For many car enthusiasts, upgrading rims and tires is first on the list of customizations to make to their ride. Selecting the correct rim and tire combo can be a challenge, but extra street smarts can help you pick the right rollers and increase the performance and handling of your vehicle.
One of the first things people do when they buy new rims is buy bigger. Although larger wheels give cars a desirable and more aggressive look, there are a few things you need to consider. When the manufacturer selects wheels and tires for a vehicle, it considers the wheel’s clearance inside the fender as well as the car’s ride and handling. When you increase the size of the rim, you must decrease the side profile of the tires to keep the same outside diameter.
Another thing to consider is what style wheel you want for your vehicle. Alloy and chrome rims have two very distinct looks, but what really makes them different is what’s beneath their coating. Alloy rims are typically forged or machined from a piece of aluminum, which is lighter but also softer. These types of rims are better suited for performance driving where weight and brake cooling are more important. Chrome is a coating that’s applied to a steel rim, which is much heavier than its aluminum counterpart and will force your car to use a little extra power to get things rolling.
Another option you’ll encounter when upgrading your vehicle’s rims is the spacing of the wheel from the wheel well, or its offset. This measurement is important because it could leave your wheel sticking out off the car if there is too much offset. What’s worse is that the wheel could hit your brake assembly or rub on the inside of the well if there isn’t enough. Work with your local NAPA AutoCare Center to identify the correct wheel offset for your vehicle.
Go Big or Go Home
You can increase the size of your rims in relation to decreasing the size of your tires in order to keep the same outer diameter, but what if you want to go larger overall? When plus-sizing your rims and tires, you need to give extra consideration to clearances around the wheel when it’s pointing straight and also when turning. A too-large wheel could run on the wheel well and severely limit your vehicle’s turning radius. Larger rims and tires can also place added strain on your vehicle’s brakes, because they need to work extra hard to slow the added rotating mass of the larger wheels.
You Get What You Pay For
The last thing you’ll want to consider before you throw down on some new rims is their build quality and material. A good rim will be made with higher quality aluminum, and it will be designed to be both stylish and strong. Consult your local NAPA AutoCare Center for any questions regarding a specific wheel manufacturer you’re interested in.
As car enthusiasts, one of the first things to go are those bland-looking rims and average-handling tires. Before you switch them out, consider the rim and tire size, the style of rims , the correct offset, any changes to the original sizes and dimensions that you may want to modify and how that will affect your vehicle’s handling.
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Erich Reichert has been an editor and on-air personality in the radio control car hobby for 12 years. A certified car nut since birth, he has written for internationally published titles such as RC Car Action, RC Driver and Xtreme RC Cars, as well as Stuff Magazine, Road and Track and Super Street. He's covered everything from product reviews and tech articles to high-profile lifestyle pieces and celebrity interviews. Erich found his passion for writing after a successful career as an art director, working with brands such as Pepsico, NASCAR, MTV, Nintendo, WWE, Cannondale Bicycles and HBO. He's also a father, an avid hockey fan and an FIA race license holder who enjoys hiking, playing drums and movies.