Hubcaps are decorative wheel covers that fit over the central part of automotive wheels, called the hub. Hubcaps serve both cosmetic and functional purposes on a vehicle. Cosmetically, hubcaps can dramatically change the look of a car, allowing drivers to customize their ride. Functionally, hubcaps protect the hub from dirt and debris.
Hubcaps come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and designs. Most hubcaps attach via retaining clips, springs or plastic fasteners. Some even screw directly onto the lug bolts. When shopping for new hubcaps, it’s important to match them correctly to your make and model. Ill-fitting hubcaps can be a safety hazard.
When To Install New Hubcaps?
There are several reasons you may need to install hubcaps on a car:
- To replace old, worn out, or damaged hubcaps
- To upgrade to a new style or design
- After changing a tire or doing other wheel maintenance
- After painting or refinishing your wheels
- To complement other exterior customizations or upgrades
New hubcaps are an easy way to give your car a fresh, updated look without spending a lot of money. Keep reading to learn the complete process of installing them correctly.
How To Install Hubcaps On A Car?
Step 1: Remove Old Hubcaps
The first step is removing your existing hubcaps to prepare the wheel for new ones. There are several methods to do this depending on the type of retention system your hubcaps use.
Pry Off Snap-On Hubcaps
Many plastic or metal hubcaps snap into place using clips or springs. Carefully insert a flat head screwdriver between the hubcap and wheel well and gently pry around the edge until it pops off. Take care not to bend or scratch the hubcap during removal.
Unscrew Bolt-On Hubcaps
Some hubcaps screw directly onto lug bolts using built-in openings. Use the proper size socket or hex wrench to unscrew and remove any bolts holding the hubcap in place. Set aside bolts and retainers for later reinstallation.
Use Hubcap Removal Tool
Specialized hubcap removal tools are available that quickly and easily pop off snap-on style hubcaps. They can prevent damage compared to prying off hubcaps with screwdrivers. This inexpensive tool is worthwhile for frequent hubcap changes.
Step 2: Prep Wheels and New Hubcaps
Now that you’ve removed the old hubcaps, take a few moments to prepare the wheels and new hubcaps for installation:
- Clean wheels thoroughly, removing any dirt, grime, or corrosion
- Ensure wheel studs, bolts, and retention clips are in good condition
- Confirm new hubcaps are the proper fitment for your make/model
- Test fit new hubcaps and ensure proper clearance around brakes, suspension, etc.
- Clean inner surface of new hubcaps with soap and water
Proper prep prevents issues down the road and ensures a smooth, successful hubcap installation.
Step 3: Install New Hubcaps
With your wheels and new hubcaps prepped, you’re ready for installation. The installation method will vary depending on the hubcap retention system:
Snap On New Hubcaps
Line up any retention clips or openings on the back of the hubcap with the wheel studs. Then, starting on one edge, push firmly around the perimeter of the hubcap until it fully snaps into place. Ensure it is secured evenly across the wheel.
Bolt On New Hubcaps
Match up any openings on the hubcap backside with your lug bolts or studs. Hand thread bolts a couple turns to hold it in place temporarily. Once all bolts are started, tighten down with proper socket or wrench using a crisscross pattern.
Twist and Lock Hubcaps
These unique hubcaps utilize interlocking teeth to secure the hubcap to the wheel’s retention rings. Line up the teeth and twist the hubcap clockwise to “lock” it into place. Make sure the locking tabs fully engage for proper installation.
Step 4: Reinstall Tires and Wheel
If you fully remove the wheel to access the back of the hubcap, you’ll need to reinstall it on the vehicle.
- Lift the vehicle safely using a jack and secure it on jack stands
- Place wheel onto vehicle studs and hand thread lug nuts
- Tighten lug nuts in a crisscross star pattern with socket or wrench
- Lower vehicle fully and torque lug nuts to spec with a torque wrench
With your newly customized hubcaps installed, your car will have a great new look! Be sure to check hubcap tightness regularly when washing your car. Follow these steps when the time comes to install hubcaps on a car to ensure they fit properly and safely. Enjoy your updated ride!
Types of Hubcaps
There are many different types of hubcaps available, ranging widely in style, construction, and installation method. Knowing the main types helps ensure you buy hubcaps that fit your wheels properly.
- Made of durable plastic or composite materials
- Typically use spring clips/tabs or plastic fasteners
- Offer affordable wheel customization
- Come in wide range of shapes, colors, finishes
Stainless Steel Hubcaps
- Constructed of polished, stainless steel
- Often use coil-spring retention systems
- Showcase chrome-like shine and luster
- Known for ease of maintenance and durability
Aluminum Alloy Hubcaps
- Crafted from lightweight aluminum alloys
- Often bolt directly onto wheel lugs
- Provide smooth polished or machined look
- Known for strength, corrosion resistance
- Offer one-of-a-kind, specialized designs
- Constructed from steel, alloy, or exotic materials
- Completely customize look of wheels
- Can be quite expensive for rare styles
Hubcap Sizing and Fitment
Finding properly fitting hubcaps is key to safe, successful installation. Hubcaps must match the bolt pattern, shape, and retention style of your specific wheels.
- Bolt Pattern – Count bolts/studs to determine bolt pattern. Must match hubcap holes.
- Wheel Size – Diameter and width must accommodate hubcap dimensions.
- Retention Style – Hubcap must match clips, springs, or bolts of wheel.
Refer to the owner’s manual or wheel specifications to find correct hubcap sizing. Ill-fitting hubcaps can detach at speed and cause accidents.
Tips for Installing Hubcaps
Follow these tips for smooth, successful hubcap installation:
- Only install hubcaps when wheels are clean and free of debris
- Carefully align any retention clips, tabs, or bolts holes
- Press firmly around the edges to seat snap-on hubcaps
- Tighten bolt-on hubcaps in a crisscross pattern
- Visually inspect to ensure hubcap is fully secured
- Check hubcap tightness regularly when washing wheels
Taking extra care during the installation process prevents issues with loose or damaged hubcaps down the road. Patience and proper tools are key.
Now that you know all the steps for how to install hubcaps on a car, you can upgrade the style and look of your vehicle. With the right tools and proper fitment, it is a straightforward process. Take care when prying off old hubcaps to avoid damage. Then enjoy the renewed style of your ride with a set of shiny, new hubcaps!
- How To Put Wheel Covers On?
- What Do Camber Arms Do?
- How Long Does Butter Wet Wax Last?
- What Would Cause Oil To Spray All Over The Engine?