Changing Tesla Wheels

The Model S come with standard 19′ rims and optional 21′ rims. If you want to change your wheels you can fit 20′ rims on your Model S. In Australia we are lucky because there is one popular car whose rim specifications are very similar: the Commodore.

Rims: So, if you want to fit other rims than Tesla provides, please use the following specifications:

  • Your prefered rim diameter: 19, 20 or 21 (I personally prefer 20′ (discussions here and here)
  • Bolt Pattern – 5-120
  • Rim width (8 or 8.5 ok for all wheels). If you want wider rear wheels, can go up to 9′ width
  • Offset – anywhere between 32 and 40mm. Please ensure the rims can clear big brake calipers (potentially P models only?)

       Therefore the Model S rim options are:

  • 19 x 8 19 x 8.5 (for rear only up to 19 x 9)
  • 20 x 8 20 x 8.5  (for rear only up to 20 x 9)
  • 21 x 8 21 x 8.5 (for rear only up to 21 x 9)  

Tyres: For non-staggered wheels, standard tyre size is:

  • 245/45R19
  • 245/40R20
  • 245/35R21.

Tyre quality: It is recommended to go at least Ultra High Performance tyres as this is a heavy car. Falken 453, Khumo KU39 or similar, or better can be a good choice.

Some may ask: *Why change your wheels*. In my opinion, here’s some of the benefits and drawbacks:
19 inch Benefits:

  • Higher sidewall (see why here) therefore more comfortable ride.
  • More affordable tyres (quite a few cars use 19 inch rims, not a lot use 21 inch)
  • Larger availability of tyre types (see jax tyres, beaurepairs, bob jane)
  • Less chance of blowout from potholes (higher sidewall means more flex)
  • Less change of damage from kerb (kerb rash)
  • Replacement rim relatively cheap.
  • Can add snow chains

19 inch Drawbacks:

  • Higher sidewall leading to less precise cornering. On a heavy car, this leads to a feeling of “tyre squirm” and marginal loss of grip in corners
  • May look like the wheels are undersized
  • May look “too common”
  • Standard Tesla wheels may be a little on the heavy side  

21 inch turbines (option) Benefits

  • Lower sidewall leads to very precise handling.
  • Sporty dynamics
  • No real tyre squirm to speak of
  • Enhanced looks (for those who like real big rims)

21 inch turbines (option) Drawbacks:

  • VERY limited tyre choice (ContiSportContact 5,  Pirelli PZero and Michelin Pilot Sport)
  • Relatively difficult to come by (almost no regular shop has them in stock)
  • Relatively expensive replacement tyres (almost always in excess of $500 a corner, usually high $500s to low $600s)
  • Really easy to ding the rims on kerbs, potholes, other road obstacles
  • Higher chance of blowout due to smaller sidewall that can flex less
  • Very fast tyre wear (the 21 inch sizes are all soft rubber compound that sacrifices thread life for grip)
  • Expensive rim replacement
  • The standard rim plus worn tyre was weighted in at 27.1kg.  

20 inch rims are an option that sits just between the larger and the smaller Tesla options.
20 inch rims Benefits :

  • Relatively easy to find “everywhere” due to being standard Commodore rims
  • A more common rim standard than the 19s (strange indeed) so more avaiability of rims and tyre options
  • Can be picked up on special occasionally, both rims and tyres
  • A large rage of tyres is available (from sportier faster wearing tyres to comfortable longer thread life)
  • Falling between the 19s and 21s in all the other categories.
  • They look large enough to fill the arches, but not overtly large for those who dislike the “boy-racer” low profile for the 21s.  

Price comparison:

  1. A set of Tesla 19′ rims are >AU$1,500. Tesla Rims and tyres are >AU$2,700
  2. A set of turbines plus tyres are AU$7,200. 
  3. A set of King-produced 20′ rims weighing 12.9kg each was recently purchased at AU$1,156.
  4. 245/40/R20 Ultra High Performance tyres can be had from $210~$220 per corner.  

All in all, it would depend on what one would like to do with their Model S. If comfort is paramount, then 19s are the way to go. If handling is paramount, then 21s are the thing. For practicality purposes tho, a set of 20′ rims (please ensure weight is under 14kg/rim) with your choice of tyre can not be beaten. Handling, dynamics, looks and affordability are superior to 19s, Blow-out resistance, treadwear, tyre availability, rim rash protection and affordability are superior to 21s. In my opinion, they are the perfect compromise for having a supercar as your daily driver.

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