Hubcaps vs Rims-What’s the Difference?

You have decided it’s time to get some new wheels for your car or truck. You may be wondering which kind you should purchase. A lot of people, especially if they are unfamiliar with wheels, may wonder what is the difference between hubcaps and rims. When it comes to hubcaps vs rims, there are some key differences to be aware of before making a purchase. If you are wanting to know the answer to this question, continue reading.

What Is the Difference Between Hubcaps and Rims?

It is common for people to lump hubcaps, rims, and wheels as being the same. After all, they do work together and are a part of the same unit. The truth is, there are key differences between hubcaps and rims. Before purchasing new wheels or components, car and truck owners need to understand the differences.

When you are considering the differences between rims and hubcaps, you need to know the rim is actually the outer edge of the wheel hub. The rim allows the tire edge to rest against it so a complete seal occurs. Without a strong rim, the tire would not hold air.

All About Rims

Rims are often referred to as wheels, even by retailers. People often say they are purchasing rims for their new ride when they are actually purchasing new wheels. The rim is simply a component of the wheel hub and nothing more.

While it serves a specific purpose, you cannot go to a tire shop and ask them to install new rims. You would need new wheels instead, which include the rims or edges of the wheels.

The reason so many people confuse rims with wheels is because of all the fancy wheel designs that are available today. Car and truck enthusiasts can choose a wealth of wheel designs. Some of them are deep and offer a dramatic lip.

All About Hubcaps

The hub of the wheel is where the hardware goes that keeps the tire in place. Although you can certainly leave this area exposed, most people find a plain hub leaves their car or truck looking boring.

Hubcaps solve the problem of boring or even ugly hubs. A hubcap is a decorative disc that completely conceals the hub of the wheel by covering it. Hubcaps are available in a wide array of styles and are even found in different colors.

The reason many people do not know about hubcaps is that you do not find them on modern cars anymore. Today, most car manufacturers use branded center caps to cover the hub. These caps are simply popped off when it comes time to remove the lug nuts so the tire can be changed.

Other Key Differences

Another key difference between the hubcaps and rims is the material. Wheels and rims are always made of metal. Typically, manufacturers make these car components out of steel or a steel alloy.

Hubcaps, on the other hand, are sometimes made of lightweight plastic or metal. Hubcaps are often made of plastic so they do not add weight to the tires and throw the car off balance.

Rims and hubcaps also have different functions. The rim’s job is to keep the tire on the wheel. The rim is like a deep lip that rises around the edge of the wheel.

When the tire is put on the wheel, the edge meets up against the lip, and the lip holds it in place. In other words, the rim’s primary job is to secure the tire. Without a rim, tires would not hold air and they would be forced off the wheel while driving, which could be deadly.

Hubcaps also play a vital role. This disc of metal or plastic helps to protect the lug nuts from becoming rusty due to water and salt exposure. The hubcap also catches a lug nut in its depths, should one come loose while you are driving.

You will actually hear the lug nut bouncing around inside the hubcap. Finally, hubcaps also add a decorative touch of style to a vehicle.

One last difference is how they are removed. Hubcaps can easily be removed with a screwdriver. You simply pry them off. They can be removed and changed without having to remove the tire or the wheel. When it comes to rims vs hubcaps, the way each is removed is different.

To remove the rims on a vehicle, you have to remove the entire wheel. To change out a wheel, you will need to use heavy-duty tools to remove the wheel from the vehicle and then remove the tire.

Hubcaps Are Not as Common as They Once Were

As stated above, hubcaps simply are not as popular as they once were. Car manufacturers are changing with the times, and they realize consumers are more interested in having an appealing design on their wheels.

Today’s car manufacturers are making cars with fancy alloy wheels that do not require a hubcap. In the past, hubcaps were made of heavy-duty metal. Today, they are typically made of cheap plastic and include the car’s branding.

A lot of people decide to replace the hubcaps on their newer car because they feel the manufacturer’s caps look cheap and they do not like the branding. Because hubcaps are more difficult to find these days, some owners simply remove the cap and expose the hub underneath.

Hubcaps are also becoming more obsolete because wheel covers are increasing in popularity among car and truck owners. It is important to note that a wheel cover does the same work as a hubcap but it covers more of the surface of the wheel, effectively covering all areas.

Car and truck owners are also putting wheel skins over their wheels. Wheel skins give the look of wheel covers without the high cost.

One of the best benefits of using wheel covers instead of hubcaps is their universal design. Manufacturers are making wheel covers to fit all cars and trucks so owners do not have to struggle to find the right size for their make and model.

Hubcaps vs Rims: Repair

When your rims or hubcaps become damaged, you can feel a lot of stress. You mustn't panic because it is not the end of the world. Hubcaps are simple to replace. The biggest problem you may run into with purchasing a hubcap replacement is being able to find an OEM part.

You will likely be better off purchasing an aftermarket package that includes four hubcaps, especially if your caps are older.

A damaged hubcap is nothing to be worried over. Even if you cannot find another hub, your wheel will work just fine without the hubcap until you can get it replaced. If you are having a truly difficult time finding hubcap replacements, you could always install wheel covers.

Structural damage done to the wheel is much more serious, especially if the damage has caused the rims to become bent or dented. If there is major damage done to the rims, you will need to replace the entire wheel.

Unfortunately, damage can be done to rims in accidents and because of road debris. If your wheel becomes damaged, it needs to be replaced because it is likely to cause damage to the tire or be a danger on the road.

Bottom Line

Now, you know the key differences between hubcaps and rims. Having this knowledge will help you better understand how your wheel assembly and tires work to keep you safe. If damage occurs, take appropriate action to keep your ride safe and secure. When it comes to hubcaps vs rims, this information has you covered.

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