Your Tire's Contact Patch

What is a tire contact patch?

A tire's contact patch is the area of the tire that comes in contact with the ground, much like a footprint. Believe it or not, most tires have a fairly small contact patch -- a little larger than the size of your hand. As a result, not much of the tire's surface area is touching the ground, so the amount that does touch the ground must handle a great deal of weight and force.

The contact patch will vary in shape and size depending on the geometry of the tire, and this affects various performance characteristics of the tire. Tires with a higher profile or aspect ratio (that is, the height of the sidewall is fairly large compared to the width of the tire), tend to have a long and narrow contact patch. Typically, these would be tires made for passenger cars and light trucks. The longer, narrower contact patch gives these tires a smooth ride and allows them to handle in a predictable manner. They may also have especially good traction in snowy conditions.

Conversely, most high-performance and ultra-high performance tires have a lower profile (lower aspect ratio). As a result, the contact patch is generally shorter and wider, which gives them strong cornering stability and traction. This allows high-performance and ultra-high performance vehicles to have very responsive handling, especially on dry roads.

Shop for High Performance Tires
Shop for Ultra High Performance Tires
Shop for Tires


Get the right tires for your car or truck!

Tell us what you drive and we’ll show you all the best options.

Intro to run flat tires
If you've ever gotten a flat in the middle of nowhere, it's easy to see the appeal of run-flats. But are they really all that?
Original equipment tires vs. replacement tires
Is it best to stick with your car's Original Equipment tires, or try something different? We'll help you decide.
How tires are made
It's complicated, there are multiple layers, and you can't have it all. Are tires just like relationships?
DOT Tire Identification Number
It isn't fun, cool, or even remotely exciting. But it can be pretty useful, once you know what it is.
Studded winter tires
Thinking of studding up for more traction in winter weather? Read this article first.
Using mismatched tires
Using mismatched tires isn't ideal. But if you have to do it, here's what you need to know.
Find out what causes hydroplaning, how you can prevent it, and what to do if it happens to you.

Get the right tires for your car or truck.

Tell us what you drive and we’ll show you all the best options.