Wheel covers are some of the most overlooked car parts there are, even though they're visible outside the vehicle. In fact, you’ll likely not give them a thought until they fall off and need to be replaced. But if you do lose one or two of those parts, will it still be safe to drive without wheel covers?
Yes, you can still drive without wheel covers. Their purpose is primarily aesthetic – they hide the lug nuts and rims while protecting those parts from dust and damage. Besides that, wheel covers do not play any other role. Simply put, you can drive your car even when it has no wheel covers, but it will be a minus point on your car's looks.
Keep on reading as we help you understand the basics of wheel covers. Besides that, we’ll also clear some confusion about the relationship between wheel covers, hub caps, and even rims.
Let’s get started.
What Are Wheel Covers Called?
A car wheel cover is generally called just that, a wheel cover. However, many people also refer to them as hubcaps and use both names interchangeably. This is because these two parts generally serve the same purposes: to protect the wheel and its lug nuts while also making the wheel look more visually appealing overall.
However, both of those parts differ according to how much of the wheel’s surface they cover. Wheel covers will enclose the entire diameter of the wheel, while hub caps cover only the centre portion of the wheel (hence the name ‘hub’ cap), and they hide the lug nuts as a result.
Both these car parts mount onto the wheel the same way, so there’s no difference in that aspect.
To make things much more straightforward, let’s look at definitions for wheel covers and hub caps. Naturally, you might also wonder how rims fit into all of this, so we’ll define them as well.
Wheel Covers vs Hub Caps vs Rims
Wheel Covers: Wheel covers are attachments that cover the entire diameter of the wheel. They serve the same purpose as hub caps, though their advantage is that they enclose and protect more of the wheel’s surface.
They're easy to mount and remove without using any tools, as they attach directly to the vehicle's rims. On top of that, wheel covers are also universal in most cases. That means you can transfer car wheel covers from one car to another very quickly, as long as they're of the same size.
That’s not easy to do with hub caps.
Hub Caps: Hub caps are those that only cover the centre portion of the wheel, not its entire diameter. In the past, manufacturers would make hub caps out of shiny metal. Cars today that still have them use cheaper plastic versions instead.
Hub caps are becoming a lot less common these days because people prefer well-designed aesthetic wheels that look nice even when they’re exposed without any covers on them. Still, the term hub cap does live on, as many people still use it interchangeably with wheel cover.
Rims: We’ve covered rims extensively in this previous article, so you should check it out to learn more.
In a nutshell, rims are the round pieces of metal that tyres wrap around. These round pieces of metal are also the parts that connect to the car, bolted on with lug nuts. You can buy rims that are made of metal, such as steel or alloy.
In this context, the rims are where you’d attach wheel covers or hub caps.
Do Wheel Covers Serve a Purpose?
Yes! Wheel covers serve two purposes – First, they cover the entire diameter of the wheel and protect it from dust and external damage. Lug nuts also enjoy the same protection as they’re kept hidden away behind the wheel covers.
Second, wheel covers also improve the aesthetics of the vehicle’s wheels. They hide the metal rims while also concealing the lug nuts. As a result, the cover provides the wheel with a smooth flat surface.
As a bonus, you could also use wheel covers as an easy and flexible way to customise your vehicle’s style. These covers are easy to attach and remove without any tools. That means you could keep several different wheel covers and change them out to a different one whenever you feel like it.
Can I Drive Without a Hub Cap?
Yes, you can drive without a hub cap. Remember, hub caps (and wheel covers) are additional attachments for your wheels, not core components. Therefore, they do not play a critical role in the proper functioning of the wheels or your vehicle.
So, your car will still drive perfectly well and safely even if you remove your hub caps or if they fall off accidentally.
So, Hub Caps Can Fall Off?
Yes, hub caps can fall off. Even though they’re firmly attached to your wheels, they’re not bolted on. That means with enough force, hub caps can fall off while you drive without you noticing it.
For example, you might accidentally drive into a large pothole that hits your tyres hard enough to pop the hub cap off.
That’s one of the reasons why people are so eager to avoid driving over potholes on the road. Aside from preventing damage to the vehicle’s rims, drivers also do that to protect their hub caps.
To reduce the odds of that happening to you, always make sure that your hub caps are installed correctly. It also helps to purchase high-quality hub caps, which will do a much better job of staying put compared to cheaper units.
Are Hub Caps Universal?
Yes, hub caps are universal for matching tyre sizes. So, for instance, you can exchange hub caps between two cars with standard 16-inch wheels. However, those hub caps won’t fit on 18-inch wheels, even if they’re the same type of vehicle.
Bet There Are More about Your Car That You Don’t Know!
To find out more about car wheel covers, hub caps, and other auto parts, check out Carpart.com.au. In addition, you can read plenty of educational articles on the Blog or shop around on the Marketplace for Toyota hub caps, Hyundai hub caps, or any other brands.
Now, if looking for parts that way seems like too much trouble for you, what about sending us a request so that we can do the auto parts searching for you? We can connect you to our network of over 500 reputed sellers and wreckers across Australia, and you can choose the best offer nearest you. You only need to fill out this request form and start receiving quotes!
By Ray Hasbollah