I have always believed in the phrase knowledge is power. The more knowledge you have pertaining to an area of interest, the more prepared you’ll be when you decide o pursue it. This is no different in the automotive world; especially in the case of wheels in particular, as there are so many products to choose from, you’ll need a leg up on the competition to know which way to go when making the right purchase for your ride. The key is to not become intimidated by the process; it’s easy to find out basic information on all sizes and styles of wheels in today’s marketplace. 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 basic information regarding your vehicle’s year, and the make and model, in order to help you find a set of wheels that will properly fit your ride. Once you give up this information, it will help to look for your ideal set of wheels.
This year, we will jump right into the wheels. The first thing you need to know is that aftermarket wheels are divided into car and truck/SUV designs. Next, you need to know if your vehicle is 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, designed to clear the brake calipers and various suspension components. The offset is the distance from the center of a wheel to its mounting surface, 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. Also, if your wheel is a five lug, it doesn’t mean that the wheels will fit another car that is a five lug if the bolt pattern isn’t the same. You need to know your vehicle’s bolt pattern, so you can buy wheels that will bolt right on. The best way to find this information is by looking in your owner’s manual or by looking it up online, as there are a few websites that have accumulated this information over several years.
Wheels are available in a variety of finishes, so you should pick something that best reflects your needs. They can be plated, polished, painted, anodized or powder coated, and some need more maintenance than others. If you like shiny rims, you have a choice between polished and chromed aluminum, or steel wheel finishes including silver or gold plating. Some companies offer their rims in any color you’d like. These wheels are typically powder coated 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. Due to this maintenance issue, many polished aluminum wheels are finished with clear coat paint these days. As a rule, plated, painted, and powder coated wheels need only regular washing, and sometimes a good wheel cleaner, to remove built-up brake dust.
It is safe to say that it is getting harder and harder to find a good tire for your wire wheel, as most of our favorite tires are disappearing. The reason is that OEM manufacturers are turning their back on the smaller tires and are looking more 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 I love my 5.20’s, you should probably stock up a set until the tire industry figures out what they are going to do with the our classic cars, or at least until somebody steps to the plate to fill the nations void.