Wheel 101

What does the term "plus sizing" mean?

Plus sizing your wheels and tires is the best way to improve both the performance and appearance of your vehicle.  By using a larger diameter wheel with a lower profile tire it's possible to properly maintain the overall diameter of the tire, keeping odometer and speedometer changes negligible.  By using a tire with a shorter sidewall, you gain quickness in steering response, better lateral stability and a wider tire footprint for improved traction and a wider contact patch.  The visual appeal is obvious.  Most wheels look better than the sidewall of the tire, so the more wheel and less sidewall there is, the better it looks. Please contact our sales team for assistance in the proper sizing for your vehicle.

How do I know if a wheel is good quality?

Much like with tires, the manufacturer’s reputation is an important indication of the quality that goes into their wheels.  A solid reputation takes time to build and continuous attention to detail to maintain.  That being said, unlike tire manufacturers very few wheel companies actually build wheels in factories they own, instead contracting out to one or more factories, often overseas.  Therefore the quality of the manufacturing processes embraced by those factories can become crucial, although the lack of governmental oversight both overseas and in the U.S. makes that determination difficult with many brands.  With 4½ decades of experience, Wheel Warehouse has learned to take significant steps before adding any wheel brand to our menu.  We know the principals of the companies whose wheels we offer for sale and we provide our own review of a representative sample of products and factory information before acting on any new brand.  Any instance of an apparent manufacturer defect in materials or workmanship is reviewed personally by our upper management and ownership, and issues like loyalty, profitability, style or popularity never override our concerns about quality.

How important is the weight of the wheel?

Back in the “ancient-wheel era” (yes, we were here) most vehicles came with steel wheels.  Installing aluminum alloy wheels reduced the unsprung weight of the vehicle (that weight which is not supported by the suspension - wheels, tire and brakes).  Reducing unsprung weight provided more precise steering input, greater ability for the wheel/tire assembly to hold the road, and improved turning characteristics (not to mention better fuel economy, though gas was cheap in those not-too-distant past days).  Before long, appearance took hold in the marketplace and enthusiasts began to plus-size wheels to levels at which they were essentially adding unsprung weight by going with 20’s, 22’s or 24’s.  In turn, wheel manufacturers began working on ways to reduce the weight of their aftermarket alloy wheels.  (Yes, we here there during all of those years, too.)  Eventually, 3-piece construction became an excellent option for maintaining the lowest possible unsprung weight while contributing to great improvements from stock wheels- if you had the budget.  These days, many new cars come with alloy wheels but they are still ripe for plus-sizing for appearance.  The manufacturing process known as “spin casting”, “flow forming” or “rotary forging” is popular, providing consistent distribution of the alloy throughout the wheel and reducing overall weight without a substantial increase in cost.  2-piece forged wheels are starting to come into vogue (forged outer to resist bumps and bruises, cast center), further reducing weight and improving overall strength.  

So how important are these weight reductions?  That depends on you, but most likely you can greatly improve the look and handling characteristics of your vehicle while still plus-sizing if you choose your wheels carefully.  That’s another reason why we’re here to help you make your selection.

How do I care for my wheels?

Your first concern should come when you first drive on your new wheels because everywhere you drive you risk encounters with potholes, curbs and road impediments that can damage either the roundness or finish of your brand new purchase, or both.  This is especially true if you’ve plus-sized to tires with narrow sidewalls.  Don’t worry.  Adapting to paying the best possible attention to avoid dangers is no different than what you learned when you first learned to drive.  Watch the road, don’t tailgate, think ahead, avoid distractions . . . the usual do’s and don’ts are the best defense against damage. 

To protect the finish and appearance of your new wheels, there are a few rules to follow.  First understand that painted wheels have a clear-coat finish (similar to clear nail polish), and chrome is a type of finish all of its own.  With such a finish, mild soap and water is all you should use, of course using a soft, dry and clean appropriate cloth.   Steam, abrasive compounds, stiff brushes, acidic and polishing compounds can all harm the finish of your wheels. (Note: There are some good compounds for full-polished wheels.  Ask us for a recommendation.)  Beware of car washes.  Some use acid cleaners to help remove dirt and grime, and some employees can drive your vehicle carelessly onto their racks or use inappropriate methods in the drying or polishing stage.  It’s also important that the wheels are cool before the washing process begins.  There are good, reputable car washes so find one if you aren’t a do-it-yourselfer.  Salt (either from road treatments or if you are near the ocean) and brake dust can eat away at your wheels’ protective finish, and they can invalidate any warranty.  If those elements are part of your environment, clean your wheels as often as practical.  If you use a tire dressing be very careful to clean any spillage from your wheels.  You’ve made an investment; treat your wheels as such and expect a long and satisfactory life from them.

I had aftermarket wheels before but I couldn’t stand the vibration.  What’s up with that?

The first principle to understand is that very, very few wheels come from the factory “out of round”.  Wheels are often a scapegoat for a common complaint that can have a variety of causes.  Also, an experienced installer will eyeball the roundness of the wheel on his balancer before the tire is even installed, so these rare situations can be caught up front in a reliable shop.  Next, no matter how good the installer and the balancing machine (and modern technology is excellent), there is no perfect way to replicate the weight of the vehicle following installation.  If you order your wheel/tire package shipped to you, there is the additional problem of losing a wheel weight during shipment.  On top of all of that, some wheel designs are not “friendly” in regard to location of the wheel weights which can also lead to shaking.  In all of these cases, and a few others, the shaking may simply be the result of imperfect balancing and can be diagnosed and corrected by experts.  Typically, out of balance conditions create a shaking sensation at a certain speed (often at 40- to 50 mph) and then that sensation goes away after you add about 10 mph to your speed. 

You also need to need to remember that the shaking comes from the wheel/tire assembly, and the tire could be the cause.  This happens most often when you using a “used” tire, even when it had been on your vehicle because you only replaced the wheels.  We normally recommend replacing your existing tires unless they are nearly new.  Other tire (not wheel) problems can include radial pull or tracking, and the wheel is often blamed.  The most common problem we find with wheels installed by other shops is the lack of a hubcentric installation.  If the wheel is not designed to exactly fit the hub of the vehicle (hubcentric) then the lug holes are responsible for truly centering the wheel to the vehicle.  The purpose of the lugs is to hold the wheel on the vehicle, not to center it perfectly.  All passenger cars (not just front wheel drive) should have hub rings, as should many SUV’s or trucks.  Of course, if your wheel has road damage and is significantly no longer round, that in itself can cause that vibration.  You may be able to relocate the bad wheel on the rear, or a replacement may be required.