There is no other single accessory that can so dramatically change the appearance of your vehicle as a set of custom wheels. In the old days, custom or “mag” wheels came from just a few manufacturers like Cragar, AT and American Racing. Now you can find all types of designs to fit any look or attitude from a myriad of makers including Pulse, Avenue, Dub, Enkel, Foose, and of course, American Racing and Cragar Classic. When talking about custom wheels for street use, “Mag” is actually a misnomer. In the early ‘60s, “Mag” was a term that racers used to refer to their lightweight, yet strong wheels made of magnesium. But due to the drawbacks of magnesium wheel care and maintenance, custom wheels engineered for the general public are usually made of more easily cared for chrome plated steel, polished aluminum, or painted aluminum. Chrome or Aluminum?Largely it’s a matter of taste, but there are a few things to consider. First, are these wheels primarily for occasional racing where weight might be an issue? Or is it for a sometimes off-road or rally application, in which case, durability is an issue. Or is it simply for street cruising or touring where looks are the main issue? Painted Steel and Chrome plated steel wheels are heaviest of the three, but also are the most durable and forgiving of damage. Good chrome plating not only looks great, but also resists corrosion. Painted aluminum is lighter, and virtually maintenance-free but cannot match the sheen of chrome or polished aluminum – which for many customizers is just the look they’re going for. Polished aluminum is light, looks great, but requires just a little more diligence to protect the finish from oxidization or pitting. Larger Tire Retail chains have installed thousands of wheel and tire combinations on vehicles over the years and can suggest several options that will work best with your particular vehicle and the look you are trying to achieve. Often they can even show you pictures of previous installations.A Word On Wheel and Tire Fitment One of the trends in custom wheels today is to install oversize wheels, up to 22″ or more. Keep in mind that any time you install rims that are taller than the tallest wheel that came standard on your vehicle, it requires careful planning. The larger diameter rim, with accompanying tire, must not only fit in the wheel well, but also have enough extra room for full travel of the suspension. Failure to do this properly will result in, at best, an annoying thud when hitting large bumps or, at worst, shredding and blowing out of the tire after just a few miles. The simplest way to accommodate a taller wheel is to switch to a lower profile tire so that the overall height of the wheel and tire package remains the same as before. The penalty for increasingly lower profile tires is increasingly stiffer handling and harsher ride. For performance customizers who have installed aftermarket brakes on their vehicles, separate calculations have to be made for backspace and offset, the measurements for how much space there is between the wheel centerline and the body of the car and how offset the centerline of the wheel is from the mounting plate. Done correctly. This will ensure that the wheel not only has enough space to accommodate for the oversized brakes, but that the entire wheel and tire package will have enough room side-to-side in the wheel well.Consult a ProfessionalTrying to buy custom wheels online should only be attempted by those who have had some real experience in this area. For most of us, the best option is a large local tire retailer that stocks a big selection of chrome, painted or polished custom wheels. Not only can you see and compare actual wheels side-by-side, but you are also assured that the great –looking tire and wheel package you end up with is one that will work properly (read safely) with your vehicle. This is not a time for trial and error!
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