wheels hubcaps
Hubcaps 101
       The information provided below is intended to educate those not affiliated with the auto industry on hubcaps, wheel covers and center caps as well as the difference between factory original (OEM) hubcaps and aftermarket hubcaps or wheel covers. This also will help shed light on the all important clipping system of wheel covers and offers suggestions for hubcap care.
What is the difference between a hubcap, wheel cover and center cap?
  • The term hubcaps and/or wheel covers are interchangeable. A hubcap/wheel cover fits on a plain steel wheel, usually black steel wheel. The hubcap fastens to the wheel using one of a number of different clipping systems.
  • Center caps and hubcaps are also often interchanged. Most often center caps are associated with more expensive aluminum wheels or rims. Center caps are much smaller than wheel covers and usually cover just the lug nuts.
Center Cap
Center Cap
What is the difference between an OEM hubcap and aftermarket hubcap?
  • Factory original or OEM hubcaps are made by the manufacturer of your vehicle. This product came on the new vehicle at the time of purchase. Very often hubcap stores will recondition OEM hubcaps to make them look new. All OEM hubcaps today are made of plastic and usually come with a manufacturers emblem.
  • Aftermarket hubcaps are made by parties unaffiliated with car manufacturers. Most aftermarket hubcaps are made in China or Taiwan and are made of plastic. Often aftermarket hubcaps are made to look like the factory originals; however, they do not have the manufacturers emblem on them.
OEM Hubcap
What types of fastening systems are offered on hubcaps?
  • Plastic Clips w/ Steel Retention System - This system is found on both OEM and aftermarket hubcaps. The clips by themselves provide little strength or fastening ability; however, when used with a retention ring, the hubcap fastens to the inner wheel. Historically this system has the highest incidents of hubcap loss.
  • Metal Clips w/ Steel Retention System - Available on aftermarket hubcaps. This system does not require the retention ring but the ring does create a more secure fit. Steel clips offer strength to the clipping system and mitigates hubcap loss.
  • Bolt-On System - This system is most often found with OEM manufacturers like Honda. The bolts for the wheels also serve as the fastening system for the hubcap.
Metal Clips
How do center caps fit on the wheel?
  • Center caps use a whole assortment of fastening systems. Very often they will use the "Plastic Clips w/ Steel Retention System" found on hubcaps. They also will often use a system that clips onto the lug nuts used to fasten the wheel to the axle.
  • As with hubcaps, care should be taken when rotating tires. The more often center caps are removed, the weaker the retention system will likely get.
What other types of wheel accessories are available?
  • Trim Rings or beauty rings, fasten to the wheel in the same fashion as hubcaps; however, trim rings only cover the outside edge of the wheel.
  • Chrome wheel simulators are not new to the industry; however, the new plastic chrome wheel simulators came about in response to manufacturers making styled steel wheels. Plastic chrome wheel simulators fit the wheel almost like a glove and turn the plain steel wheel into a chromed wheel at a very low cost.
  • There are many other specialty items manufactured to provide a specific look.
Trim Ring
What can be done to avoid loosing hubcaps?
  • Avoid removing your hubcaps. Only take them off the vehicle when absolutely necessary. The more your hubcaps are taken off and put back on, the higher the likelihood of the clips breaking.
  • When rotating tires and replacing tires, remove carefully remove hubcaps before you get to the garage. Very often these facilities are do not take the time and care to remove your hubcaps without damaging them.