Rims, Wheels, and Hubcaps: What's the Difference?
The terms wheels, rims, and hubcaps get tossed around a lot. But what are the differences between them, what do you have on your vehicle, and what should you look for when replacing or upgrading the look of your car or truck? We have the answers.
What's The Difference Between Wheels And Rims?
Technically, there are differences. But, depending on where you’re at and who you’re talking to, the words wheels and rims are mostly interchangeable. A wheel refers to the equipment that grips the tire and attaches to the vehicle with lugs. Rims, on the other hand, can include the cylindrical outer edges of the wheel that seal the tire in place. At Les Schwab, we call them wheels. However, the industry does use the term rims for some custom options.
What Distinguishes Center Caps, Hubcaps, Wheel Covers?
A lot of vehicles sport center caps, hubcaps or wheel covers. Some of today’s EVs use wheel covers or hubcaps to boost range. But what are the differences?
Center Caps: Found most often on RVs and trailers, as well as offroad vehicles in the 1970s and 80s, center caps leave the lugs visible while attaching to the center of the wheel. These inventions were used to keep dirt out of the wheel bearings. Today’s vehicles that have center caps typically cover more of the overall wheel, including the lugs.
Hubcaps/Wheel Covers: These are the same thing. If your vehicle came with standard, black or steel wheels, you will likely find they also have hubcaps or wheel covers. This is for aesthetics as well as aerodynamics.
How Does a Hubcap Differ from a Wheel?
When looking at the wheels on a car or truck, it might not be easily apparent that there are hubcaps covering those wheels. A hubcap attached directly to the wheel is used to either hide an ordinary or unsightly wheel or add aerodynamics to a vehicle. Sometimes it does both. The wheel, on the other hand, is there as a way of attaching the tire to the vehicle.
While most aftermarket wheels do not come with hubcaps, they can often be added to some steel wheels to protect them from debris, preserve the wheel bearings, or increase fuel efficiency or range.
How to Choose Wheels and Rims for Your Car
Stop by your local Les Schwab where we can help you choose a new set of wheels for your car, truck, SUV, or CUV. Our pros understand wheel offset and how to help you decide on the perfect set for your vehicle. Want to start shopping right now? Check out our online wheel selector, or stop by any store and we’ll walk you through the process to ensure you get the right size, style, and type of wheel to fit your vehicle and budget.
Is It Possible to Replace Rims with a Different Size?
You can replace the wheels on your vehicle with a new, custom set. You can even choose a different size. This may require lifting or lowering your vehicle and buying different size tires.
One option is called plus-sizing. Essentially, we install larger diameter wheels with lower profile tires to improve and enhance the handling (thanks to an increased contact patch) and appearance (with a shorter sidewall or aspect ratio) of your vehicle.
Can Damaged Wheels, Rims, or Hubcaps be Repaired?
The wheels on your vehicle take a lot of punishment. There are times when even the sturdiest of wheels can crack, chip, dent, or bend and need to be repaired or replaced due to rocks and debris, potholes, de-icer and more. Even scratches, caused by rubbing on a curb or two, can happen to the best of us.
Don’t worry. Small scratches won’t typically affect the safety of your wheel, but chips and cracks do. Cracks of any size in any type of wheel cannot be repaired and the wheels should be replaced. And bent wheels? Steel wheels can sometimes be straightened after an accident. Aluminum wheels cannot.
At Les Schwab, we’re happy to give your wheels a visual inspection and help you decide if you need a new set.
How to Properly Maintain Rims and Wheels to Ensure Their Longevity
You’ll find a full array of wheel cleaners and polishes at your local Les Schwab. Stop by and pick up everything you need to keep your wheels looking new. In between those extra-special cleanings and polishes, the best way to care for your wheels is to simply clean them along with the rest of your vehicle.
First, hose them off, scrub them with soapy water, rinse them, and allow them to dry. That’s it. Try to avoid abrasives or car wax as these can damage the finish.
Let Les Schwab Help with All Your Wheel Needs
When you’re ready to add new wheels to your car or truck, stop by and talk with the pros at Les Schwab. We’ve been helping people find the perfect set of wheels for decades, whether it’s a custom set to enhance a specific color or style, or the need for added performance.