Wheels and Rims: How to Prevent Tire Rub

October 31, 2012

Your vehicle's wheels and rims need to be matched so that their combined size does not extend past the wheel well clearances. Both tire rub and bent rims can be caused by not leaving enough clearance in the wheel wells. Without clearance, the wheels will be thrust into the wheel well whenever you hit road bumps.

When you select larger wheels and rims, you have to take into account the sidewall height and width of the tire used. In addition, the larger rim must still be able to handle the weight of the vehicle. Before running out and purchasing the wheels and rims of your dreams, you need to invest some time and gather clearance information about your vehicle. Without this information, you could experience both tire rub and bent rims. Tire rub will destroy your expensive tires, and driving on bent rims is unsafe. Not only that, but once you bend a rim, it is useless and must be replaced.

Before you go to the tire center, inspect the sidewall of your tire and look for the tire size information that is molded into it. The first number indicates how wide the tire is. This number is in millimeters. It may be preceded by a letter such as "P" or "LT". The "P" indicates a passenger classification for that tire, and the "LT" indicates that the tire should be used on a light truck. The next number, after the slash, is a percentage. That number is multiplied by the tire width to obtain the sidewall height. If there is not a number in that position, then it is assumed to be 80 percent. The last number, following the "R," is the tire (and rim) diameter in inches. The distance from the center of the axle to the top of the tire is the combined height of the wheel and tire. By knowing the combined height and the wheel well clearance measurements, you can avoid tire rub and bent rims.

Make your measurements with the vehicle on a flat, level surface, and at its normal load (that means no storage in the vehicle). Pick a side to start on and repeat the procedure for the other side once all of the measurements have been recorded. Measure the combined height of the wheels and rims. This number will be the same, with almost no variance, for both sides. With wheels aiming straight, measure the clearance between the top of the tire and the wheel well. Next, measure from the front and then the back of the tire to the wheel well. Turn the wheel all the way to one side, and measure between the tire and wheel well at the closest point. Repeat this same measurement after turning the wheel fully in the opposite direction.

Select wheels and rims that have a combined height that will fall within the clearance measurements, and you can avoid tire rub and bent rims. Remember, if your vehicle has very little clearance space, then select wheels and rims where the combined height is the same as the ones you are replacing.

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