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What are Custom Wheels?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 23, 2024
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Wheels are the circular disks or rings on which automobile or motorcycle tires are mounted. Custom wheels are non-stock or upgraded wheels designed to set your vehicle apart by adding a richer, sportier or classier look.

Custom wheels and a good paint job make the car. Just imagine a classic 1979 red Corvette in pristine condition... with plain black wheels! Now imagine that same car with chromed, deep scoop racing wheels!

In the past most vehicles were supplied with stock black wheels over which a hubcap was placed. The hubcap press-fit into the wheel and often rolled off while simply driving along. Nothing looked worse than a car with missing hubcaps! A trip to the local auto store for another set was often the solution, but even hubcaps that stayed put lost their sheen and finish in a relatively short time.

By the late 1980's more and more cars were being sold with "custom wheels" which added to the price of the vehicle, but it was a price many people didn't mind paying. These wheels eliminated the bothersome and cheap-looking hubcap by having polished aluminum or chrome finishes and a sporty or classic spoke design.

Today only the most economical class of cars do not come with custom wheels, though they are still considered an upgrade option and add to the base price of a vehicle.

However, very often when someone speaks of custom wheels they are referring to after market wheels upgraded by the consumer himself, often going from dealer custom wheels that were purchased with the vehicle, to an even more unique design. There are literally hundreds of makes of custom wheels in various sizes to fit every vehicle from a PT Cruiser to a Landcruiser, from a Hummer to a vintage 1957 Chevy. After-market custom wheels can even be necessary, as when going from a factory size tire to a much different tire as many people do with 4x4 vehicles. The low-profile tire that is very popular also requires a special large wheel, sometimes as large as 26 inches (66 centimeters)! Then there are spinners -- wheels with an inner hub that spins on ball-bearings even when the car is at rest.

Many people use the term rim interchangeably with wheel. The rim is actually the edge of the wheel that the tire is fitted upon. The ring of the wheel is the rim, and the center of the wheel is attached to the rim. The rim and center together make up the wheel. Therefore the technically correct term is custom wheels, not custom rims.

Custom wheels can be purchased as a set, or individually as needed when replacing one of a set. Often they are sold matched with tires. Custom wheels are not cheap and can set your bank account back a pretty penny. However, if you are someone who admires your vehicle every time you draw near, you will likely get every penny of satisfaction out of your custom wheels.

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