Deciding on The Best Wheels for Your Ride

By  //  April 16, 2021

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Close up of a German luxury sport car.

You love your car. You hand wash it and wax it. You don’t let your idiot brother eat in it since the taco incident. You double the recommended follow length when you are stuck behind a gravel truck.

You always park under a cover, even if it means walking an extra half mile so you can be inside a parking deck. The one thing about your car you don’t love is the wheels.

Whether it is the boring factory wheels on your truck, the dated 90s hip hop video rims on your Escalade, or the weird plastic and chrome hubcaps on your classic Cutlass, the wheels on your ride can make or break the look of the whole vehicle.

If you are thinking about making a change in the way your ride looks, wheels are the best thing you can do short of a lift or a paint job, and they are the only ones that you can do in just a few hours. When the time comes to change out your wheels, there are a few things to consider.

Size

This isn’t as cut and dried as you might think. Without changing anything mechanical on your vehicle, it is possible to go with a larger or smaller wheel than it currently has. A larger rim could even be used with a tire that has a similar profile but a larger interior radius to allow you a dramatic change without changing the way your car drives at all.

Most vehicles, especially SUVs and trucks, can take slightly larger wheels and tires combo without making any changes to the suspension, giving you a more aggressive profile and more rugged capabilities. You could also add a lift kit to give greater clearance, and install much larger tires and rims, completely changing the aesthetic and function of your ride. The same could be done in the other direction, pairing a narrower profile tire with a lowered vehicle.

Material

There are several materials available for wheels, and they come in all shapes and sizes. The material can affect performance, but for the average driver, the primary reason to choose materials is aesthetics.

Steel wheels are traditional and come in a large variety of styles. Steel wheels can be brushed or polished like chrome. Steel wheels are extremely durable, but they are heavy. Steel wheels are the least likely to get bent or broken if you are doing activities like off-roading, but they are the heaviest option for day-to-day performance and fuel economy.

Aluminum wheels are also very popular. Aluminum is much lighter, and so it is better for daily drivers that stay on the highway. Fuel economy is improved, but a curb scrub or pothole can warp the rim of an aluminum wheel. Aluminum can sometimes be bent or hammered back into shape if this happens, but it is possible to crack it as well.

Carbon fiber wheels are a much more recent option. They are especially appropriate for racing applications, or if you want the aesthetic of a street racer. Carbon fiber is very light and tough. It is a flexible material that can put up with a lot of abuse, but if it does finally crack, there isn’t much you can do for it.

Style

Wheels come in a huge variety of styles, and this is an area where aesthetics takes place over function. When choosing styles, you can really focus on the look that you want for your car.

Spokes are a classic look that gives your ride a show car vibe. Spokes don’t really say performance, but they scream style.  IF you want a more classic look a milled rim could be perfect. There are also machined wheels available in a million different styles.

Regardless of what style wheel you choose, pair it with the right tires, and speak to a professional to make sure it is the right fit for your car, both aesthetically, and mechanically. An improper wheel can lead to damage to your suspension and safety issues down the road.

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