There are more performance wheel companies than ever before. Some have been around since the early days of hot rodding and some are the new kids on the block. There are a variety of design styles and quality to choose from. You can literally spend $100 per wheel or $1,000 and more. Like most things in our hobby, budget dictates the wheels. You get what you pay for, but there are a lot of good quality wheels out there at an affordable price. You can also find wheel styles with several different bolt patterns and offsets to match what you need for your application. We'll review wheel specifications next.
- Wheel Diameter - Overall diameter of the wheel (14, 15, 16, 17, 18 inch etc.)
- Bolt Pattern - "5 on 4.5" means 5 lugs on a 4.5 inch diameter pattern. (Diameter of a circle is a measurement from one point on a circle through the center to a point on the other side of the circle). On 4 lug or 6 lug patterns, you can measure from the center of one wheel stud to the center of the opposite stud to get the wheel bolt circle. On 5 lug wheels, an easy way to measure is from the center of one wheel stud to the center of one of the 2 opposite wheel studs. THEN: Add 1/4 inch to the measurement and you've got your diameter. It's not exact, but if you measure this way, you'll get close knowing that older vehicles would have standard patterns. 5 on 4.5 inches, 5 on 4.75 inches, 5 on 5.5 etc.
- Back Spacing - Distance from the wheel mounting surface to back edge of rim. To measure: Turn your wheel face down on a soft surface to avoid scratching the pretty side. Lay a straight edge across the back part of the rim across the diameter of the wheel. Measure from the straight edge to the wheel mounting face. That is your back spacing measurement.
- Wheel offset is another way to describe wheel back spacing. Wheel offset is based on the width of the wheel and the position of the wheel mounting/hub surface from the center line of the wheel. If the wheel/hub mounting surface is exactly in the center of the rim, the wheel has 0 (zero) wheel offset. Positive wheel offset means the wheel/hub mounting surface is positioned toward the outside of the car more. Negative wheel offset is the opposite, giving you a deeper dish wheel.
There are several advantages to alloy wheels. Alloy wheels are lighter than steel rims, making them a good choice in racing for that reason alone. Because of the reduced weight of the wheel, unsprung weight is reduced providing several performance advantages. Many alloy wheels are chrome plated to provide a near maintenance free finish with less need for polishing. Alloy wheels also dissipate heat from brakes better than steel wheels. Heat transfers through the hub to the wheel where it can be cooled over a larger area. Alloy wheels are available in many more sizes than steel rims. Accommodating big brakes is easier because of the many large diameter alloy wheels available.