Lowered Beetle? The Aircooled Tyre guide is here to help - EvaResto


So, tyres for your stock or modified Beetle, Ghia or Type 3. What looks good, drives well, and delivers the results you want? 

Tyres come in different widths, heights, sizes (wheel size) and ratings.

The numbers you want to be looking for to identify the spec of the tyre we’re interested in will look like this:

185/65 R15

The first number, is a measurement or tyre width, so the width of the patch that contacts the floor. This is measured in millimetres.

The second number is aspect ratio. This is a percentage and goes typically from 30-80. This number relates to the ‘height’ of the tyre, and is measured as a ‘percentage’ of the width of the tyre. Sounds confusing, but essentially the more the number, the more sidewall height you can expect to see. 

And then the last, the “R15” or similar. The R means Radial - essentially just any modern style tyre. The number is rim size, so 15” in this instance. 

As far as choosing tyres goes for your VW goes, there’s a few things to consider.

Your desired look, practicality and feel. 

It’s not rocket science, but proper tyre choice is everything when looks/aesthetics are so important. 

What suspension system you have is absolutely paramount, and will dictate what tyres look best on your given car.

Factory/stock tyres? 

A stock Aircooled car, so beetle, ghia or type 3 would essentially have come on a tyre size all round that matches closest to:

165/80 R15. 

These are ‘full profiles’ which means as tall as possible. Full profile tyres are often just quoted as 165 R15, so no stated aspect ratio.

Either 165/80 r15 or 155/80 r15 look good on a stock height Aircooled classic. The 165’s are what we would recommend, as the 155’s can look a little small and give a bigger gap between the tyre and arch. Not something that looks great!

Big & little tyres, what’s that about? 

So, next up let’s talk about ‘big and little’ looking tyres on Aircooled cars. 

This is commonly done on lowered setups, where a car sits nose-down slightly usually through use or a narrowed adjustable beam.

Why so little up front and big in the rear? Well, mostly, looks!

But really, there’s genuine reason this choice has become so popular. Beetles are rear wheel drive, meaning that a smaller rear tyre will give worse motorway cruise speeds. A bigger tyre as close to stock size or bigger will deliver a stock-like cruise speed on the motorway, meaning less stress on your engine, and generally happier times inside the car with less noise!

And for the front, smaller and skinny tyres are used to give best clearance on turning, and general driving when running low. A smaller tyre feels great, and can greatly improve driving feel. Stock size in the front end doesn’t work at all beyond lowered any more than a couple of inches. They may fit up, but expect nothing but rubbing and the smell of burning rubber on any normal drive.

Now, Let’s now talk about some of the common sizes for 15” wheels on lowered Aircooled car setups.

Front end:

145/65 R15

These are the absolute go-to for a lowered setup car. Not too small, but much less overall size than a stock tyre which gives much increased clearance.

These will deliver a good ride, best handling and a good look. They don’t look tiny, but won’t hold up any properly set up suspension system or air ride system.

These will fit any 15” wheel in an ideal width of 4-6”

Recommended inflation pressure: 20-22psi

135/80 R15

The ‘cal look’ choice. 

These are a great look for the more vintage style guys. A tall sidewall, but narrow tread. 

Standard fitment on a Citroen 2cv, these tyres caught on as an easy to source choice for the classic nose-down stance cal look or race style cars from the 90’s. 

These are great for clearance still, but being so narrow and tall, will look a little more ‘classic’ if you’re not looking for a big difference between rear and front sidewall heights. 

Being only 135 wide, you can expect that the tyres will essentially loose grip sooner, effecting handling and braking when really pushing the limits.

How often do you push the limits of grip in your Aircooled VW? Probably not very often… but safety must be considered.

So, 135’s.

Great look, essentially a style over practicality choice. 

These will fit any 15” wheel in an ideal width of 3.5-5.5” wide 

Recommended inflation pressure: 22-25psi

165/45 R15

These are what you’d call a ‘slam tyre’ and out of the tyres listed already, are the ones with the smallest sidewall. These are wider than the others, but the super small aspect ratio (45) means that they are overall much shorter. 

These tyres can drive very well, with the only real complaint being that the small sidewall can lead to a choppier/harsher ride. 

They are ideally more suited to slightly wider aftermarket wheels, If that’s what your choice of wheel is up front. 

These will fit any 15” wheel in an ideal width of 5-6.5” wide 

Recommended inflation pressure: 20-22psi

Worth noting here that there are other sizes that can be utilised. We’ve seen 175/50 R15, 145/80 R15 and others used to good effect! The sizes stayed above are the most common sizes, and will work great when the correct is selected for the application. 


Rear End:

185/65 R15

This is a great all rounder for a lowered or air ride car. Slightly smaller than a stock tyre, but slightly wider also, giving a good look. 

These are great for closer to stock wheel sizes, so 4.5”-6” wide. 

Recommended inflation pressure: 30-32psi

195/65 R15

Like above, just a little bigger. Our personal preference.

Good for sizes 5-8” wide

Recommended inflation pressure: 30-32psi

205/65 R15 

A real chunky and strong looking tyre, which can look great on the right wheel/height setup. But be aware, this is a larger than stock size and can cause clearance issues on some setups! 

These are good for sizes 5.5”-8” wide. 

Recommended inflation pressure: 28-30psi 

Like the fronts, there are other sizes again we have seen used to good effect. It’s all down to width and desired looks… what we’ve listed above are all common choices that will work well if selected for the right application. 


So what about 17 inch wheels? 

Well, they’re an increasingly popular size for lowered Aircooled cars and can look simply fantastic if paired with the right size, ride height, and tyres! We personally love a 17” wheel, the look of a larger wheel can make a car appear lower, as more of the wheel itself is tucked up into the arch. 

However, 17’s can be trickier to make good! 

Not many of the popular 17” wheels are super ‘friendly’ in the fitment department… even the wheels that are marketed specifically for Aircooled platform use! The right size beam, spacers/adapters and tyres are the difference between having a good or bad time in the driving seat.

Since we’re talking about tyres here, I’ll not get into super detail about fitment of these larger wheels… and instead just talk about our preferred tyre choices.

Front end:

185/35 R17

These are our preference for a lowered to slammed car. The 35 aspect ratio may seem like a very low number, but remember, the width here is higher than stock, so the sidewall is still fairly substantial.

These are a slim tyre, boasting great road holding and a fairly good ride quality.

These are good for sizes  5”-7” wide.

Recommended inflation pressure: 22-25psi

165/35 R17

These are a super small tyre, only really suited to very narrow 17” wheels. They should not be fitted on anything 7” wide or wider! 

The sidewall is small, which is great for getting that last bit of low you might need… however, these tyres can impact the ride quality quite badly, and can give a higher likelihood of wheel damage from potholes or bad road surfaces.

They look small, but ultimately give the best clearance if that’s what you really need most.

These are good for sizes 4”-6” wide

Recommended inflation pressure: 25-28psi

185/45 R17

These are on the larger side, but can still work very well on a lowered setup.

With a taller sidewall, they may cause more clearance issues, and potentially hold an air ride car from getting all the way down low…

But are a great option for a mildly lowered to lightly slammed car… 

These are good for sizes 5”-7” wide 

Recommended inflation pressure: 20-22psi

Rear end:

185/45 R17

These are an ideal rear end tyre choice. They’ll sit nice and ‘square’ on a 7” wide wheel, so won’t overly effect clearance or ride quality.

These are good for sizes 6”-8” wide 

Recommended inflation pressure: 32-34psi 

195/45 R17

A little bigger than the above, so ideal for a slightly wider wheel, or taking up some more room if you have it free!

These are good from sizes 7-9” wide.

Recommended inflation pressure: 30-32psi


So, there you have it! 

That’s our list of Recommended tyre sizes for your 15 and 17 inch wheels. 

All the sizes we recommend, are held by us here and available for purchase in the UK.

Nankang Tyres are who we use and Recommend, having ran their tyres on a vast majority of our builds over the last 7 years! 

Nankang offer some sizes not held by other manufacturers, and are far superior in quality to budget brands.

See our available list of tyres HERE