Will Aftermarket Wheels Damage My Car?

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It's possible, and that's why it pays to buy a well-known brand from a retailer concerned about quality and safety.

Buying aftermarket wheels isn't as simple as replacing one 17-inch rim with another — or, if you're upsizing, going from 17-inch wheels and tires to 18 inches or larger.

The mounting bolt pattern must match (there are several different patterns for five-bolt wheels, for example). Wheels have to fit on the car without contacting any brake or suspension components (including antilock/traction control sensors) or the fender liner; they should have sufficient load-carrying capability for your vehicle; and they need the correct amount of offset — the distance from the suspension to the centerline of the wheel.

That's why some of the wheels you think would look really cool on your vehicle may not fit it. Be cautious of wheels that require spacers or adapters, or of using spacers to push the wheels outward for a more aggressive appearance. The allowable thickness of spacers varies by vehicle, and going too far can cause suspension damage and impair handling.

How do you know if an aftermarket wheel meets all those requirements and is of equal or greater quality than the original-equipment wheel? You pretty much have to take the word of the wheel manufacturer and retailer that it does, because there are no enforced regulations covering aftermarket wheels in the U.S.

Some aftermarket wheels aren't of the same quality as original-equipment rims and are more likely to bend or will be harder to balance. Note that we said some aftermarket wheels, because that certainly doesn't apply to all. It's also fair to note that original-equipment wheels can be bent or damaged by hitting potholes and curbs.

Aftermarket wheels that enhance the looks of a vehicle are tempting, but don't go by looks alone. Buy from reputable stores that really know wheels and tires and what's best for your vehicle.

Service Tires and Wheels

Contributor Rick Popely has covered the auto industry for decades and hosts a weekly online radio show on TalkZone.com.  Email Rick

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