Wheel FAQs

Hubcaps, Wheels, and Rims 101

FAQs on OEM and Aftermarket Wheels and Accessories


What is the difference between a hubcap, wheel cover, and center cap?

Hubcaps and wheel covers refer to the same object. Hubcaps/wheel covers are protective discs that fit over the wheel of your car. Most hubcaps use a clipping system to keep them attached to your wheels.


Wheel center caps are often used interchangeably with hubcaps, but there is a difference. Hubcaps and wheel covers go on plain steel wheels, while center caps are reserved for expensive aluminum wheels or rims. Hubcaps cover the metal center portion of your wheel; center caps only cover the lug nuts.


What is the difference between an OEM hubcap and an aftermarket hubcap?

If the hubcap is OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), it came from your vehicle manufacturer. Replacement OEM hubcaps are usually plastic. Some OEM hubcaps come with the manufacturer logo to signify they're an official product. Drivers typically want to keep their OEM hubcap style, and hubcap shops specialize in restoring the condition of OEM hubcaps.


Aftermarket hubcaps are made by companies completely unaffiliated with your vehicle’s manufacturer, usually overseas manufacturers. Although they are designed to resemble the OEM hubcaps as much as possible, they are not official products. This means an aftermarket hubcap will not include the manufacturer's emblem.


What types of fastening systems are offered on hubcaps?

There are three different fastening systems used for hubcaps:

Plastic clips with steel retention system: Found on OEM and aftermarket hubcaps. This setup uses plastic clips to fasten the hubcap to the wheel. The clips are fragile, so they're combined with a retention ring for support.


Metal clips with a steel retention system: A setup used on some aftermarket hubcaps, this system uses stronger steel clips that make the hubcap less likely to fall off. The retention ring helps the hubcap fit more securely.


Bolt-On System: Typically found on OEMs, such as Honda. This setup uses your wheel’s bolts as a fastening system for the hubcap, too.


How do center caps fit on the wheel?

Like hubcaps/wheel covers, center caps implement a variety of fastening systems. Many center caps use a plastic clips/steel retention setup, like the ones found on hubcaps. They might also use a system that clips onto your wheel’s lug nuts. Since hubcaps and center caps use similar clip systems, they share a common problem. Constantly removing a cap will weaken its retention system. When you remove your center caps or hubcaps to rotate your tires, be extra careful.


What other types of wheel accessories are available?

There are plenty of accessories available for wheels. Trim rings or beauty rings are similar to hubcaps, but they cover the outside edge of your wheel, not the center. Like hubcaps, trim rings add a unique style to your wheels.


Chrome wheel simulators, which are also known as wheel skins or imposters, are designed to make your wheels look like stainless steel or chrome and are another popular accessory. Plastic chrome wheel simulators are a low-cost alternative.


If you want to give your wheels a specific look or style, odds are there is a specialized accessory out there for you.


What can I do to avoid losing hubcaps?

Avoid removing your hubcaps as much as possible. Every time you remove a hubcap, you increase the likelihood of your clips breaking.


When hubcap removal is necessary, such as when you rotate or replace your tires. Remove your hubcaps before taking your vehicle to the auto shop. The shop might not be careful with your wheels, so removing the caps yourself makes them less likely to be lost or damaged.