How To: Pick the Right Wheels For Your Car

While shooting pictures at a car show the other day, the AMU krew had a discussion about what makes some cars more attractive than others. It turned out to be a pretty brief conversation because we all agreed fairly quickly, that the wheel choice and fitment can make or break your car.

With that said, we figured it would be a good idea if we put together a post that may help with your wheel selection process.

First things first.

WHY?

You have to ask yourself  “Why am I buying wheels for my car?”

Gas Mileage/Comfort

If your answer is better gas-mileage or a more comfortable ride, we suggest first considering a different tire that may ride more comfortably and or help your car get better gas mileage. Your local tire shop will be able to help you select a set of tires that will best fit your needs. (Tirerack.com is another good tool to use)

Purchasing a set of tires instead of a wheel/tire combo can save you tons of money and also save you the embarrassment of rolling around on poorly designed/styled bargain wheels. By AMU standards, there is nothing worse than an aftermarket wheel that looks and fits worse than your stock wheels. #FAIL

Appearance

If your reason for purchasing a set of wheels is to enhance your cars’ appearance, then it may be time for you to look into an upgraded wheel and tire.

However, they say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so even though the AMU Krew usually has the same taste in wheels, everyone will have their own opinion on which wheel styles look best on every car.

Although the style of the wheel may be more subjective, the AMU team agrees that an aggressive wheel fitment teamed up with a decent suspension drop can turn any car into a jaw dropper. Obtaining the widest wheel and the lowest offset possible is the rule that most show car builders live by today.

The goal is to make sure that the outside of your wheels align with both front and rear fenders. This look takes a lot of time and effort and is highly respected in the tuner community because those who’ve ever attempted this fitment know how tedious and expensive it can be to find the perfect fit. Many refer to this movement as the HellaFlush movement where fitment is everything and they value form over function.

We’ll go into more detail about offsets and fitment later. For now, here are a few examples of aggressive wheels fitments.

Performance

What about if I’m planning to head to the track?

As far as performance goes, you may benefit from a larger wheel and a lower profile tire, but the main thing you want to consider before heading out to the track is a good set of sticky performance tires. Even with suspension upgrades, braking and cornering will be dramatically compromised with the use of generic (crappy) tires.

Something else to consider in regards to performance is usually obtaining a wider tire or wheel/tire combo. Without getting too technical, traction = friction and the best way to create more friction is to increase the surface area of contact between your rubber and the road. More simply put, wider tires are typically better for track or spirited driving conditions. It’s not necessary to go out and buy larger diameter wheels but some would agree that low profile tires have less sidewall flex which may help you grip around corners.

Budget

These wheels cost how much???

The next thing you want to ask yourself is “How much do I want to spend on my wheels?” From experience, we can all say that nice wheels are never cheap; by cheap, we mean inexpensive. If your budget is looking something like $300 for 18″ wheels with tires then you may want to consider just getting an iPod instead. Cheap wheels tend to have less rigidity, less “Offset” options and may weigh more than you stock wheels.

Wheel companies like SSR or Rotiform specialize in tailoring wheels to fit your cars style. These wheel options cost a pretty penny but they are well worth it as they look like they were made specifically for your car.

So in short, if you’re going for “The Right Look”, do some research and pick a wheel that has lots of offset choices for your car and open up your wallet. 😉

Offest

What is offset?

Offset is best described as the distance from the hub mounting surface to the centerline of the wheel. This measurement is usually referred to in millimeters.

There are 3 types of offsets (pictured above)

Zero Offset:

In this scenario, the hub mounting surface is even with the wheel centerline. In other words, there is equal distance from the hub to the face of the wheel on both sides.

Positive:

The hub mounting surface is toward the front or wheel side of the wheel. Positive offset wheels are generally found on front wheel drive cars and newer rear drive cars.

Negative:

The hub mounting surface is toward the back or brake side of the wheels center-line. “Deep dish” wheels are typically a negative offset.

If the offset of the wheel is not correct for the car, the handling can be adversely affected. When you decide on wheels that are wider than your stock wheels, you will need to choose the correct offset that will clear all suspension components on the inside of the wheel and also fit within the constraints of your cars’ fenders. When purchasing your wheels, make your offset choice a priority in your wheels decision. Your local wheel shop should be able to guide you in the right direction with any concerns.
So, where do I start?

We mentioned a few sites above to get you started on your wheel hunt but here is a complete list of places you should check out for wheels and tires. Good Luck, and we hope that this wheel advice helped.

1. Tirerack

2. Discount Tire

3. Enkei Wheels

4. SSR Wheels

5. Vossen Wheels

6. Rotiform Wheels

7. BBS Wheels

8. DPE Wheels

9. HRE Wheels

10. CariD

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