesla has put an unsafe tire on the Model 3 Performance, but logic follows that the factors above have resulted in what many Tesla Model 3 Performance owners have experienced in real life: increased risk of tire failure and wheel damage.
With stretched tire dissension out of the way, how do you reduce the need for costly tire or wheel repairs on your Model 3 Performance? Ultimately a 19" (style points) or 18" (lightweight!) is, in my opinion, a better wheel diameter for the Model 3. With the right tire you have more sidewall height and less tire stretch to provide more cushion and room for error when that pothole make a beeline for you. That being said, between new wheels, tires, and tire pressure monitors, switching wheels is not necessarily the least expensive solution. Some also ultimately prefer the aesthetics of the 20" wheels, whether it is the visual presence or simply keeping their Tesla looking stock. Big wheels always make a statement.
I believe it is no accident that Tesla put 245 section width tires on the Zero G Track Package wheels. It still has a measuring rim width of 8.5", however, it gives the sidewalls some much needed relief from strain and more overall grip. If you would like to keep your Uberturbines or 20" Sport wheels, here are some tires in tire sizes other than the stock 235/35/20 that may help in protecting your wheels and stand up better to daily abuse.
Replacement Tire Recommendations and Cost
For the following recommendations it helps to know what tires fit on the Model 3 Performance. See the Tesla Model 3 Compatible Tire Size reference. Many vehicle owners are afraid of straying away from the tire that came stock on the car. You do not have to replace your tires with the same tire that came with the car. The OEM tires are often marked up over comparable tires precisely because people will simply buy the same tire with that assumption. There are almost always more affordable tires that have better wear or performance characteristics for your use than the stock tire!
As a general rule, a wider section width tire is going to be less efficient and reduce range. The tire not only has more rolling resistance, but depending on the tire may also be a bit heavier. While the real life impact may not be much, it is something to keep in mind if you are trying to squeeze out every last mile of range. That being said, many have gone to wider tires not just for more wheel protection, but for more grip on spirited drives. The choice in width is ultimately efficiency vs. traction and cornering performance. Not only does a 245/35R20 stretch less on an 8.5" or 9" width wheel, it also provides an ever so slightly taller sidewall that is still within about one percent of the factory tire. This means you will have no concerns with clearance or throwing off your wheel speed sensors. If you have a 20" Sport Wheel, you may be inclined to stick to a 245 section width and that is a standard fit to the wheel. While also able to run the 245s, a 255/35R20 is a great fit on the 9" Uberturbines and squares up the sidewalls with the wheel allowing even more room for them to do their job, while still being less than three percent off the overall theoretical tire diameter. The primary caution in the 255s is making sure they do not interfere with the front suspension knuckle which may require a small spacer to solve. In many cases, the 255 section width tire is also cheaper!
All Season Daily Use
The 20" Model 3 Performance wheels came equipped from Tesla with Max Performance Summer tires. While both the OEM Michelin and Pirelli tires feature an Eco rating, you can expect them to have a shorter tread life than an All Season tire. For those who see light snow in their AWD Tesla's, you can expect an All Season to be far less scary (read: actually usable) in inclement weather.
|245/35ZR20||Contintental ExtremeContact DWS 06 Plus||95Y XL||248.99|
|255/35ZR20||Contintental ExtremeContact DWS 06 Plus||97Y XL||239.99|
|245/35ZR20||Michelin Pilot Sport All Season 4||95Y XL||273.99|
|255/35ZR20||Michelin Pilot Sport All Season 4||97Y XL||274.99|
|255/35R20||Vredestein Hypertrac All Season||97Y XL||213.30|
Contintental ExtremeContact DWS 06 Plus
The Continental DWS series is a personal favorite of mine. I have bought at least four sets over the years. I am always amused when observing the DWS that is molded in to the tread fade away to indicate if there is enough tread depth for Snow, Wet, or only Dry conditions. The DWS is available in both 245/35ZR20 and 255/35ZR20 sizes that fit the factory Tesla 20" wheels and boast a higher load rating than the stock Uberturbine Pirelli's 92Y. This means you can expect it to not only handle the weight of the Model 3, but also handle more severe road impacts.
Michelin Pilot Sport All Season 4
Over the years, Michelin has established a reputation for rating the best restaurants in the world and making some of the best tires in the world. If you need any more proof of their reputation, their tire prices command a slight premium over their competitors which many are more than willing to pay. The Pilot Sport All Season 4 (AS4) is a perennial best seller and receives some of the best reviews in its class year after year. Just as with the Continentals, the Michelin's sport a higher load rating than the stock Pirellis. With a 560 treadwear, Michelin also aspects these to last at least one and a half times as long as the factory equipped Michelin Pilot Sport 4S.
Vredestein Hypertrac All Season
While not (yet) a household name in America, Dutch tire manufacturer Vredestein has been in the business of making rubber for over a century and has long been an open secret amongst European car enthusiasts on this side of the pond. The Vredestein Hypertrac All Season is built for sporty cars and powerful sedans that want predictable handling in both dry and wet conditions, while also being able to handle light snow. Only available in Model 3 fitment in a 255 section width, it does so with a very affordable price. If you are likely to experience more severe winter weather, Vredestein also makes their "Grand Touring All Season" Quatrac Pro in 255 section width. However, with a 400 treadwear rating Vredestein expects less cornering performance and less longevity out of the Quatrac Pro than the 500 treadwear Hypertrac.
The Tesla Model 3 Performance comes from the factory with summer tires. The expectation is that you live in a region where snow only falls in your imagination, or that you will switch to a dedicated set of winter tires when the fluffy stuff starts to accumulate. What you give up in longevity from an All Season, you gain in a responsive and fun tire to drive on in a Summer tire.
|245/35ZR20||Michelin Pilot Sport 4S||(95Y) XL||390.99|
|255/35ZR20||Michelin Pilot Sport 4S||(97Y) XL||352.99|
|245/35ZR20||Contintental ExtremeContact Sport||95Y XL||323.99|
|255/35ZR20||Contintental ExtremeContact Sport||97Y XL||283.99|
Michelin Pilot Sport 4S
Is it cheating to recommend a tire that once came on the car from the factory? If you were happy with the handling and wear characteristics, the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S (PS4S) is a very good tire that many enthusiasts return to time and time again. While the stock tires came as 235/35ZR20, the suggestion here is to move to a higher section width and the PS4S is available in both 245/35ZR20 and 255/35ZR20 sizes that will fit your Tesla Model 3 Performance.
Fun fact: Michelin makes 7 different applications for the same size 245/35ZR20 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S. This tire is so popular that it is OE-spec for Ferrari, Porsche, and Mercedes-Benz. You will pay more than $70 more on a 4-tire set for the Ferrari OE-spec Michelin PS4S with the only added benefit being a 'K' stamped in the sidewall and your ability to annoy dinner guests as you talk about your exotic tires. Make sure you are selecting the non-OE spec PS4S.
Contintental ExtremeContact Sport
If you are noticing a pattern, Michelin and Continental make great tires. A more affordable alternative to the PS4S, the Continental ExtremeContact Sport is a summer only performance compound. Like all Continental tires, you can expect a quieter and smoother ride than many other brands. Many Porsche and BMW owners are repeat buyers of the ExtremeContact Sport and though their treadwear ratings aren't directly comparable, many say they wear heartier than Pirelli P Zeros. This tire is available in both 245/35R20 and 255/35R20 sizes, with the 255 curiously being more affordable while providing more rubber in section width and diameter.
If for whatever reason you are using your 20" wheels as a track set... hey, email me. Emotive carries many great 19" and 18" wheel options for motorsports. This track use section is mostly included for fun or if you are just not ready to shell out for those Volk Racing TE37s you always wanted.
|245/35ZR20||Yokohama ADVAN A052||(95Y) XL||326.14|
|245/35ZR20||Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3||95Y XL||335.99|
|245/35R20||Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R Track Connect||(95Y) XL||437.86|
|255/35R20||Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R Track Connect||(97Y) XL||441.80|
Yokohama ADVAN A052
The ADVAN A052 is a motorsports compound used in Global Time Attack. As it turns out, this is a great race tire for light rain. Its tread grooves make for excellent evacuation of water and hydroplaning resistance if you can avoid deep puddles. Oddly enough, they are also quieter than many other high performance 200 treadwear tires for driving around town. If you are feeling particularly sassy and want an extreme performance summer tire to drive around town or to drive to your local track or autocross you will definitely be impressed with the grip.
Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3
The Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3 (SC3) was originally developed for the Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE and Camaro ZL1, a heavy, high horsepower vehicle just like the Model 3 Performance. OEM development, to me, translates to a high-level of testing, quality, and longevity. This is, after all, General Motor's brand on the line. The Emotive shop car runs the SC3 as a transit tire to, from, and on the track, as well as dropping off the occasional package at FedEx or UPS. The SC3 have been raved about for their handling characteristics, which I can certainly attest to. These are properly sticky and the Model 3 battery is likely to overheat before you grease these tires. All that grip comes at a cost. Camaro owners complain constantly about how short the tread life is with normal daily driving duties.
Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R Track Connect
The Pilot Sport Cup 2 is a streetable race tire that is OE-approved by the likes of Ferrari and Porsche for use on their streetable racecars. That being said, the tire size provided by the Track Package you are still left with room to go wider. Michelin even specifically specs the 245/35R20 for a 8.5" wide wheel rather than the Zero G's 9" width. Enter the Sport Cup 2 R, initially developed for the Porsche 911 GT3 RS and GT2 RS. Michelin claims that the Cup 2 R can shave up to .8 seconds per mile on the race track. The Sport Cup 2 R Track Connect is compatible with the Michelin Track Connect system which places pressure and temperature sensors inside the tire and feeds them to your smartphone. If you are going to go all out, go all out.
Mounting and Balancing
For more than two decades, I have given Tire Rack and my local tire installers a whole lot of money. At the age of 16, I was already swapping out perfectly good tires for high-performance replacements. As a former autocrosser and current amateur racecar driver, I burn through at least 5 times more tires than the average consumer. Tire Rack's prices can often beat what I can get here at the shop and their comprehensive network of reviewed local recommended installers ensure you have a local expert you can rely on. On top of that, you can drop ship to the shop so you don't have to dirty your white interior or futz with the back seats. Find a recommended installer close to home or work, and in a few clicks they will have your tires waiting for you to mount and balance. In the meantime, happy motoring!