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What Should I Consider When Buying Racing Wheels?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 23, 2024
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When considering racing wheels for a vehicle, many facts must be considered to prevent purchasing a wheel that is wrong for the intended use. The first consideration is the type of racing for which the wheels will be used; racing wheels are specific for the type of racing or performance use intended, and most are not street legal. Checking local racing rules and regulations may also be helpful. Many racing sanctioning bodies stipulate in their rules what type of wheel is allowed in a given class of competition. Tire manufacturers also stipulate which type and size of racing wheels are compatible with specific tire usage.

There are basically three types of racing wheels manufactured for use on racing cars: drag racing, road course and circle track type wheels. Off-road trucks and buggies are also able to utilize the basic criteria that road racing wheels offer. While the appearance and style of the wheel falls under personal preference, there are some basic considerations which must be adhered to, or the potential for catastrophic damage to the vehicle — and even death — could result from an improper wheel choice.

Forgoing any class-specific wheel type or manufacturer, the choice of any particular racing wheels comes down to function and performance. Light weight and less rolling resistance are generally the top priorities in choosing a wheel. The perfect racing wheels are the lightest yet strongest wheels that can be used on the intended vehicle. In the quick accelerating world of drag racing, a skinny front wheel allows the use of a narrow and light tire, aiding in weight transfer and lowered rolling resistance. The rear wheels, however, are typically very wide to utilize the widest and tallest tire that will fit in the vehicle's wheel wells, aiding in traction and acceleration. Due to the high speeds involved, drag racing wheels are also required to be the most round and true wheel of any motor sport.

Road racing presents some very different requirements when selecting wheels. The added requirement for traction in the nose of the vehicle leads to the use of wider tires and wheels on the front of the vehicle. Also the continual high-speed cornering and left and right turns require a wheel with a very strong center and bolt hole flange. An improperly chosen wheel can tear right off of a hub under the rigorous demands of the vehicle. Road racing vehicles also utilize over-sized braking components, thus a wheel choice must include added room in the rear of the wheel for the larger rotors, calipers and cooling ducts. A circle track wheel follows most of the requirements of the road race wheel with the addition of a bead lock system incorporated to prevent the bead of the tire from rolling off of the wheel as the vehicle slides into corners.

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