If you’ve ever shopped for aftermarket wheels, you’ve probably come across the term “hub-centric”, often listed as a feature.
Possibly you’ve been cautioned against using “lug-centric” wheels, but the warning was kind of obscure as to what lug-centric even is, or why it really matters.
What are Hub-Centric and Lug-Centric Wheels?
First, a common misconception is that specific wheels are ‘hub-centric’ or ‘lug-centric’ — the term properly refers to how the wheel fits onto the vehicle.
Hub-centric Wheel: A wheel that is centered or ‘located’ on the hub by a machined center hole.
Lug-centric Wheel: A wheel that is lug nut-centered, or located on the hub by the lug nuts alone.
OEM of Factory Wheels
Nearly all OEM Wheels are designed to be hub-centric. The automaker designs an OEM wheel to fit on a certain vehicle or range of vehicles. The center bore of the wheel is sized to fit perfectly onto the axle of that car.
This is a hub-centric connection, as the wheel is centered by its connection to the axle hub. The lug-nuts hold the wheel firmly to the mounting plate, but it is the wheel-to-axle connection that holds the weight of the vehicle.
This is quite an important distinction, as the lug-nuts are designed to handle lateral forces that push the wheel away from the mounting plate.
The forces that the hub and center bore connection are designed to withstand, the weight of the car forcing downward and impacts forcing upward, are at right angles to the forces that the lug-nuts are designed for.
Hub diameter is, therefore, an extremely important consideration when fitting new wheels, whether OEM or aftermarket. If the hub diameter is smaller than the axle, the wheel will simply not fit.
What About Aftermarket Wheels?
Most aftermarket wheels are, therefore, made with over-size hub diameters to ensure that they will fit on a wide range of cars and trucks.
This means that when the wheel is installed, there will most likely be a space between the axle and the hub instead of firm contact. The wheel is therefore lug-centric, as the wheel is centered by the lugs rather than by the hub.
This can cause the lug studs to bend, leading to a vibration in the car as the wheel slips around on the mounting plate, and possibly damaging the wheel’s center bore if it has enough play to contact the axle.
Hub-centric Ring Wheel Spacers
To prevent this, aftermarket wheels will usually need hub-centric spacers, small rings of metal or plastic made with various inside and outside diameters, to fit inside the wheel hub and then fit over the axle, making a lug-centric fitment into a hub-centric one.
Some aftermarket wheel makers advertise that all of their wheels are hub-centric. What this really means is that they provide the proper spacers for the customer’s vehicle, not that they custom-make their wheels for the many hub diameters out there.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that spacers are optional equipment or that a retailer is trying to up-sell you on some useless accessories. Hub-centric spacers are about as necessary for aftermarket wheels as lug-nuts are.
Most good wheel retailers, online or otherwise, will provide the correct spacers as part of the fitment package. There is of course a solid selection of hub-centric rings on Amazon.
Prevent Unnecessary Vibration
Here’s a solid explanation of hub-centric rings, why you need them, and how to keep your vehicle from experiencing unnecessary vibration…