A Purchaser's Guide to Wheel Rims

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A Purchaser's Guide to Wheel Rims

Wheel rims are an important pieces of automotive equipment. They attach the tyres to the rest of the car, and tyres are the only thing connecting the vehicle to the ground. The correct wheel and tyre combination can make the greatest sports car not only perform as intended but also look great. The necessity for the wheel is evident in humanity's drive to travel on flat land, and has evolved from a simple wooden carriage wheel to complex and aesthetically beautiful feats of mechanical design.

As there are different types of vehicles, there are as many different types of wheels. Most types of wheels are available through specialty wheel and tyre shops, and also on the Internet. Shopping on the Internet offers the purchaser the ability to see many different types of wheels, more so than what most specialty shops will carry. Some store sell wheels and tyres exclusively, and some websites, such as eBay, have thousands of wheel rims for sale on any given day. Shopping on eBay offers a potentially cost-saving alternative to online stores or specialty shops by offering new and used items.

Different Types of Wheels

Wheel rims are as diverse as the cars they mount on. Just as it would be a poor choice to put heavy steel wheels on the newest high-horsepower sports car, it would be just as bad as installing expensive lightweight racing wheels on an economy car. A modern road car wheel's performance is based mainly on its weight and stiffness/strength. To extract the utmost performance out of the latest supercar, a wheel with light weight and high stiffness is necessary. Understanding all the different types of wheel rims and how they perform is necessary for the shopper to make an educated purchase.

Forged Alloy Wheels

Consumers should purchase the highest performing wheels they can reasonably afford. Forged alloy wheels are constructed of aluminium alloy, which is aluminium mixed with other elements. The benefit to aluminium is in its strength with lightweight frame, which is desirable in any high-performance car part. The forging process takes the already strong material and forms it under high heat and pressure into the desired shape, while also condensing the material slightly. This process increases the strength even more. The benefits of a forged wheel can be far-reaching if utilized on the right type of automobile; however they cost more than the other types.

Cast Alloy Wheels

The other type of alloy wheel is a cast alloy wheel. While these are also usually made from some sort of aluminium alloy, they typically are not as light and strong as a forged alloy wheel. The casting process allows for intricate and detailed wheel designs, but does not benefit from the additional strengthening from the forging process. The benefit to a cast alloy wheel is the ability to fit a relatively light, strong, and good looking wheel on a vehicle for a cost that may not break the bank.

Stamped Steel Wheels

On the lower end of the spectrum, there are stamped steel wheels. These are the most basic type of wheel offered for road cars. They have been around for decades as the go-to for strength, reliability, and low cost. Stamped wheels are made of steel sheet which is stamped with dies into the desired shape. Steel is approximately three times stronger than aluminium, however it is significantly heavier. This allows for a strong wheel design, but it will not be the lightest. The stamping process can leave a lot to be desired with respect to aesthetic design; however they usually come with some sort of cover (hub cap). One of the benefits of a steel wheel is the ability to change the look by simply changing the hub cap. Steel wheels are by far the cheapest type of wheel available, and can usually be seen as original equipment on economy cars.

Wheel

Stiffness

Weight

Cost

Aesthetic Potential

Forged Alloy

#####

#

£££££

#######

Cast Alloy

###

##

£££

#######

Stamped Steel

#####

#####

£

####

The data above is relative. The cost is dependant on supply, demand, as well as make and model.

Wheel Finishes

Wheels come in a variety of finishes, most of which are intended to increase the visual appeal of the wheel or of the vehicle overall. Wheels come polished, painted, and coated, in either coloured or clear finishes. These paints/coatings can also have varying finishes, from a matte appearance to a glossy lustre. As all wheels are constructed of different types of metal, they require some sort of protection from the elements. Aluminium will oxidize and develop a white powdery film, and steel rusts. All of the finishes listed not only affect the aesthetic appeal, but also protect the wheel. The higher end forged wheels will have more lavish finishes, and maybe even intricate secondary machining work, while the stamped steel wheels will mostly have a coating of protective black paint.

Wheel Sizing and Fitment

Just as there are all different types of wheels, there also exist many different sizes. Wheel sizes are based on the following: bolt pattern, outer diameter, width, and offset. The bolt pattern is expressed in number of fasteners by bolt circle diameter. An example of this would be a 5x130 pattern, where the five represents a five stud hub and the 130 represents the diameter of the circle which the studs are on. Outer diameter is the overall diameter of the wheel, and is normally shown in inches. Width is the overall width of the wheel, and is also expressed in inches, as an industry standard. The offset is the number which represents the distance from the inner hub mounting face of the wheel to the central plane of the wheel (centreline of the wheel when looking at it rolling towards the observer). A positive offset indicates the mounting surface is towards the outside of the wheel and a negative offset indicates that the mounting surface is closer to the inside of the wheel. This dimension can be shown in both inches and millimetres. Other factors to consider when specifying a wheel is to check the clearance for braking and suspension components. These dimensions are not normally given and must be determined by either contacting manufacturers/dealers or through trial and error.

Choosing the Right Wheel Rim

When shopping for a car wheel rim, the first step should be deciding which size or sizes fit the vehicle. A good starting point is to take a look at the original equipment and go from there. Any significant deviations will result in performance different than what the car manufacturer intended. A larger diameter wheel might enhance the look of the car, but it will hinder acceleration and braking because of the increased mass. It will also accelerate wear and tear on suspension components and usually result in a less comfortable ride.

At the same time, however, a lightweight and larger diameter wheel will enhance the car's cornering ability without affecting the overall performance too much. Increase in wheel width will result in more grip (if wider tires are utilized as well), but fuel economy would suffer from the larger footprint of each wheel. Offset is also an important dimension to consider, and it helps to choose an offset value which puts the wheel in the same general area as the original equipment. The relationship between offset and width needs to be evaluated for each wheel to determine the wheel's fitment. As with any aftermarket or user-installed part, there are compromises which need to be made between performance and cost. The purchaser should determine what features are important and what can be budgeted.

Where to Find Car Wheel Rims

Car wheel manufacturers distribute their product to specialized stores dedicated to selling and installing wheels and tyres, along with performing other vehicle maintenance work. If purchasing wheels through a shop is less than desirable, the buyer can opt to browse the Internet for wheel rims. Some companies sell wheels and tyres exclusively online and there may be cost benefits to this. An alternative to buying through an online store is to purchase wheel rims through a website like eBay.

Buying Wheel Rims on eBay

There are two main ways of finding wheel rims on eBay: searching and browsing. Searching is the simplest, and this involves entering search terms into the main search bar and looking through the auction listings. For example, if the size and type of wheel is known, it can be typed into the search bar as such: "17 alloy wheels". The listings that show up will have the search terms included in the title and description.

Browsing is slightly more time intensive, but the results might be more refined. To begin browsing, start on the left and click "motors", then "car wheels/tyres/trim", and finally "wheel rims". All listings classified as "wheel rims" will be shown. On the left of the page, the listings can be further refined by choosing condition, make, diameter, and width.

Sort Listings by Price

Once the buyer determines the budget, the listings can be sorted by price. This will help the buyer have an understanding to what the online auction market is like for wheel rims. Another tool to determine the market price for wheels is to search for sold listings.

Know the Seller

Purchasing car wheel rims on eBay can be a risky experience; therefore it is important to know the seller of the wheels. A useful tool for determining the quality of the seller is to check the seller's feedback and also to search for top rated sellers.

Conclusion

Wheel rims are an important piece of automotive equipment. The type of wheel determines how well a vehicle will perform in all conditions. If the wrong sized wheel is installed to a vehicle, the car could potentially not operate desirably and wear out suspension parts. When shopping for a wheel rim, it is important to consider all of the aspects of the wheel before buying. This includes dimensions, construction, and weight. Today, wheel rims are available for purchase through many specialty wheel and tyre stores. They are also readily available on the Internet, and on auction sites such as eBay. One can search and browse for many different types of wheel rims on eBay Stores and auction listings. Being equipped with the proper knowledge on wheel rim construction and fitment and the ability to confidently navigate eBay will benefit the buyer in making a wise purchase.

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