What is track width (TW)?

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Understanding Track Width

Definition and Measurement

Track width is defined as the distance between the center points of the tires on the same axle of a vehicle. It is typically measured in millimeters (mm) or inches (in). The track width can be different for the front and rear axles, depending on the vehicle’s design and intended purpose.

To accurately measure track width, the following steps are usually followed:

  1. Ensure the vehicle is on a flat, level surface.
  2. Measure the distance between the center points of the tires on the same axle.
  3. Record the measurements for both the front and rear axles.

It is essential to note that track width can vary slightly due to factors such as tire pressure, suspension setup, and vehicle loading.

Factors Affecting Track Width

Several factors influence the track width of a vehicle:

  1. Vehicle design: The overall design and intended purpose of the vehicle play a significant role in determining its track width. Sports cars and performance vehicles often have wider track widths for improved handling, while passenger cars and SUVs may have narrower track widths for better fuel efficiency and easier maneuverability.

  2. Suspension setup: The suspension components, such as control arms, tie rods, and wheel hubs, contribute to the track width. Modifications to these components can alter the track width.

  3. Wheel and tire size: The size of the wheels and tires can affect the track width. Wider wheels and tires will increase the track width, while narrower ones will decrease it.

  4. Spacers and adapters: Wheel spacers and adapters can be used to increase the track width by moving the wheels outward from the hub.

Impact of Track Width on Vehicle Dynamics

Track width plays a crucial role in a vehicle’s handling, stability, and overall performance. Let’s explore how track width affects various aspects of vehicle dynamics.

Handling and Cornering

A wider track width generally improves a vehicle’s handling and cornering capabilities. This is because a wider track width:

  1. Increases the tire contact patch: A wider track width allows for a larger tire contact patch, which improves grip and traction, especially during cornering.

  2. Reduces body roll: With a wider track width, the vehicle’s center of gravity is lower, which reduces body roll during cornering. This allows for better weight transfer and improved handling.

  3. Enhances responsiveness: A wider track width can make a vehicle more responsive to steering inputs, as the tires have a better ability to generate lateral force.

However, it is important to note that an excessively wide track width can negatively impact handling by making the vehicle feel cumbersome and less agile.

Stability and Rollover Resistance

Track width also affects a vehicle’s stability and rollover resistance. A wider track width:

  1. Lowers the center of gravity: As mentioned earlier, a wider track width lowers the vehicle’s center of gravity, which enhances stability and reduces the risk of rollover.

  2. Improves weight distribution: A wider track width can help distribute the vehicle’s weight more evenly across the axles, improving overall stability.

  3. Increases rollover resistance: With a wider track width, a vehicle is less likely to roll over during extreme maneuvers or on uneven surfaces.

Aerodynamics and Fuel Efficiency

While a wider track width can improve handling and stability, it may have an impact on aerodynamics and fuel efficiency:

  1. Increased drag: A wider track width can increase aerodynamic drag, as there is more surface area exposed to the airflow. This can negatively affect fuel efficiency, especially at higher speeds.

  2. Tire scrub: A wider track width can lead to increased tire scrub, which occurs when the tires are not pointing in the same direction as the vehicle’s path. This can result in increased tire wear and reduced fuel efficiency.

To mitigate these issues, vehicle manufacturers often employ aerodynamic enhancements, such as air curtains and underbody panels, to optimize airflow around the wheels and improve overall efficiency.

Track Width in Different Automotive Applications

Track width is an important consideration in various automotive applications, each with its own specific requirements and challenges.

Passenger Cars and SUVs

In passenger cars and SUVs, track width is often a balance between handling, stability, and efficiency. A moderate track width provides a good compromise between these factors, ensuring a comfortable and safe driving experience for everyday use.

Manufacturers may offer different track widths within a model range to cater to different customer preferences. For example, a base model may have a narrower track width for better fuel efficiency, while a sportier variant may have a wider track width for improved handling.

Sports Cars and Performance Vehicles

Sports cars and performance vehicles prioritize handling and cornering capabilities, making track width a critical factor in their design. These vehicles often feature wider track widths to maximize grip, stability, and overall performance.

Here are some examples of track widths in popular sports cars:

Vehicle Front Track Width (mm) Rear Track Width (mm)
Porsche 911 GT3 1,551 1,555
Ferrari 488 GTB 1,679 1,647
Chevrolet Corvette C8 1,648 1,659
Nissan GT-R 1,590 1,600

As evident from the table, these high-performance vehicles have significantly wider track widths compared to standard passenger cars, emphasizing their focus on handling and cornering performance.

Racing Applications

In racing applications, track width is a crucial factor in optimizing a vehicle’s performance for specific race conditions and regulations. Race engineers often fine-tune the track width to achieve the best possible balance between handling, stability, and aerodynamics.

Different racing series have varying regulations regarding track width:

Racing Series Maximum Track Width (mm)
Formula 1 2,000
NASCAR Cup Series 1,956
IndyCar Series 1,981
FIA World Endurance Championship (LMP1) 1,900

These regulations ensure a level playing field among competitors and promote close, exciting racing.

Off-Road Vehicles

Off-road vehicles, such as 4x4s, ATVs, and UTVs, often benefit from wider track widths. A wider track width provides several advantages in off-road conditions:

  1. Improved stability: A wider track width enhances stability on uneven terrain, reducing the risk of rollover and improving overall safety.

  2. Increased traction: With a wider track width, the tires have a larger contact patch with the ground, providing better traction on loose surfaces like sand, mud, and gravel.

  3. Greater ground clearance: A wider track width can allow for increased ground clearance, enabling the vehicle to navigate over obstacles more easily.

However, it is important to consider the specific trail conditions and local regulations when modifying the track width of an off-road vehicle, as excessive width may limit accessibility to certain trails.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. Q: Can I modify my vehicle’s track width?
    A: Yes, it is possible to modify a vehicle’s track width using aftermarket components such as wheel spacers, adapters, or wider wheels and tires. However, it is crucial to ensure that any modifications are safe, legal, and do not adversely affect the vehicle’s handling or reliability.

  2. Q: How does track width affect tire wear?
    A: Track width can affect tire wear in several ways. A wider track width can lead to increased tire scrub, causing uneven or accelerated tire wear. Additionally, a wider track width may necessitate the use of wider tires, which can have a different wear pattern compared to narrower tires.

  3. Q: Is a wider track width always better for handling?
    A: While a wider track width generally improves handling and cornering performance, it is not always better. An excessively wide track width can make a vehicle feel less agile and more cumbersome to maneuver. It is important to find the right balance based on the vehicle’s intended purpose and driving conditions.

  4. Q: Does track width affect braking performance?
    A: Track width can have an indirect effect on braking performance. A wider track width can improve stability under braking, allowing for more consistent and predictable braking behavior. However, the primary factors affecting braking performance are the brake system components, such as the calipers, rotors, and pads.

  5. Q: How do I find my vehicle’s track width specifications?
    A: You can find your vehicle’s track width specifications in the owner’s manual, the manufacturer’s website, or by contacting a dealership. Alternatively, you can measure the track width yourself by following the steps outlined earlier in this article.


Track width is a critical specification that affects a vehicle’s handling, stability, and overall performance. It is influenced by various factors, such as vehicle design, suspension setup, and wheel and tire size. A wider track width generally improves cornering performance and stability, but it may have trade-offs in terms of aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.

The importance of track width varies across different automotive applications, from passenger cars and SUVs to sports cars, racing vehicles, and off-road machines. Understanding the role of track width in vehicle dynamics enables manufacturers, engineers, and enthusiasts to optimize their vehicles for specific purposes and driving conditions.

As with any modifications to a vehicle’s track width, it is essential to prioritize safety, legality, and reliability. By carefully considering the impact of track width on handling, stability, and efficiency, drivers and enthusiasts can make informed decisions to enhance their vehicle’s performance and driving experience.