Nothing changes the look and feel of a vehicle quite like new rims. The right style wheels can make any run-of-the-mill assembly-line car turn stunningly original. Whether you’re looking for flash and flare or just a nice set of steel throwbacks, the choices you’ll face in the aftermarket rim department are plentiful. Unfortunately, making that choice isn’t always as easy as choosing a picture in a catalog. There are few questions you should ask yourself first:

What type of wheel are you looking for?

This question can be answered by how you want your car to look. Do you want flashy or racing? Stylish or sleek? Do you want something dazzling and noticeable or something subtle and understated. Do you want something in the same size as your factory rim or do you want something wider, or maybe bigger with a low-profile tire? These are all questions you need to ask yourself as you browse through your wheel catalog, tour your local dealership, or shop online.

Aluminum or Steel?

If you go with chrome (aluminum) or chrome/gold (aluminum), be prepared to spend a lot of time polishing. Unless you’re using your new rims on a show car that is stored indoors, they’re going to get dirty. Some of these rims have several spokes, crevices, and holes that are very time consuming to clean. The black aluminum and silver aluminum wheels are typically easier to clean, but are more susceptible to peeling, scratching, and pitting than steel wheels. Steel wheels are going to be stronger, but most of them are going to be fairly subtle on the flash side. The selection is going to be much bigger on the aluminum side though.

Know your vehicle specs!

Knowing the year, make, model, and tire size of your vehicle will make the buying process much simpler for you. Many rims are fitted by year, make, and model of the car they’re going on. The main thing you need to remember is to always go with a rim size that is compatible with your current rim. Going with something bigger or wider may need to be test-fitted first, so be careful ordering online. Many companies have the policy that once a tire is mounted on the rim, it is not returnable. Always place the rims on the vehicle without the tires on them, and turn the steering wheel all the way to both sides to check the clearance against the steering, suspension, and braking systems.

The Bolt Pattern

This is going to matter a lot more if you’re shopping for rims online or through a catalog. The bolt pattern means the number of wheel studs you have and the distance they are apart on each wheel. Bolt patterns are different from vehicle to vehicle, so don’t purchase your rims online or through a catalog without knowing your particular bolt pattern.

Know Your Driving Conditions

Whether you go steel or aluminum, how you use your rims should be one of the biggest factors in what style you go with. Do you have the time to constantly clean and polish your wheels to protect your investment, or do you prefer something more no-hassle? Do you live on a dirt road or a road with tons of potholes and loose rock? Remember, your wheels are always exposed to little things kicking up off the road. Keep all of these factors in mind and you’ll find the perfect fit for both your vehicle and your style.

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