Unlike anything else that are usually installed in an automobile, wheels have a lasting influence on any person who sees it. Custom wheels are very much like the same wheels that are factory installed in your car, the only difference is that custom wheels can be made in other designs, sizes, rim width and offset that changes the entire look of the car itself.
When you first took out the car from the showroom, they probably were fitted with the stock or what we call the OEM wheels. OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. This simply means that the wheels that the car came was made by another company and that it is that exact type of wheel that the car manufacturer chose to equip its vehicles.
It is not to say that changing the wheel to a set of custom wheels is bad, it is just most people who change their wheels often want to change the look of their cars. Some of you might say that they might as well change the paint color or add spoilers or something. But the wheel is the most basic modifiable piece of equipment that one can easily change without changing the overall look of the car.
But choosing what custom wheels to get becomes hard with the number of wheel manufacturers and the design that are available today. You also have to choose other aspects of the wheel that you may want so that it would fit perfectly with your car, not to mention the rim width, its offset and the rim size to match.
The most basic question on replacing your stock wheels are the rim size. You may have heard that most custom wheels are offered in sizes that may be different from the size that is installed in your vehicle. When selecting the proper size that would fit your vehicle, it is important that you take heed of the clearances that are necessary so that the new wheels will not hit anything inside the wheel well while the vehicle is moving.
The exact measurement that defines that rim size is just the diameter of the rim at its widest part, namely the lip, where the tire is snuggled up the rim when it is installed. It is available in sizes from the scooter sized 10 inch all the way to full sized SUV of around 20, 22, 24 or even 26 inches across and all the way to really customized wheels that can be as big as 30 inches, the biggest custom rims that you may ever want to buy.
Usually, there is a set maximum rim width that you can install in your without hitting anything inside it. The stock rims are a good indicator into what else may be hit before you decide to go and buy a wheel that is wider than your stock rim. Inspect the inter area of the rim and see up to where you can go with the rim width before you hit something while making a full steering lock u-turn.
The rim width is just a measurement from the outer end of one lip to the outer end of the other lip, and it is measure in inches. You may have seen ordinary road cars being transformed into sleek looking works of art, and may have noticed that some of them have the wheels sticking out from the fenders. There are cars that can ‘look’ good if the wheels and tires stick out part ways, and most of the time, these types of wheels is usually installed at the back of the car.
These types of wheels have a different ‘offset’ to it.
An offset is simply how much the wheel sticks outward or inward relative to the center hub. A wheel that has a zero offset would stick out way too much since it is measured from the centerline of the rim. Get the rim width, divide it by two, and you get the center of the rim. That is where the zero offset lies. The offset is measure from the centerline of the rim to the back of the center hub, or where you put the lugnuts into the rim and it is measured in millimeters.
It is possible that you may have seen custom wheels that have an offset of +38 or +30 or +6 at one time, this only indicates how forward or backward the rim itself projects from the center hub. High positive offset rims are mainly used with front wheel drive cars, since it you will most often rotate your four tires during its lifetime, you would need rims that have the same offset.
There are cars that have different offset rims, like sports cars. Most of these cars use a very low positive offset rim at the back, and a high positive offset rim at the front. It may not just be for looks alone. Zero offset custom wheels at the rear essentially widens the rear track of the car, and high offset rims at the front narrows the front track of the car.
You may ask why would they do this on sports cars. Well, a wider track, or the distance between two wheels in parallel, allows that part of the car to hug the road better, while a narrower track allows more weight to transfer to one side of the car. Since most sports car also need to change direction much quicker, a narrow front track allows that while keeping the rear end of the car relatively in check, even in very heavy, high speed cornering.
This is where it gets really hard to choose what type of custom wheels you would want to buy for your vehicle. There is literally hundreds of designs that are available and a lot of them would look good in your car or SUV.
So the question is what design would you want to put into your vehicle that makes it look good at the same time, make the design of the rim blend in with the rest of the car? Well, this question is not easy to answer, as the design is more often than not a subjective view that may even be influence on your emotional state at that particular moment in time.
There are way to be able to choose the type of design that you may ultimately want. The guide below will help you decide what you want, and not what other people may see.
1) If you want a rim that no one else has, be prepared to pay a lot of money for it. Most custom rims are already expensive, but since most of them do mass production in order to reduce the costs, they make a lot of copies of those rims. A hand designed, one off custom rim is exponentially more expensive since they make just one copy, at your request, and stop there.
2) Try to research what popular designs are being purchased by most people who want a certain look to their vehicles, what vehicles they own and what are they doing with it. Then make your own list of what you actually want versus what you need, and compare the two.
3) Look at the top five or top ten most popular design of the custom wheels from your previous list as see if these designs fit your car and what other design fits with your car. Unfortunately as this point you really do not know what would really go along with your car unless you see the design being installed in it. But there are a number of ways you can ‘virtually’ install rims to your car without doing it in real life. The sub guide below shows you how.
a) Take a full length side view picture of your car with the wheels pointing straight.
b) Scan it into your computer.
c) Take a picture of the wheel that you would probably want to install in your car. Best photos are the ones where the rims are not an angle. Usually you can find those being posted everywhere nowadays.
d) Using a photo editor program, reduce the rim photo to the size of your rims in your picture and paste the picture exactly where the old rim was. Do the same thing with the other rim.
e) Keep on replacing the rims until you see the one that strikes your fancy, or the rim that you really liked.
4) After finding the rim that you want to have, it is just a matter of ordering it with the proper fitment so that it will fit exactly in the axle of your vehicle. Remember that customized wheels can be ordered to fit any number of vehicles, so it is important that the people you ordered from knows what vehicle the rim should fit into.
Fitment simply means that the customized wheel should fit exactly into the axle of your vehicle. There are many types of configuration for all types of cars, SUVs, vans and trucks and each one has its own specific type of rim fitment guide.
There are times where even the same model cars of a different year use different lugnut spacing patterns, or that the hub diameter from a front wheel drive car is generally different from a rear wheel drive car. You may find specific wheels that are designed for front wheel drives but can be used in rear wheel drives, but those customized wheels that were designed for old rear wheel drive cars may not fit exactly into the axle of front wheel drive cars.
These are the intricacies of the fitment guide. Most custom wheel manufacturers have a database of most vehicles that were made and marketed, so they have the exact fitment guide that they can follow when making a set of rims exactly for your vehicle.
The general things that these manufacturers follow exactly are the number of the lugnuts, the spacing of the lugnuts, the diameter of the center hole, to make sure that it fits clears the center hub of your axle, plus the type of lugnut hole that is to be place on your rim.
The type and size of the lugnuts vary with each manufacturer. Most OEM manufacturers use the steel open ended or close ended (there is a cap on one end of the lugnut), usually chromed or galvanized lugnut that is available anywhere. For custom wheel manufacturers, you have a lot more types of lugnuts to choose from.
There are thin, tapered end lug nuts that look like oversized hex nuts, and they use a nut adaptor to be able to install these lugnut into the car, there are very light, alloy racing lugnuts that are used in races, but fail faster when used regularly on the street, lock nuts that you use to secure your new rims to your car without having to fear that someone can just remove them with a regular tire wrench, since these lugnuts can only be removed with a special ‘key’ adaptor that only you know where it is located, and sometimes, OEM shank style lugnuts. These shank style lugnuts have an extension that goes into the rim, and a washer that diffuses the load of the nut over the bigger area of the washer.
Looking for a custom set of wheels for your car should not be as confusing as most people would want you to think. It only takes a certain perspective from your part to imagine what the perfect rim is for your car. It does take a considerable amount of time to make a quick background research on what rims offer the best qualities that you are looking for.
Whether purely for show or as a weekend race car, buying and installing the best custom wheels that properly fits your car ensures that you drive in safety, looks like a million bucks and gets everyone staring at your car for a lot longer time than they normally do. On the other hand, do it wrong and everyone laughs at what you did.
This is why it is important to be able to visualize what your car will look like even before you buy the rims. Being able to see what the rims are helps you in your decision of selecting the best rims for your car.