What to look out for when buying new wheels

When looking for a new set of wheels for your vehicle chances are you either want to enhance its handling characteristics or to help change its looks. However, the process isn’t as easy as picking a design you like and attaching it to your car. There are several factors to consider and technical data to look out for when doing this. That said, we have created a quick guide to help you understand what you need to look out for when buying a new set of wheels for your vehicle. 

researching for a wheel

Before you go out and start buying your new set of wheels it is best to do some research on what kind of wheels will fit on your vehicle. A quick and easy way to figure this out is to research variants of your vehicle being sold in other countries. Chances are they will come with bigger wheels that may fit the size you are looking for. This eliminates the need for guesswork and makes it easier for you to find the specifications that you need. It also comes with the benefit of being within manufacturers’ specifications which gives you a slight increase in handling without affecting your vehicle too much.

If, however, you want a wheel size that is above what is available from the factory for your vehicle, then more research is needed. Start off by looking for your vehicle’s Pitch Circle Diameter (PCD), the hub bore/center bore, and offset. Getting this information will help you figure out what kinds of wheels will fit your vehicle. 

Once you have the information figured out, you can then go to websites that will help you calculate if your chosen wheels will fit your vehicle. Some websites may even allow you to compare it to your stock wheels to see how much of a difference your new set will give you. Conversely, you can also check with local car clubs and see what their members have done in order to fit the wheels you want.

It is important to note that taller and wider wheels may cause rubbing issues with your vehicle if you don’t fit them with the corresponding tire size. Make sure to do research on which tire sizes you should go for when getting your new set of wheels.

aftermarket wheels

The Pitch Circle Diameter (PCD) is the diameter of the circle that passes through the center of all the studs, wheel bolts, or wheel rim holes. Figuring this out will help you narrow down your choices for your new wheelset. It is important to note that not all PCDs are the same for vehicles so make sure to read the fine text when looking for which one fits your vehicle. Most common PCDs for vehicles are 4x100, 4x114, 5x100, 5x114, and 6x139. Some vehicles will have very specific PCDs such as European cars which will have 5x120, 5x114.3, and even 5x105. With that said, we can’t stress this enough to research first before buying a new set of wheels for your car.

wheel offset

Offset refers to the wheel’s mounting surface relative to the centerline of the wheel itself. As a quick backgrounder, the centerline of the wheel is its middle point if you were to cut it in half vertically. 

If a wheel has a zero offset, this means that two equal halves of the wheel lay on either side of your mounting surface. If your wheel has a negative offset this means that your mounting surface is much closer to the outside of your wheel, the side that faces away from the fender. If, however, your wheel has a positive offset, this means that the mounting point is much closer to the inner part of your wheel that resides inside the fender. 

Offset is often denoted by numbers so a +35 offset means that the centerline of the wheel is 35 mm in front of the mounting surface. If a wheel has a -42 offset this means that its centerline is 42 mm behind the mounting surface. When choosing a wheel make sure that the offset you choose also allows some clearance for your car’s brakes. This applies to vehicles that come from the factory with big brake kits so adjust your offsets accordingly to fit the brakes. 

This is why researching your vehicle’s proper offset is important as it will help prevent your new set of wheels from rubbing against your fenders or fender lining. If your chosen wheelset does not fit within the correct offset you can fix this by adding spacers if the offset is in the negatives.

wheel center bore

The center bore refers to the hole in the middle of the wheel. The larger the bolt pattern circle is on a wheel the bigger the center bore can be. Is important to note that not all wheels come with the same measurements for their respective center bores. Even if the PCD is correct, the wrong center bore could prevent you from properly mounting your chosen wheels onto your vehicle. Keep that in mind when shopping for a new set of wheels. 

aftermarket wheels

After you have collected all the technical data needed for your new set of wheels you can now begin your wheel shopping journey. You can go around popular wheel shops near your area and see if they have the wheels in the design you like that fits your vehicle’s specifications. You can also go online and look up aftermarket wheel manufacturers and their catalogs in case what you want isn’t available in a shop near you.

If, however, you want to buy from the second-hand market, remember that it is always a gamble. You won’t know the condition of the wheels and if they have been repaired. As much as possible don’t go for repaired, bent, or damaged wheels. This means that the structure of the wheel has already been compromised and may cause a flat or even an accident. It will also be harder for you to have the wheels balanced leading to a more expensive service bill. That said, wheels that are fairly new and only have a few curb marks are still fine for consideration. Consider the date of production and the date that the wheel was originally installed on the seller's car. 

aftermarket wheels

Now that you have found the wheels that you have been looking for make sure that you pair them with the correct tires. This will vary from vehicle to vehicle, however, the general rule is to go with tires that will not rub against your fender or your fender liner at full lock. You can find this information online or you can ask your local car club to see which size of tire fits best with your chosen wheels. As much as possible stick to the factory tire diameter for your vehicle. 

One more thing to take note of is that when you go for a bigger and wider set of wheels this will affect the acceleration of your vehicle. A bigger set of wheels will effectively increase your final gear ratio thus affecting how fast your vehicle accelerates. It will also affect the reading on your speedometer as it may show a lower speed than what your vehicle is actually traveling. So, keep that in mind when getting a new set of wheels for your vehicle.

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