OEM or Customized: What's the Right Center Cap for Your Wheels?
Center caps are designed to cover your vehicle's wheel components. They also prevent dirt and grime from entering the wheels' bearings and spindle nuts. Located at the center of the wheel, these caps usually bear the logo of the vehicle's manufacturer. Some car enthusiasts prefer to install customized caps to define their style. All in all, Center caps complete the overall look of your wheels.
Since these caps are easily lost, stolen or damaged, we created a guide to help you find the right replacement center cap for your wheels.
The Different Varieties of Center Caps
Whether you are looking to replace or customize, it's best to familiarize yourself with the types of center caps available in the market. Let's look at the most popular varieties of center caps:
OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) --- It's a type of center cap that comes installed on your vehicle when you purchased it. An OEM center cap is easily replaced by your dealership if it gets lost or damaged. Compared to the aftermarket ones, OEM center caps fit better, and they are made from more durable materials.
Aftermarket --- This type of center cap is based on the OEM cap, and is produced by independent manufacturers. Aftermarket caps are relatively cheaper, have a variety of colors to choose from, and they can be bought from most car accessories retailers. Always check the specifications of an aftermarket cap to make sure it fits your vehicle's wheel.
Custom (Made-to-Order) --- These caps are the most expensive and they are unique to the customers who ordered them. Due to the price, most automobile manufacturers do not manufacture custom caps. Some wheel specialty shops offer car enthusiasts their services to produce their heart's desire.
Chrome Center Caps --- It's shiny and eye catching; these caps are created to match the entire wheel and its chrome components. Applying chrome on center caps should be done in by a professional wheel shop to avoid any problems in the long run.
Where to Shop for Center Caps?
After indentifying the different types of center caps, it's time to look for one. Here's a list of places that you can start with:
Dealerships --- It's the perfect place to buy OEM wheel center caps and if your vehicle is still under warranty, then probably you will get them at no extra cost. However, dealerships are known to be an expensive source of vehicle parts.
Used Auto Parts Dealers --- You can strike gold by landing a good deal on a full set of wheel center caps-all for a significantly reduced price tag. It's the cheapest place to find good parts, if you are on a tight budget.
Online Stores and Forums --- They offer a wide variety of center caps for most vehicle models and you can easily check prices between competitors. Always order the correct cap for your vehicle and check the shipping charges before checking out.
Define Your Style
Center caps are not created equal and their functions vary. Since there are different versions for each cap, remember to familiarize yourself with your vehicle's make to ensure the perfect cap for it. It all boils down to your style and desire to create the perfect ride.
Installing Wheel Center Caps on Your Vehicle
Wheel center caps were designed to cover the detailed parts and hub of a wheel, and vehicle manufacturers prefer to place their logos on them. Car enthusiasts either change the OEM center caps for customized aftermarket ones, or to restore their vehicles to original specifications. Whatever your design taste is, installing a wheel center cap is both easy and challenging.
We prepared the tools, tips and steps to help you remove and install new wheel caps on your vehicle.
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Tools that You'll Need:Tire ironCar jackCar jack standsNeedle-nose pliersWheel chocks
Tips and Reminders:Exercise caution and make sure that your vehicle is properly supported when working on the wheels.Read through your vehicle's service manual before buying a center cap. It's important to know the wheel cap's exact size to avoid any problems during installation.Depending on the vehicle's make and model, some center caps require you to insert a retention ring on the center cap before you install it. Normally, the retention ring should be installed at the back of the rim, after installing the center cap.
- Park the vehicle on a level surface and set the parking brakes. Put wheel chocks at the vehicle's rear wheels.
- Use the tire iron to loosen the wheel's lug nuts. Place the car jack underneath the vehicle and lift it from the ground.
- Place the jack stands at the vehicle's jacking points for stability. Refer to your vehicle's service manual for the recommended jacking points.
- Remove the lug nuts with the tire iron and pull the wheel off the vehicle.
- Turn the wheel around and look at the rim's back. Use the tire iron to tap the center cap from the wheel rim's center hole.
- Clean the center hole with a cloth or rag before installing the center cap. Turn the wheel and make sure that the front is facing you.
- Gently push the new center cap into the center hole. Be careful when applying pressure because it might crack the center cap. Use the needle-nose pliers to insert the retention ring on the center cap.
- Put the wheel back onto the vehicle and use the tire iron to apply torque on the lug nuts. Make sure that the wheel is properly secured.
- Repeat steps 1 to 8 on the other wheels to complete the wheel cap installation project.
- Remove the jack stands and slowly lower the vehicle with the car jack.
Installing wheel caps will take about 30 minutes for an expert DIYer and an hour for a beginner. Roll-up your sleeves and start customizing your wheel rims!