Wheel And Tires

I see three distinct facets to this topic of Wheel and Tires.
- First I will discuss Wheel and Tires Packages.
- Next I’ll touch on aspects of Care and Use, and
- finally I'll delve into the technical aspects of the topic.

The Low-down on Wheel and Tires

In looking at Wheel and Tires packages, the first question that may occur is "Why buy a package?"

The most obvious answer is to save time and effort. 

When you buy a package, even from online sellers it is common to have the tires mounted and inflated so that all you need to do is bolt them on to your car or truck, adjust the pressure, and start driving.

This also is reflected in the thought that if you have your tires for a specific use, such as winter and summer tires already mounted on their own wheels, you are almost ready to go simply by switching wheels without having to go through the hassle of taking one set of tires off the wheels, installing the other set on the wheels, inflating and rebalancing them and finally installing them on your vehicle before you can start using them.  This can, sometimes, be almost a major project and something you can avoid by having a wheel and tires package.

Wheel and tires packageNow, still with packages, we can look at how to buy one.

There are different approaches, but the one which seems to make most sense to me is to start with the vehicle which is going to use them and proceed from there. 

The reason for this, according to tirerack.com, wheel size, offset and/or bolt pattern alone are not specific enough to make sure you get a precise fitting.  If you are purchasing from a dealer who is well experienced in selling packages they will use Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs to match wheels to your vehicle. Using these electronic tools, a number of critical areas are verified to ensure the fit is acceptable.

Wheel size, offset and bolt pattern are measured and each wheel's style/spoke design, your vehicle's brake caliper shape and many other variables are checked. Since there are a great many possible wheel/vehicle combinations, this may mean that each wheel has to be individually tested for the vehicle either manually or electronically using the CAD data. 

All this will prevent vibration, wheel/tire interference and unbalanced handling that could cause you to have headaches if you were to do this on your own.

Online sellers of these packages often offer software which allows you to see what specific wheels would look like when installed on your vehicle.  Using this you can compare several different kinds of wheels which appeal to you to decide which would look best after they are installed on your vehicle.

Finally, these same sellers will mount, inflate and balance the tires you choose on the wheels and ship them to you ready to be put on your vehicle and start driving.

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Care and Use

Once you have your new wheel and tires package, here are a few tips which will help keep them looking their best.

 This starts before you install them.
  • Apply a coat of wax first.  This will help protect your wheels and make them easier to clean.
  • Good looking Wheel and TiresTreat your wheels the same as you would the rest of your car. These days many alloy wheels today have a painted or clearcoat covering. To best care for them without damaging the protective finish, wash them frequently with a mild soap and water. You can prevent permanent staining from tar by using a tar and bug remover, and waxing occasionally will enhance the protection of your wheels.
  • Avoid using steel wool, polishing compounds or any kind of abrasive cleaners.
  • Be careful about using automatic car washes.
    • Some things to take into consideration is that
    • there are washes that use acid cleaners at some stage in their process.
    • Others washes may use stiff brushes when they clean wheels and tires and either of these might do irreparable damage to your wheel's appearance.
    • If you have low profile tires on your wheels, they could be damaged by scraping or rubbing against metal tracks which guide the car though the washer. 
    • Best to ask first if you do not know the car wash yourself. Ask the employees and tell them your concerns.
  • Don't steam clean your wheels and tires. The finish can be dulled by steam.
  • Wait until your wheels cool down before cleaning.  If you try to wash them while the wheels are hot, your soap and water could dry too quickly and leave spots or a film which doesn't look good.
  • Do them one-at-a-time. Since this is often the dirtiest part of your vehicle, and you have a variety of surfaces to clean you might want to start here. Use the full strength of your hose at the start to wash off the loose dirt and at the end to rinse off the soapy solution you used for cleaning.
  • Make a habit of regularly cleaning your wheels.  If you give them the same care and attention you give to the rest of your vehicle you may expect them to look good for a long while.

Here's a video which shows how one detailer does this for himself.

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The technical nitty gritty

Here are some of the more specific elements which you might want to bone up on.

Bolt pattern

bolt patterns When wheels are being discussed the bolt pattern or bolt circle is critical.  This is an imaginary circle (the dotted grey lines in the illustration) formed by the centers of the wheel lugs. These patterns can be for 4-, 5-, 6-, or 8-lug holes. The pattern is described by using the number of bolts a wheel has, followed by a number which is the diameter of the imaginary circle we mentioned above.  As an example, a bolt circle of 4x100 is describing a pattern with 4 lugs on a circle with a diameter of 100mm.

To measure the diameter of any wheel with an even number (4, 6 or 8) of lugs, the diameter is the distance from the centre of one lug to the centre of the lug which is located directly across the centre of the circle on the opposite side.

5 lug wheels are more difficult to measure and generally are only estimated unless a special bolt pattern gauge too is used.   Here's a video which describes one way 5 lug diameter sizes are estimated.

Bolt Patterns are varied and con be complex.  It's just not as simple as 4-lug vs. 5-lug. We've noted that there are currently 17 different 4- to 5-lug bolt patterns in use for cars and, in addition there are 6- and 8-lug patterns for light trucks and SUVs.


The centerbore of a wheel is the open "hole" in the centre of the wheel that allows the wheel to properly rotate on your vehicle's hub when it is securely attached by the wheel nuts. By keeping the wheel exactly centered on the hub we are able to avoid vibration when the wheel is in use. Certain wheels, such as original equipment wheels, are made specifically to match that vehicle.  Other wheels may be designed to be used on a variety of different vehicles and will use a "centering ring" which fits inside the wheel's ceterbore to match the hub of the vehicle on which it is installed.  When the wheel bolts are tightened to the required torque, the centering ring will keep the wheel precisely positioned.

It is important to note that there are wheels which are designed to be non-hub centric. These wheels are called "lug centric wheels". When using this kind of wheel,  the lug hardware much be tightened while the vehicle is raised off the ground so that the action of tightening the nuts will centre the wheel.  Otherwise the weight of the vehicle would cause the wheel to be off center if it were lowered while the nuts were not properly tightened.

There are three parts to a wheel:

  1. the hub,
  2. spokes and
  3. rim
which, together, form the wheel. The hub is the center part of the wheel that attaches the wheel to your car's suspension system. The spokes form the part which radiates out from the hub and attach it to the rim. The rim is the outer part of the wheel that holds the tire. Now you can see that, technically speaking, it is incorrect to call wheels "rims," because you are really describing only part of the whole item.

Front and Rear Mount Wheels

Wheels may be designed to front or rear mounting wheels.  This will determine from which side of the wheel a tire must be mounted.  Depending on the wheel design, if a tire is mounted from the wrong side, this can cause irreparable damage to the bead of the tire.


Offset refers to the distance, in millimetres, between the mounting surface where a wheel is attached to the vehicle and the centreline of the wheel itself.  It may be neutral (zero offset), positive if it is toward the front or outside of the wheel, or negative if it is toward the inside.  Wheels are designed with differing amounts of offset and, depending on the design of a vehicle, the offset may determine whether or not a particular wheel can be used on that vehicle.


Backspacing is very much like offset, but is the distance, measured in inches, from the inside lip of a wheel to the hub mounting surface.

Mounting Hardware

Sometimes certain wheels may require special lug nuts or lug bolts, instead of your car's original nuts and/or bolts.  If you purchase a wheel package specifically for your vehicle, any necessary special hardware or adapters should be included.  I would suggest you ask about this before you place an order.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System

If your vehicle has a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) and you purchase a wheel & tire package you may want to have TPMS sensors installed at the same time so that there is no further work to be done after your new wheels and tires arrive or damage to your TPMS in transferring sensors from one set of wheels to another.

Load Limits

Wheels are designed to carry a certain maximum weight.  This could cause some confusion because the load-rating applies to each wheel, not the whole vehicle.  For example, if a wheel has a load limit of 3,000 pounds, then a vehicle with 4 wheels would have a limit of 12,000 pounds as far as the wheels are concerned.  Tires may have a different load limit from the wheels, and a vehicle itself may have a limit too.  If you are not certain about any of this make certain you ask someone who has experience before buying or installing something which might cause problems.

That pretty much covers most of what I wanted to cover on the topic of wheel and tires. 

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