But, as with so many things, life is not as simple as it was in the Fifties and Sixties, and that applies to aftermarket wheels and tires as much as it does to everything else. Because cars and trucks are more varied and sophisticated than ever before, you can’t just go out and get a set of wheels and expect them to fit your car. Further, even if they seem to fit, they still might cause you problems that can harm your car’s ride, handling, and even safety. So here are some tips on figuring out what wheels from other vehicles will fit your car.
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Diameter is Just the First Variation
You are probably aware that wheels differ by diameter. For instance, you might be thinking of shifting from a 17-inch (diameter) wheel to an 18-inch wheel for the improved appearance and possible improvement in handling. But a difference in diameter is just the beginning of the variations.
Additional factors that you must consider when you change wheels are the wheel’s offset, centerbore, bolt pattern, lug hardware, potential suspension interference, and load capacity. If any one of these things is wrong the wheels either won’t fit or, if they do fit, they won’t perform well and could actually be unsafe.
The offset of a wheel is the distance from its mounting surface at the hub to the centerline of the wheel. A wheel with zero offset has a hub mounting surface that is in line with the centerline of the wheel. A wheel with positive offset has a hub mounting surface that is located on the “wheel face” side of the centerline. And a wheel with a negative offset has a hub mounting surface that is on the suspension side of the wheel’s centerline. If the offset is not correct for the vehicle in question problems will almost certainly ensue. Further, if your original equipment wheels are, say, positive offset, it doesn’t mean any positive offset wheel will work well. A change in wheel width could require a change in offset.
The wheel’s centerbore is the opening on the back of the wheel that positions the wheel properly on the hub of a vehicle. Getting this right is critical to minimizing the chance of wheel vibration after the lugs are tightened. Some aftermarket wheels designed to be used on a variety of models have a centering ring system to reduce the bore size to match various hub sizes. Original-equipment wheels on current vehicles are most often engineered for a specific vehicle and don’t offer such a system.
Bolt Pattern is Key
When you look at the typical wheel, the basic bolt pattern is pretty obvious by the number of visible lugs. But fitting the right wheels is not a simple matter of a 5-lug versus a 4-lug design.
Currently, there are 17 different 4- and 5-lug bolt patterns, and trucks and SUVs often have 6- or 8-lug wheels. The bolt pattern (also referred to as the bolt circle) is the diameter of the circle formed by connecting arcs between the centers of each of the wheel lugs. A 4 x 100 bolt circle denotes a 4-lug pattern in a circle with a diameter of 100mm. To add to the complication, measurements of the very popular 5-lug bolt circles require a specific tool.
Be Wary About Putting Wheels from Other Vehicles on Your Car
As you can see, fitting new wheels on your car isn’t as simple as getting a wheel with the same bolt pattern and diameter. To fit correctly, offer the proper driving dynamics, and ensure safety, the wheel must have not only the proper bolt pattern, but also the proper width, centerbore, offset, and load capacity for the vehicle. Because getting all this right is a difficult process, consulting a tire store or aftermarket wheel dealer locally or online is a very good idea.