How to Buy and Install Your Own Wheel Rims

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How to Buy and Install Your Own Wheel Rims

As many car owners know, custom wheel rims are one of the best ways to let your own personal taste show through in your car. They are an easy way to spice up the appearance of almost any vehicle, and the wide variety makes it easy to find a set of wheel rims to match any budget. People looking to customise their vehicles are not the only ones who may be looking for wheel rims. Wheel rims are like any other automotive component, over time they wear and sometimes they may even get damaged in an accident. Luckily, regardless of why you may want or need to replace your wheel rims, it is a simple process for anyone who is willing to take a bit of time to research things before they begin. Installation does take a little effort, but in most cases can be done quickly and easily by anyone with a modicum of tools.

The Basics of Wheels and Rims

Rims are an integral part of any wheel; they provide the mounting surface for the tyre, and when dealing with tubeless tyres, they also create the air seal that maintains the interior pressure. Even though both bicycle and car owners use the word rim when referring to a part of their vehicle's wheels, it should be remembered that they are not using the term in the same way. As a general rule, bicyclists use the term in its original meaning; which is to say in reference to the outer part of the circle. Thus a bicycle wheel has a rim upon which the tyre is mounted, and that rim is then connected to the hub by means of a series of spokes.

Specifics of Car Wheel Rims

When dealing with car wheels, the terminology is rather less precise. Instead of just referring to the actual rim, the word has come to refer to the entire removable rotating assembly except the tyre. What is commonly called the rim on a motorcar is generally a one to three-piece assembly that fulfils all the roles of the hub, spokes, and rim of a bicycle wheel. It provides both, a mounting point for the tyre, and an attachment point to bolt onto the axle. In fact, for many people, the best description they could probably give of a wheel rim without a tyre would be to call it a wheel.

What Car Wheel Rims Do

A wheel rim serves several purposes once mounted on a car. The most obvious is that it mounts the tyres, and with tubeless tyres it also serves to create the seal that allows the tyre to be inflated. This seal is maintained by what is known as the bead; a wire inside the edge of the tyre which is held against the inside of the rim by air pressure. As the internal pressure rises, it forces the tyre, and therefore the bead against the bead seat on the interior of the rim, creating a seal. This keeps the tyre inflated and allows the wheel to do its job of moving the car down the motorway.

Choosing a Wheel Rim

When choosing a wheel rim, or rather a set of wheel rims for your car, there are several things you should take into consideration. The first is of course your budget. Custom wheel rims can be found to fit any budget, but by setting the budget first, you can use your time more efficiently as it enables you to immediately eliminate those wheel rims that do not fit within your range. Then, once you know what you have to spend, you can look toward determining what kind of wheel rims best fit your needs. Another important early decision to make is whether to go with steel or alloy rims. Each choice has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Steel Wheel Rims

Steel wheel rims are common and often less expensive than their alloy counterparts; they are also heavier than alloy as well. However, steel wheel rims do not uniquely appeal to the budget-conscious buyer as they do have another factor in their favour. Their greater weight comes allied with a greater strength. This makes steel wheel rims a sound choice for anyone who puts a lot of use on their vehicle because their greater strength means they last longer, and can also handle rougher terrain, whether this entails going off-road or simply driving through lots of potholes.

Alloy Wheel Rims

Alloy wheel rims are light, they often showcase design, and can be quite expensive. At the same time, this lightness does make them more fragile than steel wheel rims, so they may require more care. Not only can alloy wheels be among the most distinctive, their lighter weight can often translate into improved performance, which is another benefit. Alloy wheel rims can be made from a wide range of materials, including aluminium, magnesium, and even titanium. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and both magnesium and titanium are extremely rare on the street.

Things to Look Out for When Buying and Installing Your Own Wheel Rims

There are several things that any buyer should look out for when buying, and later installing, their own wheel rims. Two of the most important are the rim width and the rim size, or diameter. It is possible to mount tyres on rims that are either slightly too large in diameter, or wider or narrower than the tyre. This is a bad idea, however, and you would be advised to avoid it as it can lead to anything from tyre damage to an increased chance of accidents.

Problem

Result

Tyre too wide

Tyre chafes against the rim, leading to possible tyre damage

Tyre too narrow

Sideways cornering forces can break the seal at speed

Tyre too small

Tyre cannot seat properly on bead seat, creates bad seal

Possibly the worst of these three issues is the use of a tyre that is too narrow for the rim, as breaking the seal at speed can lead to a catastrophic loss of tyre pressure, or blowout. This does not mean the others problems are acceptable, only that the narrow tyre has the greatest chance of a catastrophic failure.

Wheel Rim Installation

Before they can be used on a car, wheel rims first require that tyres be mounted and balanced, as well as installed on the vehicle. To mount the tyre, you start by laying the wheel rim flat on the ground with the tyre on top and slowly rock it down over the edge of the rim. You may need to use your weight to do this. Once you have half the tyre on, the next step is to use a tyre iron to lever the other side of the tyre over the rim. Be patient, this can take some time. Once the tyre is on the rim, you next insert the valve stem. Then it is time to inflate the tyre. It is a good idea to inflate slowly, as the tyre can jump when the bead seals against the seat. You may want to fasten it down before inflating.

Once the tyre is on the wheel and inflated, installing it on the car is no different than changing a flat tyre. You simply remove the old wheel, hang the new one on the lugs and tighten down the lug nuts. Once the wheels are on, you should take the car in to have the wheels balanced immediately.

Buying Wheel Rims on eBay

No matter what kind of wheel rims you are looking for, eBay is an excellent place to buy them. You can find anything from the latest alloy wheel rims, to factory original replacements for almost any car. All you have to do is put your terms in the search box, there is one on every page, and see the results fill your screen. Once you have your results, you can use the filters in the sidebar to narrow them down to the ones that meet your budget and otherwise fit your requirements. You can also sort your results so the ones that best fit your needs appear at the top of the list.

After you have a list of wheel rims, the next step is to decide which of eBay's many sellers you wish to do business with. The first place to go for that is the seller's profile page, where you can see everything from their feedback to their location. Some sellers may also bundle a set of tyres with your new wheel rims, or perhaps allow local buyers to avoid shipping costs by picking their wheel rims up in person.

Conclusion

Every car needs wheel rims. Whether you are looking to spice up the appearance of your car with a set of high-priced alloy wheel rims or simply wanting to buy a factory replacement for one that is damaged, you should probably consider buying and installing the new rims yourself. Regardless of whether you are thinking of standard steel wheel rims or wanting to go for the lightness of alloy, it is important that the rims match the size of the tyres as a tyre size mismatch can have a catastrophic result due to its inability to form a proper seal. The key to mounting a tyre on a new wheel rim is to take your time. It is not overly difficult, but it does require a considerable amount of effort. That being said, mounting the wheels on the car is no more demanding than changing a flat tyre. Once the tyres are mounted on the wheel rims they should be balanced as soon as possible. All you have to do is research your needs and buy the wheel rims and tyres to meet them; the rest is easy.

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