What you should know about hubcaps


Not all car owners may be aware of every bit of their car, except for car enthusiasts and experts. But among the most important parts of a car are the hubcaps. But what are hubcaps and what do they do?

What are hubcaps?

A hubcap is a material that covers the central part of a car’s wheel, which is called the hub. An automobile needs a hubcap in order for the wheel hub and the wheel fasteners to get rid of dirt and moisture and to keep the grease from leaking, thus conserving fuel. The hubcap’s maker or the automobile’s logo can be seen in a hubcap.

Hubcaps and wheel covers

Hubcaps are not to be confused with wheel covers. The former, which are also called center caps, are the small round covers that occupy the center of the wheel while the latter is normally made up of metal or plastic that covers the whole wheel. Smaller hubcaps are normally used in wheels made up of alloy or styled steel wheels.

The evolution

Hubcaps, which are also called dust or grease caps, were first used in the year 1680. They were either very small or very big in size. Most were made of brass that is plated with chrome or nickel until 1915. In 1920, majority of the hubcaps were made of aluminium. From the 1950s to the 1970s, many were made of stainless steel.

The design of hubcaps has evolved as years went by. Today, instead of steel, plastic is the main material used for hubcaps. Classy and performance-oriented car models make use of alloy wheels, but most of them are small as in the earliest hubcaps. Budget cars and base trim levels, on the other hand, have full-wheel hubcaps.

There are also hubcaps that are non-rotating. Meaning, while the wheel is in motion, the position of the hubcap is still the same. These are typically seen in race cars, taxis, buses, golf carts, and commercial automobiles for advertising purposes.

What are hubcaps for?

Hubcaps need to be replaced, especially when they accidentally fall which usually happens while a car is driven on a bad road. This explains why there are some hubcaps left on the road. Hubcaps fall off despite the various retention systems available. There is the clip-on retention which is said to come off suddenly or the bolt-on retention that could get loose over time.

Aside from the fact that a tire looks awkward without one, it is important to replace them immediately as the wheel nuts (lugs) and bolts might rust or wear out due to the weather. When they do, the nuts will be difficult to remove in case one gets a flat tire. Moreover, hubcaps prevent stones from going inside the inner part of the wheel.

Although many say that hubcaps are just for aesthetic purposes, they can also aid in the overall safety of a vehicle. For instance, if wheel nuts are not carefully tightened, they can fall off and make the whole tire come off too, which is dangerous for a moving car. But with the presence of a hubcap, wheel nuts can fall into the wheel cover and make a clink, which will make the driver aware.

Where to buy them

Aside from automobile stores, there are a lot of websites like that sell hubcaps of various brands, either original or aftermarket. Their prices vary depending on the model, year and brand. The sizes of hubcaps also vary depending on what numbers are written on the tire.

Maintenance is the key

To avoid replacing them all the time, there is something that can be done to keep hubcaps in good shape. This is by simply polishing them with the right product and regularly checking them, especially after a tire change. Giving the same attention to them as with other parts of a car will make a huge difference, no matter how small they may be.