There’s a saying that “the bitter taste of poor quality remains much longer than the sweet taste of a low price.” This is especially true when it comes to buying used wheels. My advice on buying used wheels off the internet- don’t waste your time.
I see a lot of used wheels that people bring in and ask us to “make them work” for their vehicle. The problems are many- wrong bolt pattern, incorrect offset, bore size too small, warped barrels, missing centre caps, etc. I think to myself, “why on earth did they buy these wheels?!” Very often the wheels are damaged or badly warped, meaning someone “got a hot deal” on a set of rims that can only be used as boat anchors. It’s buyer beware on the used market and many times the seller knows the wheels are unserviceable, but is more interested in your cash than their own conscience.
Many wheels come in with missing centre caps, which means they’re not getting the complete wheel. Alloy wheels are bought for looks, but they look ugly when old lug nuts and the rusty spindle caps are showing through instead of being covered up. Finding correct centre caps is like looking for a needle in a haystack- there are so many styles, shapes, makes and specific sizes.
Many people buy three wheels (or three plus a damaged one) thinking it’ll be easy to find the fourth. It’s not. Wheel styles (and manufacturers) come and go and when they’re gone, they’re gone. Once out of production, finding a new or used wheel that’s the right size, bolt pattern, offset and finish is as likely as winning this week’s lottery with last week’s ticket.
Like everything, wheels can wear out. Barrels get out of round and wobbly after hammering too many pot holes and kissing too many curbs. Hairline cracks appear in the bead or, worse, in the structure of the wheel. These defects aren’t visible on casual inspection, but can seriously affect the trueness of a wheel. We check these wheels on a balancer and more often than not they are moving side to side like the hula girl on a hotrod dashboard.
Finish? Old alloy wheels get ratty looking from baked-on brake dust, road grime and salt deposits. Chrome starts peeling. Refinishing old wheels can be done, but it’s a time-consuming process.
Prices on new alloy wheels have gone down substantially over the last few years and selection has gone up. For a few extra bucks, you get wheels that are shiny, straight, brand new and are going to fit properly. Plus they’ll be exactly what you want. It’s not worth the time and frustration running around town buying used wheels that are going to cause headaches. Life is too short for wobbly wheels.