Learn more from RimTyme N. Charleston, SC aftermarket wheel and tire experts
Wheel knowledge and cleaning tips
Cleaning Your Wheels
With improper cleaning and maintaining of your wheels your entire investment can be jeopardized. To protect and enjoy your investment for many years to come it is very important to properly clean your wheels. Here are the necessary hints to assist you.
Cleaning Painted Finishes
When cleaning your new wheels, it is recommended that you refrain from using chemical wheel cleaners. Many of these contain a caustic chemical that can damage the clear-coated finish by clouding it or even removing it. If you wash your vehicle on a regular basis, there is really no need to use them. When washing your vehicle, start with the wheels and tires first. You should wash them when it’s cool, the brakes heat the wheels up, making them difficult to clean and dry.
The finish on your wheels is similar to your vehicles paint job, use a mild detergent that is designed to use on automotive finishes. Use a washing mitt or soft sponge. Never use any type of brush or abrasive pad as these will scratch and damage the finish. Because the finish on your wheels is similar to the finish of your vehicle, it is recommended to wax the exposed area three to four times a year which depends on the climate you live in. This will maintain the new look longer and will help keep road grime and the elements from damaging the finish of your new wheels.
Cleaning Chrome Finishes
The same standard for painted wheels will apply to wheels with a chrome finish. However, chrome plating is more delicate and does require more care. You may wish to clean and wax them more often. Be sure not to use any abrasive chrome polishes as this could scratch the chrome plating. It is very important to clean your wheels more often if you live in a harsher climate where road salt is used. A chrome wheel will rapidly pit and become cloudy when exposed to road salt for any extended periods, as salt will break down the finish.
Determining the best size for you
In today's market there are wheels that actually can go all the way up to 30”inches. Wow, that is truly a lot of chrome, but is this the right fitment? That is the question that you need to ask yourself when making your decision. The typical industry standard is what they refer to as plus-sizing, and no matter what size you decide to put on your vehicle always make sure the wheels have a maximum load capacity equal to or greater than original equipment wheels.
Many time people want to put huge wheels on a vehicle and don't consider that they will eventually have to replace the tires as they are worn, and the more main stream size tires are considerably less and that will be a savings to you. Many times if you look at a 22" wheel next to a 24" wheel there is not a great deal of difference, and the tire replacement tire cost can many times be considerable. A good rule to follow is stay within 3 to 4 inches of the original wheel size.
The different types of aftermarket wheels
The most common types of wheels in the market today are similar but share a lot of differences and have pro’s and cons about them. Here is a breakdown of the different types:
One piece wheels are cast, forged or roll forged in a mold in one complete piece. It is the most common in the industry, because it's inexpensive and looks good.
Pro: Inexpensive, allows for design flexibility, sturdy construction and most common in the market
Con: Heavier than other designs, casting has less load capacity than forged. Limited offsets and widths, but many manufacturers are producing more size capabilities.
Two piece wheels are lighter in weight than one piece wheels, and the rim is forged and the center is made in low pressure casting machines and the center is either bolted or welded together. Typically this wheel is designed for performance.
Pro: Lightweight, Improved vehicle handling and custom offsets and various widths are manufactured.
Con: More expensive than one piece wheel designs, and the outer rim can be more easily damaged.
Three piece wheels have a separate center and two separate outer barrels (the inner and outer halves) and the face also noted as the hoop. They use aircraft quality bolts to hold them together and many use forged components to reduce weight and improve strength. This gives the manufacturer greater flexibility and makes a truer fit to the vehicle.
Pro: Lightweight, Improved vehicle handling, Wheel offsets and widths are manufactured to the make and year of vehicle, unlimited design options, billet or forged center.
Con: Very Expensive, The wheel can be damaged easier.
If you are looking for an everyday driving wheel without breaking your bank account then a one-piece wheel will do you fine, but if your building a tuner car and weight is a major issue then consider a two or three piece wheel design.
The different types of wheel finishes
There are many finishes to choose from today and there is a surge with painted wheels that have a chrome finish. Here are the most common finishes and how they are manufactured.
Once the wheel is manufactured by either a cast or forged it is machined on a CNC (Computer Numeric Control Machine). First they apply a copper plating base layer that provides the wheel with additional corrosion resistance. After this copper layer is buffed to a high shine, a layer of nickel plating is applied to the wheel, which provides the required bright and reflective layer. The result is a very shiny and reflective wheel that truly enhances the appearance. However, chrome wheels are typically the most expensive to purchase based on the finish.
Painted chrome rims are painted after it is machined on a CNC. They apply up to five coats of nickel painting and this enhances the color of the paint and is becoming more common by a lot of manufacturers. This is a growing segment within the industry and brings out the color dramatically. Painted chrome wheels are typically in line with the pricing of chrome wheels.
The process for painting wheels is simple. They draw negative current through the wheel and the powder coated paint is positively charged which attracts to the wheel. After the wheel is painted it is placed in to a high heat Kiln to harden the paint and finish. Painted wheels are very cost effective and really enhance the painted finish of your vehicle.
Polished wheels are the most inexpensive wheel to manufacturer. The wheel is machined followed by a surface polishing, and many manufacturers use a diamond bit CNC machine at high rates of speed. This process provides a high rich luster without the need to plate or clear. The wheel is very cost effective, but requires the most time and energy to clean and properly maintain.
Tire maintenance tips
Avoid overheating tires
Heat, like load, is the enemy of tire life. The higher the heat it is subjected to, the shorter the tire’s life—in terms of both treads wear and structural resistance.
High speeds, high loads, under-inflation, coarse pavement or concrete, and aggressive driving, including high cornering loads and hard braking, all contribute to high tire temperatures. Combined with high ambient temperatures and continuous use, they can create extreme circumstances and cause sudden tire failure.
To maximize tire life and safety, therefore, it is important to minimize the simultaneous occurrence of such conditions. Be particularly vigilant at high temperatures and adjust your driving style to consider its effect on tire life and performance.
Check your tire pressure once a month after you fuel your vehicle
According to studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) on tire related crashes, the leading cause of tire failure is under inflation. Under inflation can have many causes, including a gradual loss of pressure through membranes in the tire itself. It is typical for pressure to drop approximately 1 pound of air per month and 1 pound of air for each 8-degree loss in outside temperature.
Under inflation has immediate effects on vehicle handling (as well as fuel consumption), but its potential impact on overall safety and tire life are even greater. It results in premature and uneven tread wear on the outer edges. Under inflation also increases stress on the tire carcass itself, through flexing and overheating, which can lead to structural failures such as tread separation.
That's why it is imperative to check and adjust tire pressure at least once a month and before every long trip (over 250 miles). Recommended pressures are printed on a label located on the driver's doorframe or in the glove box. These statistics relate to compressed air and once you use nitrogen this enhances the life of your tires and handling as well as slows the process down for air loss.
Inspect tire regularly for abnormal wear or damage
To ensure maximum tire life and safety, give your tires a visual inspection at least once a month and before long trips. This is easily done at the same time you check pressures.
Look for the following in your tires:
- Excessive or uneven tread wear, which may indicate improper inflation or steering and suspension misalignment;
- Cracks or bulges on the sidewalls or tread;
- Chunking of the tread or any indication of tread separation from the carcass;
- Signs of puncture, or nails, screws, glass, pieces of stone or any foreign object imbedded in the tire.
If you detect any of these conditions, take the vehicle in for further diagnosis immediately. In most cases, punctures can be repaired if their size is not excessive.
In general, external "plugs" are not recommended. Repairs should be made from the inside, and a complete inspection made while the tire is off the rim. Sealing compounds and other emergency aids should be treated only as a means of moving the vehicle to a safe location for repair and should be communicated to the technician one was used.
If abnormal tire pressure loss occurs, check the valve stems for leakage, as well as the tire itself.
Install tires in matched pairs or complete sets
Maintain steering and suspension in proper alignment
Misalignment of the steering and suspension, either front or rear, can not only adversely affect the steering feel and stability of a vehicle, but also cause rapid and uneven tire wear. If not corrected, this misalignment can ruin a tire in a short time and distance.
If you feel the steering "pulling" in one direction or another when traveling straight ahead on a flat road with no crosswind, or if you notice uneven wear on the tires, particularly front tires, you should have the alignment checked and adjusted as soon as possible.
Alignment should also be checked after a vehicle has been involved in a collision or if it is used continuously on rough roads, particularly those with large potholes.
Maintain tires in proper balance
Never overload a tire
Overloading is the second leading cause of tire failure, next to under-inflation.
All tires are designed to operate within a maximum load range designated by a code on the tire sidewall. Exceeding this can result in both excessive wear and reduced tire life due to structural damage, including the potential for sudden failure.
In most vehicles, the maximum passenger and cargo load for which the vehicle and tires are designed is printed on the same label that designates recommended tire pressures. That load, particularly in the case of trucks and SUVs, may be substantially less than the vehicle is physically able to contain. It is critical that the maximum allowable load never be exceeded.
When determining the actual load in your vehicle, don't overlook the tongue-weight of a trailer if you are trailer towing, since it also acts directly on the vehicle's tires.
Rotate tires every 6,000 miles or according to owner's manual
Tire rotation is essential to achieve even tread wear and maximum tread life. On front-wheel-drive cars, for example, most of the braking, steering and driving forces are carried by the front tires, which inevitably wear much faster.
A "cross-rotation pattern"—that is, moving the left-front tire to the right-rear axle, the right-front tire to the left-rear axle, etc.—can best balance tread wear and maximize tire life. That sequence can be performed on any vehicle equipped with four non-unidirectional tires. Designated by an arrow on the sidewall, unidirectional tires must be rotated only front to rear and rear to front, on the same side of the vehicle, so their direction of revolution does not change. All-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive vehicles are best suited to a lateral rotation—left to right and right to left—at the same end of the vehicle.
Select the right tires for your vehicle and driving environment
Recent improvements in "all-season" tires have substantially advanced the concept of one-tire-for-all-needs. On the other hand, more specialized tires than ever are now available for high performance, rain, snow, ice, off-road and touring. Some are even uni-directional, "run-flat" and even "green."
Most drivers are happy just to know they have "all-season" tires, and that is the way most new vehicles are equipped. These are a benign compromise, sacrificing exceptional capability in any one area of performance for acceptable capability in all.
Within that premise, however, there are huge variations in actual performance. Unfortunately, factors that improve one tire characteristic tend to diminish another. For example:
- A hard tread compound may enhance tread life and fuel economy but detract from both wet and dry traction;
- Short, stiff sidewall construction may enhance cornering power and directional stability but detract from ride quality;
- A wide tread with minimal grooving may enhance dry grip but detract from traction in wet and snowy conditions;
- An aggressive, open tread may enhance snow traction but aggravate tire noise and sacrifice tread life on pavement.
In addition to dry asphalt, tires may be expected to function on mud, snow, ice, sand or gravel, in temperatures from above 140°F to below -40°F. You get some idea of the multiple tradeoffs designers have to make.
Just consider that exceptional virtues are probably achieved at the expense of others. Determine what your primary needs are, and narrow your choices accordingly.