I realize there’s a “MASTER THREAD: Aftermarket Wheels on Model 3” which is full of good info, but it’s so long I thought a summary of some of the key areas might be helpful. I did some intense research on this but please note that I’m very much an AMATEUR so don’t rely on anything I’ve passed along below without verifying it for yourself.
I want to thank Jason at GetYourWheels.com He was by far the most knowledgeable, helpful, and honest wheel rep that I’ve spoken to and there were MANY who were helpful but obviously limited what they told me based on what they wanted to sell me. He spent well over an hour answering every single one of my very detailed initial questions and his expertise and professionalism very quickly put me at ease. He even pointed out that shipping wheels to Canada would be charged duties/taxes at the border and offered to pre-arrange those with no added fees and include in my invoice to provide price certainty. I’m comfortable with cross-border shipping so didn’t opt for this but really appreciated the professional offer. Many other suppliers would just let you figure it out when it hits the border and you get a call from Fedex! I ended up buying a set of VS Forged VS08 from Jason – pictures attached and specs below.
Ok here goes! Will try to stay as balanced and factual as possible but also share my opinions along the way…
Why aftermarket wheels? For some it’s a cost-driven decision (18 and 19 inch wheels and tires are generally less expensive, especially the lower profile tires). For others, it’s for track purposes (I’ll leave those specifics to race experts besides some notes on weight and rolling resistance below). Another big reason if you live in a colder climate with a true snow season, is you will understand that 20” low profile winter tires MAKE NO SENSE. I’m actually shocked that Tesla doesn’t have better cold climate options for the performance model. They recently introduced the 19” Gemini wheels as a winter package but 18” would be more realistic.
For me the choice to go aftermarket aside from wanting 18” winter wheels and more of a true snow tire than the Pirelli Sottozero in the inflexible package, was partly driven by a desire for nicer looking summer wheels (HUGE range of options), and also because I’ve driven a heavy car with low profile 19” summer wheels for the past 10 years and even though I’m extremely careful, I’ve bent and had to repair two wheels and I’ve wrecked two expensive performance tires. You simply can’t always see and avoid the potholes and especially with Tesla cruise control, lane keeping assist, and autopilot, the car will drive right through them! The model 3 is a heavy car so this is an important consideration. If potholes aren’t ever an issue where you are then I’m jealous of your road conditions!
Reducing probability of bent/cracked wheels… You can significantly lower your probability of wheel damage by dropping down to a slightly smaller wheel (18” or 19”), and by increasing the amount of tire sidewall (by using a smaller wheel but keeping the total rolling diameter the same as the OEM 20” wheels/tires), there’s more room for tire sidewall height. More tire height means more cushion to absorb blows. (Skip the rest of this paragraph if you don’t care about the diameter math…) So for example, the stock 20” wheels/tires are 235/35/20 which have a sidewall height of 82mm (235 x 35). If you double the sidewall height (since both sides of the tire get included in the total rolling diameter of the wheel), convert it to inches, and add the 20” wheel, you get a rolling diameter of approximately 26.6”. Now, if you drop down to an 18” wheel with 235/45/18, the rolling diameter is still very close (around 26.5” but the sidewall height has increased by almost 30% to 105.75! (235 x 45).
I personally chose to go with 18” for the winter (235/45/18) and a compromise between looks and protection for the summer with 19” and 245/40/19. Note that I actually increased my total rolling diameter by 1% but I don’t plan on lowering my suspension and I’m told that staying within 1% is ok (more than that is not recommended). It will mean that my speedometer and odometer are slightly off but it’s minor.
Wheel width vs tire width. As you can see in the calculator below, there is an “ideal tire width” for a given size wheel. If you try to put a tire on that is too wide for the wheel, you start to impact performance and appearance (and safety when you go outside the max). And if you try to stretch a tire to fit a wide rim, you can also have problems including rim rash! I recommend using the second/bottom of the two “ideal” tire widths shown for a given wheel size. That will give a bit more rim rash protection. I’m also told that different tires have more square profiles (like Michelin) and others more rounded/bubbled (like Pirelli)
Two great online calculators to help choose wheel and tire specs and see the impacts are:
Wheel width trade-offs. Narrower is better in the snow. For the track/summer, wider has more surface area to allow the use of softer/stickier tread materials for better traction and it looks great/more aggressive. But wider is less efficient (more rolling resistance), and it changes the contact patch in a way that wider can apparently be more likely to hydroplane in heavy rain/puddles. Wider of course also needs to be able to fit the car without rubbing the fenders on the outside and the suspension/steering/frame on the inside. I’ve been told by many that if the performance model suspension hasn’t been lowered, you should have no problem going up to a 265 wide tire on front or back. Anything wider than that would likely require custom camber adjustments. The guys at Mountain Pass Performance or other racing gear shops who specialize in the model 3 really understand this area as you would expect. I went with 245 on 19 x 8.5 for summers as a trade-off between factors and still reasonable wide for looks, and I went with the stock width of 235 for winters on 18 x 8.5 (would have gone 18 x 8.0 if I could but it wasn’t available in my choice of wheel).
Staggered vs square wheel setups. Simply…. staggered is for looks (allows much wider tires on the rear and allows you to align how flush the wheels are in back vs front), but it can cause oversteer. Some people really like the feel of rear wheel grip and also enjoy the staggered feel in corners. And it might give you slightly better straight-line acceleration. However, I’m told the model 3 is a very well-balanced car and of course is also all wheel drive, so I decided it’s best not to mess up that balance with a staggered setup. Square setup is clearly best for tracking and in theory for overall road performance as well, but if driving in track mode you will want to get used to the oversteer which can be dangerous if you aren’t ready for it. I’m told aside from track mode, the stability traction control systems will intervene as soon as anything starts to slide even a little so that takes the oversteer out of play. But in track mode the natural physics are allowed to play out more. I may need to get on a track at some point and try this out! A square setup also maximizes your ability to rotate your tires in all directions to extend tread life.
Offset (or ET which is a German abbreviation) is expressed in mm (e.g. +35) and refers to the distance between the mounting surface and the wheel’s geometric centre. A positive offset means the wheel is mounted closer toward the inside of the vehicle, so the smaller the positive offset, the more the wheel will poke out (and possibly rub on the fenders) and the higher the positive offset, the closer the wheel will be to the inner suspension and frame of the car. Needless to say it’s important to get this right when selecting a wheel so you’ll want to confirm it with the calculator and with your wheel supplier. I couldn’t find a Tesla specification for the Performance Model 3 but in cross-referencing a few sources, it would seem that the stock wheel/tire specs with a square setup: ET+35 and 235/35/20 have the tires sunken in by approximately 13mm in front and an additional 10-12mm (23-25mm total) in the rear. So if you wanted a perfectly flush fit, you would reduce the offsets accordingly. However, you need to adjust for several factors to make this work (tire width, wheel width, scrub ratio, and also confirm that the exact fitment chosen will fit the car safely). Also consider that there is a good reason that Tesla has the wheels so sunken in and that’s efficiency. I don’t know how much a flush vs sunken wheel setup would make but I have seen a 10% measured difference between 18 aero wheels and 18” non-aero wheels so it is a factor. I opted for a slightly more aggressive setup than stock (+32 offset with 245 tires and 19 x 8.5” wheels, which pushes out the edge of the tire compared to stock setup by 7mm front and rear), but I didn’t want to mess with the scrub radius or efficiency too much so didn’t go for full flush. I wish I knew the exact efficiency and tread life sacrifices of going with a full flush fitment and different front and rear offsets but I just couldn’t find any concise data to rely on so decided to be conservative.
Tesla OEM wheel/tire specs and alternate fitments. Of all aftermarket wheel suppliers out there, I found T-Sportline does the best job of clearly communicating the important specifications and making it easy to buy wheels that will fit the Model 3 Performance. They have a great wheel guide with all the standard OEM specs and their alternatives here:
They show everything, including offset, centre bore for the hub, weight, lug nut specs, wheel load rating, etc.
What are the challenges with an aftermarket wheel on the Model 3 Performance?
1) There is a small (about 3mm) step in the hub so you either need a supplier who can safely engineer a small machined lip into the wheel hub centre bore, or you need to use a custom hub ring and/or a spacer. Personally, although I’ve been assured by many that it is done all the time (and I fully believe that), I just didn’t want to have to worry about Tesla service or my local tire swap giving me a hard time about the hub rings or spacers (or forgetting to put them on, losing them, etc). If you know your shop really well, this shouldn’t be an issue but there are just too many times that I have someone new doing a tire swap for me or doing post-warranty service work that requires removing the wheels.
2) There is also a screw that holds the rotor on that protrudes so you need a wheel that has large enough backside hub cavities to accommodate the screw. I’m told the screw can be removed and the rotor would be held on by the wheel but again I didn’t want to have to deal with that so looked for a wheel that would have a guaranteed “direct fit”
3) The performance model has large brake calipers so you need wheel specifications that will accommodate that with sufficient clearance (e.g. inside diameter of the wheel barrel, offset, etc)
Suppliers I found that offer “direct fit” for the performance model 3? This is by no means comprehensive, but here is what I found:
1) Custom made truly forged wheel manufacturers like BBS, HRE, BC Forged, VS Forged, Signature, Forgeline, Titan 7. Forged wheels are stronger (fewer air bubbles) and therefore lighter (less material needed for a given load goal) but much more expensive. Cheapest I found for overseas manufacturing was around USD$2500+ for 19” and prices ramp up QUICKLY from there. You can get really nice/strong wheels and spend a LOT on them if you want to! I went with VS Forged which is a CNC machined forged monoblock made overseas. The only downside I’m aware of so far is they take an average of 2-3 months to make and ship (mine took 8 weeks to arrive at Getyourwheels in the US and another week for them to get them to me in Canada, not bad at all!). Because the wheels are custom made, these suppliers can offer direct fit specs, pretty much whatever you want.
2) The next strongest wheel type are flow formed, also marketed as flow forged, rotary forged, etc. The face of the wheel is forged and it is then formed under heat and pressure to marry it to the rest of the wheel hub. I found pricing to range between around USD$1000-3000 per set. I’m told that flow formed wheels are about 25% stronger than cast wheels (below). Direct fit suppliers in this category that I found include Braelin (Canadian), Replika, Vorsteiner, T-Sportline, and Vossen (plus maybe Stance and Vertini, the suppliers who joined forces to create VS Forged, although I didn’t investigate). Avant Garde M600 series (“art” wheels) were close but they apparently won’t guarantee that the hub cavity will accommodate the raised rotor screw depending on the hub backpadding required in your specific wheel size/specs and you may need to remove the screw and hold the rotor on with the wheel mount. I was close to pulling the trigger on AG but opted to bump up to a custom forged wheel to get a full direct fit and peace of mind.
3) Finally, there are cast wheels which are the most common and least expensive. Many wheels out there are cast so you don’t necessarily need to worry about them cracking or bending but it is definitely more likely. I would be much more cautious about using a smaller diameter wheel and higher profile tire to provide more protection. Cast wheels are also the heaviest.
A few bad experiences with suppliers to share:
1) The Avant Garde rep in the West was super helpful at first and invested significant time with me answering questions about their wheel specs and fitment. However, when I asked a seemingly simple question (and not something that should be a secret), what offset do they use for the direct fit wheel, he told me it’s company policy not to disclose that until a deposit is made. Bizarre! I told him there is no way I would commit to an order without knowing the direct fit specs I was buying and he went ballistic, became pretty unprofessional. I know he was frustrated about losing a sale after investing so much time but the policy is ridiculous and there was no really no need. It was a blessing in disguise as I ended up speaking with Jason at Getyourwheels.com and that got me the answers I needed and I happily gave him my loyalty and purchase order for that.
2) Vorsteiner had a black Friday sale on their website and I called the company to confirm they would direct fit for model 3 and confirmed the sale with him on specific wheel models. After investing hours to make a decision and start to make an order, I was told that the sale (on one of the direct fit wheels he specifically mentioned) didn’t apply because the wheel wasn’t currently “in stock”. The even crazier part is he told me they had a large order in manufacturing that would be on the way soon. So they were running a promo to sell stock of this wheel but because it was currently not in stock and only on the way, the promo didn’t actually apply. Hmmmmm, very shady. Nowhere on their website could I tell which wheels weren’t eligible so as a consumer the assumption is all the ones shown are eligible. Also, I was told there was an additional $150 charge per wheel for a “custom” colour, even though the colour I wanted was listed as a “standard finish” on their website. Again, seemed pretty shady.
3) Vossen… what I encountered here was more confusion than anything and they could make it easier on their website. They list “standard” finishes and “custom” finishes. But because the direct fit wheels are custom, you can’t actually get a standard finish and there is a $300 charge for all of the custom finishes. The colour I wanted was “standard” so I eliminated them from consideration.
4) In general, many others who simply didn’t have the time to provide adequate info on direct fitment options. This market is so new and not well understood and suppliers are hesitant to commit until they see sales volume opportunities. Tesla really needs to get rid of the hub step (by aligning the width of the rotor and the hub design) and either provide decent 18” and 19” OEM wheel options, or at least publish acceptable specs for aftermarket
Wheel weight. You’d need to talk to a track/racing guy to fully understand the implications on this front but the main insight I picked up is that all things being equal, lighter is better because the wheel is part of the “unsprung weight” of the car and also affects the rotational resistance. Apparently there is a 3-4x multiple in the how the physics translates to the equivalent weight inside the car. For example, if you shave 10 pounds of weight off per wheel, that’s 10 lbs x 4 wheels x 3x multiple = 120 lbs of equivalent weight that you have taken out of the car. Not a huge deal but it does affect acceleration slightly (measured in tenths of a second). This really only seems to matter on the track but the weight of the wheel can also affect how it can absorb impacts and of course the more material, generally the stronger the wheel is so there are trade-offs. Since I said “all things being equal” and they aren’t equal, I generally looked at wheel weight and preferred lower weight but it was one of many criteria. Fully forged wheels can be light (can be < 20 lbs) and strong because the material composition is more solid/pure with fewer air bubbles. Cast wheels are the heaviest (can be around 30 lbs) and require more material for strength due to less solid composition with more air bubbles, and flow formed wheels are in between (25% stronger than cast in general, and around the low to mid 20s lb range in weight). Of course wheel diameter and width make a big difference. An 18 x 8 wheel will be much lighter than a 20 x 10. Offset also has an impact due to the amount of back-padding on the wheel. Overall, try not to stress over wheel weight too much, it doesn’t seem to be a major factor for daily driving, even if you like to drive fast. But it is a factor.
Wheel load rating. I haven’t yet found the load rating of Tesla’s OEM wheels (maybe someone can look to see if it is stamped into the back of the OEM wheel), but you definitely need to ensure the load rating of your wheels (measured in lbs or kg per wheel) is sufficient to support the weight and driving loads placed on the car. I’ve seen one calculation that looks at the maximum gross axle load divided by two as the bare minimum wheel load rating. The rear axle is heavier and I believe around 2800 lbs on the model 3 performance. So half that would be 1400 lbs minimum wheel load rating. But that doesn’t take into account any additional considerations for the load placed on the wheel when accelerating/braking/cornering. This is an area I have barely scratched the surface on and clearly is a safety issue so I’d leave it to an expert wheel supplier. Unfortunately this is an area of risk in not using Tesla’s OEM wheels. They won’t stand behind or certify any aftermarket specs or wheel choices. I believe they will over time publish something that can be relied on, at least within their own growing stable of OEM wheels, but for now there is nothing that I could find.
TPMS? I don’t know how important it is to use Tesla original TPMS vs aftermarket. I know you do need to make sure the ones you choose are Tesla-compatible as I’ve heard of issues with some. I’ve driven a few times on my new wheels and so far no TPMS issues. However, you can only pick a stock wheel on wheel configuration screen and you will likely get a warning that the car notices you aren’t running the wheels that are selected in the configuration. I don’t think this is a big deal but something to be aware of if you don’t like stuff like that.
What to do with your stock 20” wheels? My Tesla dealer told me they won’t provide any price adjustment for taking back the un-used stock wheels/tires, nor allow you to provide your own wheels or tires to have mounted at delivery. This is disappointing given the limited options and lack of a legit cold climate solution, but it seems to be current reality. I know the 19” Tesla “gemini” wheel has been launched but it’s still just one option in one size and profile and doesn’t meet my needs. Also, you still have to accept the stock wheels and can only buy the Gemini wheels as an additional set. So… it appears the only option is to either find a use for the stock 20” or sell them. There should be a decent market for them among owners needing replacement wheels, a second set, or wanting to upgrade a non-performance model to the 20” sport wheels. Especially since grey has recently become standard. I offered mine for sale on the forums for USD $500 below the equivalent new from Tesla price, plus $150 shipping and the buyer paid just over USD$200 in duties/taxes/brokerage fees. He still ended up with brand new wheels for less than the Tesla price before tax. So everyone is happy but it was a pain that Tesla should make go away by allowing customers to opt out of the standard wheels and have something else installed for delivery.
Drainage grooves around mounting edge of wheel hub… apparently, some wheels don’t have these and moisture gets trapped inside the hub while mounting which causes oxidation over time. All that is needed is small grooves to allow any moisture to drain out and evaporate.
Be careful about who lifts your car and make sure they protect the car underside and battery by using “lift pucks”. You can find different kinds of pucks to carry in the car as a set of 4, including ones that are low profile for lowered suspensions, and ones that are magnetic so that they are easy to keep in place while setting up the lift. The issue is that the intended weight bearing locations where you can safely lift are very specific and much smaller than a typical car so the pucks make it obvious where to locate the lift.
- VS Forged VS08
- USD$2500 + $100 shipping
- 9 weeks from order to delivery
- Brushed Clear gloss finish
- Square setup 19 x 8.5 ET 32
- Direct fit (hub bore 64.1 with machined lip for 3mm step, hub back cavities sufficient to accommodate rotor screw, barrels wide enough for performance calipers)
- 245/40/19 Extra Load Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires
- Note 1% larger rolling diameter than stock wheels (less than 1 MPH difference on speedometer at legal speeds)
- Standard performance suspension height (not lowered further)
- Wheel weight around 21 lbs
- Getyourwheels supplied chrome lugs (instead of the plain Tesla lugs)
- 21mm hex lug with 14 x 1.5 thread
- 5 x 114.3 PCD