2008GuideReinventing the wheel is what the wheel companies have been doing for years. Custom wheels have become the ultimate automotive accessory and are on an entirely different level than back in the day. There was a time when your car was equipped with humble pieces of steel called hubcaps that attached to the stock wheel; some of which were not very attractive. If wheels were dressed up at all, they were fitted with dog dish-shaped hubcaps and chrome trim rings, or maybe, if an owner had a true sense of style, cross-bar or spinner wheel covers. Then came aftermarket mag wheels and wire wheels, but today, the sky's the limit, and the tire and wheel choices are endless.

More Knowledge Means More OptionsIt's easy these days to find out basic information from "plus size" (a size larger than stock) rim options for any vehicle to rolling on smaller wheels. Don't be scared to ask about rolling on 13s or 34s when you go to a wheel shop. You should ask as many questions as possible. Many retailers both online and in stores should ask for your vehicle's year, make and model, then they should show you the wheels that will fit.

Next on the agenda is to look for your application of wheels. For starters, wheels will be divided into car and truck/SUV designs; that's easy enough. The next question will be: is your vehicle front-wheel-drive (FWD) or rear-wheel-drive (RWD)? Rear-wheel-drive rims tend to have a deep dish (or, in technical terms, a zero or negative offset). Front-wheel-drive rims tend to have a very shallow dish (or a positive offset) to clear the brake calipers and various suspension components. Offset is the distance from the center of a wheel to its mounting surface (i.e., the place where it bolts to your vehicle's axle hub). The lower the offset, the closer the mounting surface is to the inner edge of the wheel. The higher the offset, the more space there is inside the wheel, behind the mounting surface. You also need to know your vehicle's bolt pattern, so you can buy wheels that will bolt right on.

Backspacing is the distance between the innermost edge of a wheel and the mounting surface. Backspacing and offset affect whether the wheel will fit within your vehicle's wheelwell or stick out beyond the fender. It will also affect the "bearing load" path. In general, you want your wheels to be as far out to the sides as possible, as long as they aren't rubbing against the wheelwells when your suspension compresses; especially important with hydraulics or air ride. Placing the wheels out to the sides gives you a wide stance for improved stability and handling. If the new wheels and tires extend beyond the wheelwells, some states mandate the addition of fender flares or fender extensions to cover the tires; some states even require the use of mud flaps.

Lose Some Weight/Better StoppingSome wheels are considerably heavier than others, and wheel weight does matter. Simply put, the lighter the wheels, the less effort it takes a vehicle to accelerate and the better its ride quality will be. As a rule, two- or three-piece wheels are lighter than one-piece designs. And steel wheels typically are much heavier than aluminum. Steel wheels also usually are stronger than cast or billet aluminum wheels; however, forged aluminum wheels can be extremely strong enough strong enough for off-road racing. If you really want to get extreme, there's a set of carbon fiber outer wheels that were for track purposes only that started off at $14,000 a piece and could be added to your three-piece wheels for extreme lightness.

When you swap to a "taller" (larger) wheel than stock, you make it possible to fit larger disc brakes on your vehicle. Installing larger brake rotors will help bring your vehicle to a stop sooner. Plus, they will enhance braking control. Of course, many people swap to bigger brakes simply because they look better behind big wheels, especially wheels with a very open design. Some people choose slotted, cross-drilled or zinc-plated brake rotors, as much for their "cool factor" as for the potential performance improvement.

Choosing The Right FinishWheels are available in a variety of finishes, you should pick something that best reflects your needs. They can be plated, polished, anodized or powdercoated; some need more maintenance than others. If you like shiny rims, you have a choice between polished and chrome-plated aluminum, or steel wheel finishes including silver or gold plating. Some companies offer their rims in any color you'd like. These wheels typically are powdercoated or painted, but some colors (including matte black and bronze) are available as an anodized finish.

Of all the options, polished bare aluminum wheels require the most maintenance, since they can become oxidized and require re-polishing. That's why many polished aluminum wheels are finished with "clearcoat" paint these days. As a rule, plated, painted and powdercoated wheels need only regular washing (and sometimes a good wheel cleaner to remove built-up brake dust).

One important thing is to read the manufacturer's recommended cleaning instructions. Some of the wheels can react to some of the chemical cleaners that are out in the market ruining wheels. Don't ever cut corners by trying to save yourself a buck as it can cost you hundreds in repairs; always read the cleaners before spraying them on your wheels. Custom wheels and tires are among some of the most expensive accessories that you will buy for your ride.

The most important thing is that you should be an informed shopper and don't jump into a set of wheels without doing a little research. So, arm yourself with as much information as possible before you drop major chips for those stylish new wheels. You'll be less likely to have problems and you'll be much happier down the road. We hope that the Guide that we've compiled helps you out with your wheel shopping.

Picking The Right Wheels For Your RideA vehicle's wheels and tires from the factory are designed to do the job, just like a good, sturdy pair of walking shoes and sweat socks. But we all know that we aren't sensible shoes kind of people. For most of us, slipping into a set of wire wheels with 5.20s, or plus-size chrome, polished or colored rims with matching low-profile tires is the definitive fashion statement for our rides. The number of wheel and tire choices available these days can be overwhelming. The only thing that's getting harder and harder to do is find a good tire for your wire wheel as most of our favorite tires are disappearing.

The reason is that OEM manufacturers are turning there back on the smaller tires and are looking at the benefits of plus sizes. Most of today's manufacturers are building their cars with stock 15-inch wheels as these wheels improve the handling, making the 13- and 14-inch wheel obsolete. If you love your radials the way we love our 5.20s, you should probably stock up a set until the tire industry figures out what they're going to do with our classic cars or until somebody steps to the plate to fill the void. Now let us help you pick the right wheel for your ride with our 2008 Tire and Wheel Guide.

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