If you want to make a small style statement with your car or truck, you might hang some fuzzy dice on your rearview mirror. Still others may decide to completely obscure their view out the back window with decals of happy little stick-figure families, political slogans, and/or vulgar cartoon characters. On the other hand, serious style comes into play with customized rims—literally, the part of the wheel onto which your tires mount, but often referring to the visible part of the wheel.
Summer is a great time to upgrade your car wheels or lift your truck for a few extra inches of chrome. We can just imagine the sun glinting off your new rims. First, though, you’ll want to understand how rims fit onto your vehicle and what the different choices are.
Plus Sizing for Cars
Have you ever noticed how high-end sports and luxury cars often show off a higher ratio of rim to tire? These flashy proportions are called “plus sizing.”
Whatever your car’s standard rim size is, plus-sized rims add at least an inch to their diameter as well as to the width. For example, plus sizing a 16-inch rim could mean going to 17, 18, or even 19 inches while increasing from 7" to 8-9" in width.
Wider car rims increase the amount of tire tread in contact with the road at any given time. Thus, you get improved handling, especially at higher speeds. But you want the world to know, right? So, these same rims typically increase in diameter from the standard proportions that most cars have, and the tire height off the rim shrinks to accommodate the difference and produce a striking visual appeal.
How Big Is Too Big?
If you increase the rim diameter without reducing the tire height by the same amount, you’ll damage the vehicle’s suspension—the system that links your car’s frame to its wheels—and compromise its anti-lock brake system, or ABS. The larger wheels can also push your speedometer off its game—and the officer who pulls you over will probably be less than understanding or impressed. Don’t risk your safety for a status symbol!
The only way to go bigger safely after a certain point is to customize the suspension by replacing the shocks or using a lift kit. It’s best to go through your dealership to ensure that the suspension lift kit fits with your particular vehicle’s make and model.
The whole low-profile tire look is decidedly less desirable in trucks. Instead of sleek and sporty, most people want their trucks to look rugged and ready for anything. So, while many car enthusiasts will stick with a level of plus sizing that their automobile’s native suspension can handle, bigger truck wheels require you to have that lift kit installed. Plus, lifting your truck gives you more ground clearance to do that extreme off-roading that’s on your bucket list without it bringing about the end of said list.
Materials and Finishes
Car rims can come in a few different materials with a vast array of finishes. Meanwhile, most truck wheels consist of steel or aluminum alloy, also known as cast alloy, rims.
Steel wheels feature most frequently on trucks due to their durability. Steel tends to be less expensive than the other materials, but it also weighs more. Typical paint schemes include black or white with gloss or matte finishes. Otherwise, the chrome steel can be polished or left raw and covered with hubcaps to look as if it’s alloy.
For drivers who are more concerned about aesthetics, handling, and fuel efficiency than off-road performance, lighter-weight aluminum alloy rims work better. These rims come in a greater variety of styles, colors, and finishes than those from the other, less popular materials. They can be painted just about any color or sometimes even chrome plated.
You may have heard alloy wheels in general being referred to as “mags.” Originally, high-performance racing wheels comprised pure magnesium, but manufacturers thought better of it when they saw their tendency to crack, corrode, and even catch fire. Today’s ultra-lightweight magnesium alloy rims come at a premium, but they’re no longer particularly flammable or prone to corrosion. They often come in patterns of fanned spokes and mostly in black or chrome plated.
If you want the least weight possible and a distinctive look, carbon fiber rims may be an option—depending on how many mansions you own. First developed for aerospace engineering, carbon fiber is strong, heat-resistant, and extremely lightweight. Due to its strength, less material is necessary, giving these rims a minimalistic appearance. It’s also very, very expensive. The woven fibers make such a statement visually that few would dare paint over it—plus, finishes would add weight to the wheel. In fact, since so few can afford this material, some manufacturers just make some of their alloy wheels look like it.
Whatever you go with, be sure to have your new rims installed by a professional. Your dealership will be able to match you up with the trendy rims that you have been wanting without causing damage to your vehicle or making it dangerous to drive. Then, SimpleTire can help you pick out the tires to fit them.
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