The low nose and raised back end of a funny car on a drag racing strip is an iconic image of staggered fitment. Staggered fitment is the placement of different sized wheels and tires on a vehicle to alter its stance.
The norm is to place the same size tires on all four wheels for predictable balance and even treadwear. Staggered fitment allows drivers to gain certain advantages behind the wheel, or to simply enhance a vehicle’s cool factor.
NASCAR racecars for instance, stagger by placing larger tires on the right side of racecars for oval tracks. This improves left turning around the banked walls of racetracks.
The most common type of stagger is placing wider wheels and tires on the rear axle of a rear-wheel-drive (RWD) car. Wider wheels and tires allow better traction, faster acceleration, enhanced cornering, and sharper braking on dry surfaces.
There are plenty of aftermarket packages of staggered wheels and tires to choose from. A typical difference in wheel size might be 19” x 8” on the front and 19 x 9.5” on the rear. Variations do get more aggressive.
Another way to accomplish this change in stance is to go with a larger diameter wheel on the back. One example is a 17” wheel on the front and an 18” on the back. Keep in mind that taller isn’t the same as wider. You’re likely to experience improved straight-line traction, but not the same stability you get from a wide rear tire.
A good rule of thumb is that with every adjustment you make to how a vehicle was originally manufactured to perform, there are further considerations. Your vehicle can only accommodate a larger sized tire before you run into practical spacing issues. When increasing wheel size, you’ll likely need to decrease the sidewall height of your tires. These low-profile tires may result in a loss of cushion, causing you to feel and possibly hear more of the road.
Once you stagger your wheels, you also have to change how you rotate your tires. Directional tires have backward-angled directional grooves that channel away water. They’re meant to go in one direction and one direction only. You can rotate the tires side to side, but to do so means dismounting them from your rims and remounting them. For drivers who love the sporty performance and powerful aesthetic of staggered wheels and tires, the results are well worth the cost.
Vehicles do not always come with a spare tire, but you might not notice this until it’s too late (when you are on the side of the road with a flat). It’s important to always have a back-up plan. Tireamerica.com has a guide created to help you understand the best options for you.