Join Date: Sep 2012
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There’s no quicker way to transform the look and feel of your ride than adding a new set of wheels and tires.
Whether you’ve got performance on your mind or pure aesthetics, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. From understanding the terminology to understanding the risks involved, we’ve put together this handy guide outlining what you need to know before you buy.
1. Where Rubber Meets Road
All those letters and numbers on the side of the tire? Well, they mean some pretty important stuff. Take a 215/55R16 93H, for example, the smallest tire available on the current-generation Honda Civic sedan. That means the tire has a section width (the distance from sidewall to sidewall) of 215 millimeters, an aspect ratio of 55 (because the sidewall measures 55 percent of the section width), a radial construction (hence the ‘R’) and an interior diameter designed to fit on a 16-inch wheel. The 93 represents the load index, or the amount of weight the tire can support, while the ‘H’ is a speed rating, meaning it’s good for 130 mph.
2. Hub Size Hubbub
When it comes to wheels, it’s about more than just diameter and width, and your vehicle’s bolt pattern can be the difference between wheels that fit and ones that don’t. Sure, a 16-inch wheel with a five-lug bolt pattern may seem simple, but hub sizes vary greatly depending on make and model. Picture the bolt pattern as a circle measured at the center of each wheel stud. A bolt pattern of 5×100, then, would mean five wheel studs with a diameter of 100 millimeters. Make sure you check out this number before you sign the dotted line.
3. Fitting In
So you’ve picked a wheel that matches your ride’s bolt pattern, but what about fitment? This is where offset and backspacing come into play. The former means the distance from the dead center of the wheel to the mounting surface, while the latter means the distance from the back of the wheel to the mounting surface. A higher offset puts the mounting surface closer to the outside edge of the wheel, allowing the wheel to sit further inside the wheel well. This means more clearance between the outside edge of the tire and the fender, but less clearance between the inside edge of the tire and your vehicle’ssuspension components. A lower offset, then, puts the mounting surface closer to the inside edge of the wheel, pushing the wheel outward for a wider stance. This, of course, means the potential for fender rub, which you don’t want because it will reduce the life of your tire.
Backspacing, meanwhile, is measured from the back of the wheel to the mounting surface. Similarly to offset, more backspacing means the wheel is tucked further into the wheel well and closer to thesuspension components, increasing the risk of rubbing, while less backspacing means the wheel has more inside clearance.
Simply put, different cars have different offsets and you have to be aware of that before you buy wheels.