Hubcaps vs. Rims: Understanding Their Differences

The rim is a part of your wheel that helps to seal the tire properly to the wheel. The main purpose is to ensure that the wheel moves. On the other hand, hubcaps are part of the wheel that helps to protect the lug nuts from rusting.  Beyond this both hubcaps and rims also provide decorative purpose for the wheel. 

Now, you can remove the hubcap and select the right one based on the wheel size. To know more about this, continue reading this article.

What Is the Difference Between Hubcap and Rim? Quick Overview

The following table gives you a quick outlook of the difference between hubcap and rim. 

PurposeKeeping the tires oriented to the wheelProtecting lug nuts
Location in the WheelOuter edge of the wheelsOver the center of the wheel
Importance to WheelHelping the wheels moveProtecting wheel parts from rust
DurabilityMore durableLess Durable
RemovabilityDifficult to removeEasier to remove
Aesthetic Increase the appeal of the wheel by making it look more expensiveImproves the look of the wheel by displaying the brand logo or a unique design
Sizes13 to 24 inches [Diameter]
6 to 14 inches [Width] 
12 to 18 inches
Types03 types03 types
MaterialSteel Rim, Aluminium AlloyPlastic
Weight22 – 100 lbs01 – 05 lbs

What Is the Difference Between  – Hubcap and Rim? Detailed Overview

Next the detailed discussion between the hubcap and rim is done. Each of the key factors will be covered. 


The major difference is in the purpose of the hubcap and the rim. Hubcap acts as a shield whereas rim is the outer edge of a wheel that holds the tire in place.

Hubcap is normally put over the lug nut so that it doesn’t get rusty. Lug nuts get corroded from continuous exposure to moisture, dirt and overall pollution. A rusty lug nut is risky since it makes the lug nuts brittle, flaky and prone to disconnect. This affects the overall wheel performance. So, the hubcap protects the wheel life.  

Rim is connected on the edges of the wheel and seals the ring shaped casing to the wheel. Basically rim helps to connect the tire to the wheel and make the car go properly. 

Location In the Wheel

Since, rims help to seal the tires to the wheels, it is located around the outer edges of the wheel. On the other hand, hubcaps are put over the center of the wheel hub in a position where it can cover the lug nuts and the remaining part of the wheel hub. 

Importance To Wheel

Both rims and hubcaps serve both decorative and non-decorative purposes. Firstly, hubcaps help to seal the wheel nuts and bolts from dirt and moisture so that it doesn’t get rusty and eventually corrode. A corroded nut can mean your wheels falling off all of a sudden. 

So eventually the hubcaps help to protect the wheels from problems like over-torque and wheel detachment.  

Rims through sealing the tires properly to the wheels reduces friction, enhances the handling experience and through enabling the tire to seal properly, makes sure that the wheels move properly and serve the overall purpose of the vehicle. 


Rims are a part of the wheel and wheels are made of different compounds such as aluminum alloy, steel and even a coating of chrome over it. All of these makes rims more compatible and durable..

However, hubcaps are typically made of plastic and are very easily disposable. Hence, hubcaps are not that durable. 


Since, rims are an integral part of the wheel, it is much more difficult to remove the rims. Normally, it is not even possible for someone to remove it easily, so if you are looking to replace your rim then consult a professional. It should cost you around $200 – $500 for each wheel. 

Whereas, hubcaps are extremely easy to remove and since it is just fitted over the lug nuts, anyone can remove it using the right tools. 


Firstly, the rim size is correlated to the wheel size. Since, the wheel may comes with the rim attached to it, normally the wheel diameter is considered as the rim diameter. Similarly, rim width is the distance from one bead seat to another bead seat.

Typically, with rim size, the rim width and the diameter is considered. Normally, the rim diameter is within the range of 13 to 24 inches whereas the rim width is within 6 to 14 inches. 

Hubcap sizes depend a lot on the wheel diameter. But typically, the hubcap sizes range from 12 to 18 inches. 

Hubcap For the Rim Size

You need to find the right size hubcap for the rim because it is necessary for covering the lug nuts properly. 

Choosing the right hubcap based on your rim size is actually quite simple. Following are the steps.

Step 1: Look at the tire of your vehicle.

Step 2: There will be a series of numbers written on it. Find the last two numbers. 

Step 3: This will be the hubcap size that you will be needing. For example, if it reads  245/70 R16, then the 16 is what you are looking for. 16 inches is the hubcap size. 


There are three types of rims. These are Safety Rim, Split Rim and Beadlock Rim.

Safety Rim

The main feature of these rims is the bumps. The bumps are located inward to hold the tire beads. It depends a lot upon the tire pressure. 

Split Rim

Normally used in heavy vehicles, split rims contain a series of small bolts at the outer part of the rim that holds the rim together. 

Beadlock Rim

This is a type of rim where the tire beads are physically clamped to it. Now, in beadlock rim the tires are connected in a manner that doesn’t rely on the pressure. 

Normally, there are three types of hubcaps. These are clip-on, bolt-on and screw-on hubcaps.

Clip-On Hubcap

Clip-on hubcaps are the ones that connect easily to the groove of the wheels. You just need to connect it and it pops right in. 

Bolt-On Hubcap

Bolt-on hubcap is a type of hubcap that is connected to the wheels using a bolt and lug nut connection.

Screw-On Hubcap 

Screw-on hubcaps just have a plastic nut within it that connects to the vehicle’s lug nuts. To connect it, you need to line them up with the vehicle’s wheel lug nuts. 


Rims are made of different materials such as steel, aluminum alloy. Let’s get a brief idea about each type of rim material

Steel Rim

As the name suggests it is made with steel. Although it is not a popular type, primarily because of lack of heat dissipation rate and being heavier. However, it is much cheaper than Aluminum rims. But its best trait is the ability to withstand stronger force and resist wear and tear. 

Steel Rim

Aluminum Rim

Aluminum rims are normally made of aluminum alloy. Basically, the mix between aluminum and magnesium. It is lightweight and has a much better heat dissipation rate but it is not as tough as steel rims. 

Now, if the aluminum alloy rim is coated with the layer of chrome plating, then the rims are called chrome rim.

However, hubcaps are made with plastic. Even though it might look like steel. So, whether it is steel rim or aluminum, hubcaps are not as strong as rims. 


Hubcaps are much lighter than wheel rims. Hubcaps normally weigh around a pound. Whereas the wheel rims should weigh between 10 to 25 lbs. 


Often hubcaps help to show an aesthetic point of view. A lot of the time, hubcaps have the logo of the brand or any other custom design in it.For example if you look at any Rolls Royce car, you will find its iconic static rim that doesn’t rotate with the tires like other cars. The main purpose is to show creativity or increase the beauty of the wheel. 

You can similarly get rims with different designs and some of them look very expensive. Now, whether someone wants a custom designed hubcap or a newly designed rim is up to them but both hubcaps and rims can serve to enhance the beauty of the wheel. 


Do All Cars Have Hubcaps and Rims?

Yes, all cars have rims but not all cars have hubcaps. Rims are an integral part of your car wheel that helps to connect with the tires whereas hubcap just protects the wheel lug nuts. In fact, hubcaps are not present in newer models since the wheel hubs have sealed assembly making the requirement for a hubcap unnecessary. 

Do I Need to Use Hubcap For Tires Greater Than 22 Inches?

No, you do not need to use a hubcap for tires that are greater than 22 inches. Normally it is recommended that you only use hubcaps for tires up to 16 inches. Because that is the range up to which it can fit properly. 

Are Hubcaps the Same as Wheel Cover? 

Yes, Hubcaps are the same as wheel covers. Wheel cover helps to cover up the center position of the wheel protecting it from any impurities. 


With that hopefully, you got your answer on Hubcaps VS Rims. Yes, they are not the same, neither are they interchangeable. But keep in mind about the priorities before making any decision on replacing or using hubcaps. Finally, go through the user manual to see your car’s requirements

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William Baldwin

This Is William Baldwin, The Founder & Managing Editor of this website. Me and my team share automotive tips, tricks, and news

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Talha Atta

Talha Atta, a Mechanical Engineer and experienced technical content writer and editor at with a passion for the automotive industry.