Wheel Buyer's Guide
- Your car has four to five wheels, all of which are replaceable.
- There are two main materials used to manufacture wheels, these are steel and alloys.
- Steel wheels are more solid, and thus, are heavier. They are also cheaper alternatives to aluminum wheels. The latter, on the other hand, are lighter and more expensive wheels not made for utilitarian uses.
- Wheels can either be forged or cast while being made up of one component to three. This would determine the flexibility and durability of the wheels.
- If you feel like you purchased the wrong set of wheels, and would like to get more out of them before they’re due for a replacement, wheel accessories, such as a chrome wrap or a paint job will help allow you to fall in love with them again.
- Find the perfect fit for your car at CarParts.com, with the dedicated search filters for your car’s model year and make.
Your car most likely has five wheels, two at the front, two at the back, and one spare located either on the tailgate as well as underneath or inside the trunk. These are the most important parts of your car, as having them will determine if your car will move or not. It is important to know the types of car wheels that you may encounter in case you chance upon the need to purchase aftermarket wheels.
Types of wheels according to the material used
In this part, the point of discussion would be the material used in making the wheel itself, and why it’s important to choose one over the other. There are pros and cons to every decision, however, there are correct choices to certain decisive moments.
Steel is the most basic material used in crafting a wheel, as it’s the cheapest. Aside from these characteristics, steel is the heaviest material used in making a wheel. This is why steel wheels are not used in race cars, as they would definitely add a hefty amount of weight to the car, thus effectively slowing it down. What you may want these for are your budget cars or utility vehicles, which you don’t want to spend too much on, as these can take a beating.
Alloy is a type of solid compound of two or more elements. This is done to harden the material, to reduce its weight, and to decrease the cost of production. In alloys the most widely used primary element is Aluminum. This is due to it being lightweight and reliable. Mixing this with other elements would improve its overall quality and reliability, make it more affordable, and increase its longevity. These are better installed on cars that you may use from time to time, expecting performance and speed.
While many people look for this material in order to show off and add some pizzazz to their vehicles, chrome wheels aren’t solid chrome. Nothing is really ever solid chrome. It’s because chromium as an element isn’t necessarily as useful as it seems when it’s solidified. What happens is your wheel, regardless if it’s made out of steel or an aluminum alloy, is then covered with chrome.
You would only want to use these on sunny or cloudy days to maximize their effect, but if you’re going to be using them on either a rainy day or a snow day, it would be advisable to replace them with car wheels of a different finish just to prevent damage.
Types of wheels according to how they’re made
Aside from material, there are differences in how wheels are made, and this affects their overall flexibility and reliability. Just like the differences in material, wheels made differently have pros and cons of their own.
Forged wheels are typically made from aluminum by forging. This process makes the wheel extremely lightweight and sturdy, making forged wheels the ideal choice when it comes to your car. The con, though, is that these are really costly, making it more painful for your pockets.
Casting is a process wherein the metal is heated to its liquid form and then poured onto a cast in the shape of the desired outcome, which n this case, is a wheel. This is the more affordable option, however, these are generally more rigid and heavy, making this type a much less durable choice.
Wheels that are made through casting are usually made in one piece. This is due to the fact that casting is an extremely simple process one needs not complicate. Casting multiple parts to achieve the same goal is inefficient, and thus, what happens is only one cast is made for the whole wheel.
Forged wheels generally have multiple parts. This process adds both malleability and flexibility to the wheel. Aside from this, having wheels with multiple parts also increase your wheel’s repairability. Instead of having to look for a replacement right away, having multiple car wheel parts makes it easier to address problems and to customize.
In the end, the choice is yours. The only thing you need to remember is that your choices are simple, it’s either you purchase durable and affordable wheels or choose the more flexible, stylish, and expensive ones.
Wheels can be accessorized too. If you feel like you spend too much or too little on your wheels and would like to add more detail to your wheel, it is possible. There’s no need to stick to the same design that you purchased over a year or more ago.
Just as mentioned a while ago, chrome wheels are merely wheels with a chrome finish. This is what you apply to your wheels in order to achieve that shiny and noticeable look.
If you're trying to make your wheels look cool, this is the accessory for you. Applying these is easy and simple enough. Some use clip-ons, while others are built for multi-part wheels. The former is usually easier to attach and detach while offering less durability that the ones built for multi-part wheels.
If colored wheels are your thing, there are paint jobs available for them. Purchasing these not only offer an aesthetic refreshment to your car, but they also provide your wheels with extra durability in battling the elements.
These are more functional accessories to be used in specific circumstances. You can install snow chains in order for your wheels to gain more traction on slippery terrain such as snow, hence the name.
Finding the right fit
When purchasing replacement car wheels, you have to find the right fit. Some cars have bigger wheel wells, while others have smaller ones. This characteristic lowers the amount of customizability that one may attain with wheels, however, if you really want to make your wheels bigger, body customization may be the answer, although, that would have to be in a different article altogether.
In purchasing wheels either for replacement or for upgrade purposes, it’s impeccable that you match the size of the wheel you’re eyeing to the actual size of your vehicle. It’s a good thing that CarParts.com has search filters that you can edit in order to find the wheel narrow fit to your wants and needs.
Boost Your Vehicle with the Best Wheel and Tire Package
Wheels and tires are often taken for granted and overlooked on a per day basis, but these parts actually demand more attention and maintenance than most of the other parts on your vehicle. Even though you have an excellent engine and well-maintained exterior, driving your car to your destination would be impossible if not for your wheels and tires. Unfortunately, the set on your vehicle doesn't last too long and will normally demand for a replacement. This is where the useful tips in finding the best wheel and tire package for your needs and preferences come in.
Know the reason you're buying a new package
Other than to replace the old and damaged wheels and tires on your car or truck, changing them and buying new ones are caused by certain factors.
To assemble a vehicle
A new set of wheels and tires is essential when assembling your own vehicle, of course. If this is the main purpose, you have several options available on the market today. You can opt for the new, aftermarket products or go for the used wheel and tire package sold by fellow DIY car enthusiasts.
To maintain vehicle condition
Even if either the wheels or tires aren't fully damaged, replacing the entire set is encouraged. Only replacing one tire or wheel and keeping the rest the same will affect your vehicle's performance in the long run. Therefore, changing all wheels and tires at the same time—even if only one is worn out—is the smarter move.
To upgrade overall look
Other than performance, the aesthetics of your vehicle is a major factor to most car and truck owners. The finish and quality of the wheel and tires do add to the visual appeal of the vehicle.
Know the right size for your vehicle
Wheels and tires come in different sizes. This is the reason installing a smaller-sized wheel as compared to the original one will result in a poor fit. This will also take a toll on the driving performance and could lead to road accidents due to difficulty in driving.
Know for what purpose the wheels and tires are
Different types and finish, which serve distinct functions, are available today. Gone are the days when a universal kind of wheels and tires can be used for all terrain and purpose.
Daily street drive
Alloy wheels are preferred if you intend to drive around the city only. They boost your vehicle's look and provide sturdy support for everyday use. They also weigh less than the other kinds and are known for giving better brake clearance. Alloy wheels, however, need proper maintenance to avoid damaging the finish due to certain weather and driving conditions.
If you live in an area where winter happens regularly, using steel wheels is advised. Not only do they cost less as compared to alloy wheels, they also fulfill the fundamental needs of beginners and experienced drivers.
Wheels and tires for off-road terrains are different from the regular street tires in terms of construction and materials. The set for uneven terrains and harsh conditions should support heavier load and have stiffer sidewalls to get the job done. Meanwhile, the tread patterns have wider space in between to give enough traction when driving in mud and snow.
Taking care of your wheels: helpful tips
Caring for your car's wheels is pretty easy. You have to consider the material that your wheels are made of, however, as different kinds of wheels require different caring techniques.
All wheels must be regularly cleaned. Regardless of the material your wheels are made of, soapy water and a soft sponge should be good enough when cleaning them. Rinse with clean water. You should dry them off with a soft cloth to prevent water spots from forming on their surface.
Of course, it gets trickier if your wheels get scratched or dented. Since a majority of vehicles come with painted steel or aluminum alloy wheels, we'll focus on repairing those types of wheels in this guide. Here are the tools you need and the steps to follow to get your car rims and wheels back in great shape in no time.
Difficulty level: Easy
Tools that you'll need:
- Lug wrench
- Jack stands
- Spot putty
- Scratch filling primer
- Wheel paint (that matches your wheel's color)
- Clear paint
- Masking tape
- Sandpaper (240 and 400-grit)
Step 1: Park the vehicle in a safe and level place. Use your jack to raise it then rest it on jack stands. Use the lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts on the wheel. Slowly slide the wheel off and rest it on the ground right-side up.
Step 2: Clean the wheel using soapy water and a soft sponge. Scrub all the dirt away. Use paint thinner to clean the damaged area.
Step 3: Prepare the wheel for sanding. Use masking tape to cover the area where the wheel and the tire meet. You should also completely cover the tire to stop it from getting painted on.
Step 4: Use 240-grit sandpaper to sand the damaged area. Apply putty over the damaged area and wait for it to dry completely. Use 400-grit sandpaper to sand over the area with the putty. Sand until the putty is flush with the surface of the wheel.
Step 5: Spray primer on repaired area. Let it dry then sand with 400-grit sandpaper. Clean off overspray with a rag.
Step 6: Spray some paint over the repaired area. Wait for it to dry completely. Apply clear coat and wait to dry.
After this, your tire will look as good as new.