Wheel Rims Buying Guide

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Wheel Rims Buying Guide

Whether a person is fixing up an old car, adding a bit of customised flair to a new car, or simply replacing damaged parts, wheel rims are common automotive parts to purchase. Rims have a twofold purpose in that they not only serve a specific mechanical function but also add to the aesthetic appeal of the vehicle. Replacing the rims can make a huge difference in a car's appearance as well as in how it handles, but to the uninitiated, getting the correct measurements and picking out the best wheels may seem overwhelming. Luckily, selecting wheel rims is not as complex as it might seem. First, understanding what the wheel rims do and how they function is essential to choosing new ones wisely. Then, learning about different types of rims as well as how to get the right size are the other important factors in shopping for wheel rims. Read on to learn some simple tips for purchasing rims.

What Wheel Rims Are

To understand what wheel rims are for, it is good to have a general understanding of the wheel and tyre system in general. There are many parts involved, and these may differ depending on the make, model, and type of vehicle, as well as the steering system. However, the basic parts are the axles, wheel rims, and tyres.


The axle is the primary connection between the wheels on either side of the vehicle. On a regular car, there is a front axle with two tyres and a rear axle with two tyres. Large trucks can have many axles and multiple tyres on each axle. There are many other components of axles, such as tie rods, racks, and other elements of the steering.

Wheel Rims

To many people, rims are an opportunity for personal expression; however, they actually serve an essential purpose and are not optional. It may simply be the nomenclature that mixes people up, or the fact that hubcap attachments such as spinner rims are confused with the rims themselves. Most people understand what a wheel is, and a wheel rim is essentially the same thing, referring only to the metal centre of the wheel and excluding the tyre. As far as function goes, a wheel rim primarily holds the tyre onto the axle and car, allowing the car to move. The wheel is also integrally involved in the brake and steering systems.


A pneumatic tyre is an air-filled rubber doughnut that fits on the wheel rim and makes contact with the road or ground surface. Tyres must be inflated just the right amount, which is measured in pounds per square inch, a unit of measure indicating (air) pressure. Tyres must match the wheel rim measurement in terms of diameter and width, although tyres also have two other measurements that are not necessarily related to the wheel size.


The hubcap is an external cover for the wheel rim. It covers the wheel rim and lugnuts and is primarily for aesthetics, particularly when the wheel rim itself is not attractively designed. Hubcaps can be different colours and designs; some are open or spoked, whereas others are more solid like plates. Changing the hubcaps is a good and inexpensive way to get the look of different wheels without having to actually change the wheels, which is a much bigger job than installing new hubcaps. Most hubcaps can be pried off with a screwdriver, and the new ones pop into place with a little help from a rubber mallet.

Types of Wheel Rims

If wheels did not show, chances are most of them would look very much alike. However, owing to their high visibility, a wide variety of different types of rims is available. These rims may differ in colour, design, or the actual metal used. The chart below describes some common rims.

Rim Type


Mag wheels or "mags"

Made of magnesium or aluminium alloy; uncovered rims with a sporty look


High-shine silvertone rims; some of the most high-end rims available; often seen as a status symbol

Spinning rims, spinner rims, or spinners

Rims that rotate even when the car is stopped

Black, colours, or gold

Alternate colours from standard metallic silvertone

In the case of spinning rims, the spinning mechanism is sometimes built into the actual wheel, although many times, the spinners are merely an attached hubcap.

Rim Size

While tyres can be somewhat complicated, wheel rims are fairly easy to measure. The two measurements required for fitting rims are the width and the diameter.

Rim Width

Calculate the rim width by measuring straight across the rim. Most wheel rims on standard passenger vehicles are between 5 and 9.5 inches wide, or 127 to 241 millimetres. The width of a tyre is usually stamped on the sidewall in code form.

Rim diameter

Measuring the rim diameter is a little more complicated because the flange extends out further than the actual rim onto which the tyre fits. A measurement of the rim taken on the outside is larger than the actual inside diameter of the tyre. The following chart converts inches to centimetres:

Imperial Tyre diameter


Metric Tyre diameter




























For whatever reason, the tyre industry mixes metric with imperial measurements; the rim diameter is generally given in inches, although this depends on where a given tyre was manufactured. Most standard rims measure anywhere from about 14 to 26 inches, with anything 20 inches or greater considered to be oversized for a regular car.

Where to Find Wheel Rims

One can buy wheel rims from a few different sources. Check with auto parts stores, car dealerships, and auto body shops. Local car shows may feature vendors who specialise in custom car parts. Buyers may be able to find wheels through classified adverts in newspaper or local trading magazines. Hot rod magazines may feature these ads at the back or print advertisements from shops that sell car parts such as wheel rims. Some car enthusiasts scour scrap yards, junkyards, and salvage yards for wrecked cars whose wheels may still be in premium condition. Online sources include e-retailers as well as Internet auction sites like eBay.

How to Buy Wheel Rims on eBay

Buying your wheel rims on eBay is extremely easy because the site allows sellers to classify their listings according to multiple criteria. This gives you the ability to quickly find specific wheel rims within a few seconds just by clicking on certain filters. To get started, display all categories by clicking on the appropriate link on the home page. Next, work your way through automotive categories until you get to wheel rims. From here, look at the category filters and click one or more in each group to specify exactly the size, brand, and style you are looking for.

You can also try the keyword search method, which is sometimes faster if you know a lot of details about what you are looking for. You can certainly enter a general phrase, such as "car wheel rims", but a more specific term such as "16 inch chrome wheel rims" brings up fewer (yet more appropriate) results. Simply type the words into the Search field and click on the Search button or press the Enter key on your keyboard. You can then click on the specific category you want or start investigating individual listings right away.

Whether you choose to shop through the directory tree or the keyword search, you can use clickable category filters on the results page to further narrow down the rim listings by size, condition, and other criteria. You can even enter a specific price range in order to stick to a set budget or look for rims that come with free P&P.


Buying wheel rims may seem complicated at first, but with a few minutes of reading, the subject becomes far easier to understand. Wheel rims and wheels are generally the same thing, although some people differentiate the actual wheel from the rim, considering the rim to be just one part of the wheel. Nonetheless, when shopping, buyers find that both terms used to mean the same thing.

Wheel rims come in many types. Standard rims are silvertone metal; specialised rims include those made of flashier metals (such as chrome), there are rims that come in different colours (such as black, gold, or hues), as well as oversized rims. Additional features include spinners, special designs such as spokes, and even logos or emblems on the hubs.

Rims are measured across their width and across the diameter. These measurements are matched to those of the tyres. Most wheel rims measure from 14 to 26 inches in diameter; typical widths are anywhere from 5 to 9.5 inches.

Armed with this new, helpful knowledge, any buyer can get started shopping for wheel rims with confidence.

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