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Factory Wheels | Glossary Of Terms

Many types of wheels and wheel covers use similar words to represent different things; this glossary will help you understand and find the wheel or cover you need.
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Whether you are looking for a single wheel cover because one went AWOL, or an entire set of factory wheels to enhance the looks and value of your vehicle, you may be scanning the extensive collection of choices in our "Factory Wheels" category. There, under Featured Products, you will see terms such as "replica factory wheel", "remanufactured wheel", "wheel cover", "impostor wheel skins", and the like.

Depending on your knowledge and experience, a lot of these terms may be elementary. However, we don't presume that everyone understands all the distinctions. Since many wheel products use similar words but represent different things, we've created this glossary to help you make the most educated choices.

Because no one is born knowing all these definitions, taking a quick look through this glossary will be helpful. And when you do decide on what you need, CARiD offers a huge selection of OEM style steel and aluminum wheels, center caps, wheel covers, and wheel lug nuts that match factory specifications - for vehicles old and new.

In alphabetical order:

Alloy Wheels

Alloy Wheel

Alloy wheels are made from mixes of different metals which consist mostly of aluminum and some magnesium, along with other elements to enhance strength. Also known as "aluminum wheels" or "aluminum alloy wheels", these are more expensive to produce but offer the benefit of much lighter weight compared to steel wheels.

Because alloy wheels are softer than steel ones, they have the potential for being damaged more easily compared to steel wheels. First seen on European import cars as far back as the 1950s, alloy wheels are stylish, and are meant to be shown. Depending on make and model application, alloy wheels may be painted, powdercoated, left bare, or given a textured surface.

Center Caps

Center caps come in three varieties. First, they can be small, removable pieces found at the very center of a wheel that are too small in diameter to reach lug bolts. A second type of center cap is a styled lug bolt-covering piece that's completely integrated into the design of the wheel. And the third type of center cap is usually found on older American cars and trucks - resembling the function of a traditional hub cap but designed for the purpose of adding style.

Flat BMW Center Cap
Styled Lug Bolt Covering Center Cap
Center Cap Typical For Older American Cars Installed
Center Cap Typical For Older American Cars

Factory Replica Wheels

These are wheels that are built to match the looks, size, dimensions, proportions, offset, and all other measurements of OEM factory wheels. (Note that depending on the manufacturer, the replica wheel may be designed to look very similar, but not exactly like, the factory design, due to trademark constraints.) Factory replica wheels usually always replicate the steel or aluminum construction of original factory ones, and contain similar surface finishes.

Factory Replica Wheel
Aluminum Factory Replica Wheel

Finish

Wheel Powder Coating

Wheel finish is a layer of colored paint, powdercoat, clear coat paint, or other material that's applied to the surface of a steel or alloy wheel. When it comes to factory replica wheels, steel ones are typically painted black or silver. Alloy wheels usually feature some variation of silver or gray finish, or clear coat on top of bare metal. Additionally, wheel covers and imposter wheel skins may also be offered with more than one type of outer finish.

Hub Cap

Hub Cap

A hub cap is the term for a plain, round steel disc that covers only the center part of a wheel, including the axle hub and lug nuts (or bolts). While hub caps are sometimes confused with center caps, the "hub cap" expression has come to represent base model vehicles with steel wheels built before the 1990s. Hub caps on these vehicles were the factory low-cost first choice for a wheel covering to hide the unattractive wheel hub bearing and lug nuts. See center caps for styled hub covering pieces. A wheel cannot be unbolted and taken off the vehicle without first removing a hub cap.

Imposter Wheel Skins

Imposter Wheel Skin

Imposter wheel skins are overlay wheel covers that are designed to give a factory wheel the look of a different finish - such as chrome, black chrome, or other. Unlike regular wheel covers that can be installed over almost any wheel, imposter skins will fit only the specific wheels they're designed for - because they are an identical match for the shape, contours, and dimensions of a particular wheel. Once installed, the original wheel is completely concealed and no longer visible.

Lugs / Lug Bolts / Lug Nuts

Wheel lugs, lug nuts, and lug bolts are what are used to hold a wheel/tire assembly to the vehicle. A vehicle with use either lugs & nuts, or lug bolts, but not both.

Wheel lugs (also called studs) are threaded rods that are bolted or pressed to a wheel hub assembly. They stick out from the hub, and the wheel is placed over them, then bolted down using lug nuts.

Wheel Lugs
Lug Nuts

If a car or truck is not equipped with wheel lugs, it uses lug bolts. Lug bolts thread into matching threaded inserts in the hub. Some find these clumsier to use, as the holes in the wheel must be lined up with the holes in the hub for the lug bolts to be started.

Lug Bolts
Wheel Hub

Remanufactured Wheel

A remanufactured wheel is a used, original equipment OEM wheel that has been stripped down, sanded, refinished, and generally restored to factory new condition. Dents have been repaired, any corrosion has been fixed, and any imperfections have been eliminated. While remanufactured wheels are in new condition, they are not newly built the way factory replica ones are. We offer both remanufactured alloy wheels and remanufactured steel wheels for those who prefer to stay with an OEM product but perhaps save a few bucks.

Remanufactured Wheel Before
Remanufactured Wheel After

Steel Wheel (basic)

A steel wheel uses steel as its primary component, but may also contain various alloys such as carbon, phosphorus, sulphur, manganese, chromium, and nickel. While these are ventilated with various slots or holes, these are not created for looks because they are intended to be covered with a wheel cover. Because basic steel wheels cost the lowest amount to produce, they're usually found on low-cost trim models old and new. Basic steel wheels always come painted - usually black. We offer basic steel wheels that are new or remanufactured.

Basic Steel Wheel
Black Basic Steel Wheel

Steel Wheel (styled)

A styled steel wheel is designed with looks that are meant to enhance the style of the vehicle. Styled steel wheels are not intended to be covered, and were typically fitted as optional equipment on classic vehicles built before aluminum alloy wheels became mainstream in the 1980s and 90s.

Wheel Cover

Monkey Steals Wheel Cover

A wheel cover is a removable disc that is designed to fit over and cover an entire basic steel wheel. While most snap into place and are held in place by tension clips, some wheel covers are secured by lug nuts that also keep the wheel bolted on. Most wheel covers made before the 1980s feature steel construction, while those built since are made of plastic. These are often incorrectly described as "hub caps", which cover only the center part of a steel wheel.

Wheel Locks

Wheel locks are a set of four lug bolts (or lug nuts) that have a rounded end that can only be loosened with a specially fitted key. One wheel lock is installed per wheel to prevent theft. We offer sets of four wheel locks by themselves, or with new lug nuts/bolts.

Wheel Locks
Set Of Four Lug Bolts

All of these products can be found in our OEM Factory Wheels category. While you're there, you may also be interested in pursuing our extensive line of Custom Wheels, and Car & Truck Tires. Whether full factory or outlandishly outrageous, CARiD has everything you need for wheels and tires.

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All manufacturer names, symbols, and descriptions, used in our images and text are used solely for identification purposes only. It is neither inferred nor implied that any item sold by CARiD.com is a product authorized by or in any way connected with any vehicle manufacturers displayed on this page.

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