Count on Advance Auto Parts for reliable info about your ride, whether you’re looking to improve performance or street appeal – or both. Today, we take a look at one of its most basic features, the wheel. Most iconic wheels in history According to CarThrottle.com’s top 10 list, the Ferrari F40 from the late 1980s and early 1990s is the winner. According to the site, these wheels are as special as the car itself and “despite being only 17 inches at each corner (small by today’s supercar standards), they displayed all the confidence in design that became synonymous with the era.” Second place went to the BMW E30’s cross spoke alloy wheels that cost extra when the car was first released in 1982. Check out the article for photos of these two beauties, as well as the wheel choices in places three through ten. Modern-day choices Whether you’re looking to pimp your ride (wouldn’t it be great to have a fresh new look after a long winter?) or whether you’re looking for tough dependable choices from reliable brands, here is guidance. First, a video. In it, Alan Peltier, president of HRE Wheels, shares the latest in his company’s custom high street performance wheels with Jay Leno – including one that Leno says looks like so much trouble that it should get a ticket even when not in motion. Warning: if you fall in love with these babies, be prepared to spend $6,000-$12,000 – or even $15,000 to $20,000 – for a set of four: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yujW1mtjVD4 Now, let’s get more practical. CarThrottle.com names the ten most incredible aftermarket wheels for when you’re ready to make your ride look amazing. Topping the list:
- Rota Grid: called the “Swiss Army Knife of rims” for their ability to look “awesome on pretty much any car,” they come with uncluttered wide spokes.
- OZ Ultraleggera: if you love a dark grey finish, CarThrottle.com recommends this “gorgeous multi-spoke design.”
- ATS Classic: these come with contrasting black centers with chrome rims.
- KMC Ink’d: called a “canvas for wheel artists. Just breathtaking.”
- TSW Silverstone: “dead black inner looks great in the daylight, but tends to disappear at night, leaving the bright-silver, diamond cut outer ring looking like it floats in midair as the car is moving.”
- Enkei GW8: “I’ve never seen anything even remotely like this wheel. Minimalist red plastic inserts and a jagged, asymmetrical spoke design make the GW8 one of Enkei’s unique works of wheel art.”
• Pressure casting:
- Low pressure: air forces the molten metal into the mold, making it denser and stronger
- Counter-pressure: a mild vacuum in the mold sucks the alloy into it; this also makes a denser, stronger wheel
• Free flowing: high pressure rollers stretch and shape the alloy, creating a thin dense metal that is similar to forged aluminum (see below)Some wheels are made of forged aluminum where a solid piece of alloy is placed under 13 million pounds of pressure (and heat) to crush it before shaping. This makes an exceptionally dense and strong piece of metal that is also very light. TSW Wheels takes forging a step further, doing so while the forge is spinning at high speeds, which creates an even stronger product. See Tires.About.com’s Wheel Composition and Construction for more info. Time to DIY The TireRack.com site is a great resource when you’re a DIYer. One article suggests that, when choosing which wheels to buy, you should consider quality, integrity and value. What level of quality do you need? If you’re looking for winter wheels, you’ll have less of a need for sophisticated technology, TireRack.com points out, than if you’re looking to race. Having the correct size of wheels, of course, is crucial. You already know that they come in a wide range of widths, from the petite 14” wheels to massive 24” ones, with 16”, 17” and 18” serving as common diameters. Widths tend to increase along with diameters, so you might see a 14 x 5 wheel or a 19 x 10 one. Yet, a proper fit is something more than diameter (or even diameter and width). According to TireRack.com, “To property fit on a vehicle the wheel must have the proper bolt pattern, centerbore, offset, width, and most importantly, the proper load capacity for the vehicle.” And, when selecting wheels, make sure that you tell your vendor what has been upgraded on your vehicle. If, for example, the brake system has been modified, then additional measurements need taken for an optimal fit. If you’re buying online and need to measure the wheels yourself, eBay.com’s Wheels and Rims Buying Guide offers advice. If you aren’t changing the size, it’s fairly simple. Look at the code that’s on your current wheels. It might read “225/70R16.” If so, then these are 16 inch wheels on a 225 millimeter radial tire with a sidewall height of 70. Note that, on some high performance cars, rear wheels are slightly larger than those in the front. If plus-sizing your wheels, then precise measurements are a must. Measure the width (left edge to right edge); diameter (top to bottom); bolt pattern (“how many bolts; measure width of bolt circle with bolt circle gauge or use measuring tape and starting at edge of first bolt hole, measure to the center of the third bolt hole, skipping the second one); backspace (clearance of wheel from the wheel well); and offset (distance from the hub mounting surface to the wheel centerline) When it’s time to install your wheels, we refer you back to TireRack.com. The site offers tire and wheel installation tips. Even if you’re fairly comfortable with doing the job yourself, it wouldn’t hurt to review these first. Budgeting for your upgrade Costs vary widely. Bigger wheel sizes, not surprisingly, can cost more than smaller ones, all else being equal. Steel is cheaper than alloy. Plainer wheels are typically less expensive than flashy and/or artistic choices, and more appealing wheel finishes can cost you. We’ve seen $65 wheels on discounted wheel sites. We’ve seen refurbished wheels that cost much less than what they would when brand new, and we’ve seen eye-catching ones that are custom made (and therefore more expensive). It will almost always be cheaper to upgrade your Ford or Chevy than your Mercedes-Benz. Replacements for luxury cars can easily cost $500-600 per wheel. The best general advice that we can give:
- Determine your vehicle’s needs; as mentioned above, you need more sophistication if you plan to race than if you drive more traditionally.
- Decide your budget.
- Choose wheels of reasonable quality that fit your vehicle (and your budget).
- Don’t be so penny foolish that you buy wheels that are poorly made or that aren’t the best fit because those decisions will cost you in the long run.
- Beyond that, let your personal taste be your guide.
- Have fun!
Last updated June 6, 2018