A common vehicle customization for many people is new, aftermarket wheels for their car. There are a wide variety of wheels out there to choose from, and adding different wheels to your ride can give it an edgy, new look and change its driving characteristics. While this might sound great, there are a few things you need to know. You can’t simply go out and slap on any new set of wheels on your car. Doing so can result in issues with your vehicle, and it can endanger you or your passengers. Here are some things you need to know about aftermarket wheels.

They Can Be Dangerous

One of the big appeals of many aftermarket wheels is that they’re cheaper than OEM wheels. This may sound great to someone who has damaged their OEM wheels, but the fact of the matter is that you usually get what you pay for. OEM wheels are made to comply with performance and safety regulations. Aftermarket wheels are sometimes not held to those same standards. If you want truly good aftermarket wheels, you have to pay for them. Don’t get cheap aftermarket wheels.  

Also, if you buy wheels that are much larger or smaller than the OEM wheels, you can damage your car’s suspension and tires, unless you make adjustments to the rest of the car. The tires on your wheels need to fit the wheels correctly and be ready to take on the task of providing traction for your car.

Don’t Just Focus on Looks

Aftermarket Wheels on display

When you’re thinking of getting new wheels, you’re probably thinking first and foremost about how the wheels look. While how the wheels look is definitely important, how they fit and how the car performs once they’re fitted is what’s most important. When you start fussing with the size of the tire, all sorts of things can go wrong.

If you go too big, the tire can rub the inside of the fender. Also, this impacts the gearing of the car because the overall diameter is larger, effectively slowing acceleration. It also messes up ABS calibration when you put on new wheels. Finally, if you add larger wheels that impact the height of your car, your center of gravity moves, and this can give your vehicle different driving characteristics that aren’t always what you’re looking for.

Aftermarket Wheels Can Improve Performance

Sports car with large rims

When aftermarket wheels are chosen wisely and installed correctly, they can improve performance. Aftermarket wheels can be lighter, stiffer, and provide a mounting point for better tires. According to Victor Equipment, larger wheels allow for lower profile tires, which, when properly equipped, can improve road holding and reduce rolling resistance.

This works because the contact patch of the tire is increased, giving you more traction. There are two ways to increase your tire’s contact patch. The first involves going with a larger diameter wheel and a lower profile tire. The second is to increase the width of the wheel and tire. Both of these will increase how much of the tire is actually touching the ground at any one time. This increases traction and allows you to use more of the power provided by the engine.  

It’s More About Your Tires

high performance tire

With that being said, if you really want to improve performance, turn to your tires first. While going with a bigger wheel that’s lighter and stiffer will make a difference, just upgrading your tires alone can make for a pretty big improvement in performance. According to Popular Mechanics, high-performance tires can offset horsepower discrepancies and help a lesser car perform better than its competitors.

The publication used an example of a 2001 Ford Mustang GT beating a 199 Porsche 911 around a 1.1-mile racetrack. That happened because the Mustang was equipped with better tires than the Porsche. Ordinarily, the Porsche would have beat the Mustang due to its more sophisticated suspension setup and roughly 40 hp advantage. So, while wheels matter. Generally, tires matter more. The best setup is a well-matched set of wheels, low-profile tires, and a suspension setup to handle that configuration.