The Secrets To Swapping Wheels Between Cars

black rubber mercedes benz automotive wheel

I know we’ve all thought about swapping wheels between cars at some point or another. Wheels after all make or break the appearance of a car. 

Sure there are a ton of aftermarket wheels to fit your every whim, but sometimes an eye catches an oem wheel that just does it for you. Whether it’s between model years or different brands we just have to have it. 

The question is can we make it work? Can you just switch wheels with another car, simply unbolting the old and bolting up the new? 

Yes you can!

However, those questions require a fair bit of information to make sure we can make it work. We need to know some facts about your car, its current wheels, and the wheels you want to swap. This information can be fairly technical but it’s pretty straight forward. 

How Do I know What Rims Fit My Car

First thing to figure out is, what wheels are already on your car. A quick google search with your make, model and year will yield some results. Simple enough, but you need to know which wheels your car came with. 

If you’re lucky your particular car didn’t have many different options for wheels so narrowing it down won’t be that hard. However some brands offer many different wheel options.

Porsche currently offers 6 different wheel options just for the 911!

Knowing which wheels are on your car will allow you to understand the different parameters that affect ride quality, and driving dynamics. 

Wheel specifications can be broken down into 3 main parameters. Those parameters are bolt pattern, offset, and hub bore. 

  • Bolt pattern
  • The pattern designed to bolt a wheel or rim to your vehicle. The lug holes are the locations on the wheel where the lug nut comes through or a lug bolt is inserted to attach the wheel to the vehicle. 
  • The pattern is written in the format of the number of lugs x the diameter of the circle formed by the lugs. The illustration from pro billet wheels below will explain better.
different bolt pattern description. swapping wheels between cars
Different Bolt Patterns
  • Since it’s hard to imagine the circle when measuring, some astute people have come up with a clever technique of measuring the pattern should you need to. 
  • For 4,6 and 8 lug bolt patterns you measure from the center point of 2 holes directly across from each other.
  • For 5 lug it’s a little different. You start at the middle point of one hole and measure to the back end of the hole directly across from it.
  • Check out the image from Tire buyer for reference. Otherwise google is your friend in this situation, since most cars are well known.
how to measure bolt patterns. swapping wheels between cars
How To Measure Bolt Patterns

  • Offset
  • What position your wheel is mounted in the wheel well relative to its centerline.
  • Zero offset wheels are mounted directly center leaving equal amounts of wheel inside and out. Positive offset wheels are mounted inboard of the centerline, while negative offset wheels are mounted outboard.
  • Most vehicles comes with positive offset wheels.
  • Check out this video by Ronny Dahl for a great explanation of offset.
Offset Explained
  • Hub Bore
  • This opening in the center of the wheel mounts directly to the hub of the vehicle. These can vary in size depending on the vehicle.
  • Oem wheels are generally hub centric meaning the wheel fits directly on the hub to center it and prevent vibrations.
  • Some wheels are lug centric meaning the hub bore opening is larger than hub and use the lug studs to center the wheel.

Can You Put Any Rims On Any Car?

Now that you know the specs of your wheels you can go hunting. So can any wheels fit your car? 

Well as long as they have the same/similar specs as your stock wheels you can go on swapping wheels between cars, with some exceptions.

Some specifications are mandatory and others you can play around with depending on the look and ride you want to achieve.

So first the mandatory. You must have wheels with the same bolt pattern. You can’t bolt a 8 lug wheel to a 5 lug hub and vice versa, it just won’t work. 

There are, however, aftermarket adapters that will allow you to adapt the wheel to your car’s pattern. This is more of a hack though, I would recommend finding wheels that more directly fit. 

Offset is something you can experiment with. Usually you can go lower (from higher positive offset to lower even beyond zero in some cases) in offset as long as your wheels don’t interfere with suspension components, body panels, and bumpers. 

Many people choose this route because they like to fill in the wheel well and reduce the sunk in wheel look cars come with from the factory. Flush or “hella flush” is making the wheel flush with the fenders. 

Going higher in offset than factory wheels is generally not recommended because you run the risk of hitting suspension components, especially if you’re running wider width wheels than what came stock. 

Wheel width is obviously how wide or narrow your wheel is. How far you deviate from stock plus offset can drastically change where the wheel sits in your wheel well. 

If you look at some off road vehicles you see they have wheels that often stick out way past the fenders. This comes from a combination of lower or negative offset wheels in combination with a wider width.

You can see why knowing both your car’s specs and your new wheels specs are important. Little changes in offset and width can make a dramatic difference in its appearance.

I recommend using this wheel comparison calculator to check how the new wheels stack up next to your old ones before spending any money. Finding the right wheels can take some work but it’s definitely worth doing the research beforehand.

Interchangeable Wheels Guide

Many different makes and models of vehicles share bolt patterns, and hub bores. Finding which wheels work on different cars is half of the fun.

Check out this bolt-pattern chart for which wheels your car originally came with and which cars you can potentially swap with. A good guide is to keep it within the brand.

If you are deciding which wheels could potentially work with your car, first check within the model line up. Going up a few years or back a fews years generally the bolt patterns don’t change much. 

Same goes across the brand, generally most cars within the same car manufacturer have similar bolt patterns and can  make swapping wheels between cars easy. Where this method falls apart is across vehicle types. 

A body on frame pickup truck wheel, for example, won’t generally work with a compact car. Also when manufacturers drastically change a vehicle’s platform from say from FWD to RWD, or body on frame to unibody, generally bolt patterns and things change too.

As with any modification double check, double check, double check! Don’t assume this method will work! This is just a starting point. Narrow your wheels down and check that everything will work with your set up!

How Much Does It Cost To Swap Wheels?

The cost of swapping wheels is limited to only your imagination. When you know what fits your car you can get creative.

Finding used wheels from different cars and making them work on your setup can be a great way to modify your vehicle’s looks on a budget. 

I myself am planning to do the very same thing very soon. Looking to upgrade my Ford Escape hybrid’s wheels to something that has a more aggressive off road stance.

A set of Ford Ranger wheels has the same bolt pattern with a more aggressive offset giving me the looks I want on a budget of under $500. A similar aftermarket wheel would cost me twice as much.

A critical part of getting wheels to fit properly is the right size and type tire for your wheels. Check out the tire guide here for more info on how and what to choose. 

Make sure the tire and wheel combination both work with your vehicle. Choosing wheels is only half the battle.

In Sum

Understanding your vehicle’s specifications is necessary when swapping wheels between cars. 

Armed with the right information, picking the right wheels, whether they be original or aftermarket will be a breeze. 

No more second guesses and confusion. Good luck and happy wheel hunting!

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