Most car owners are fairly oblivious to the parts that go in, on and around the vehicle. While most of the parts have their own technical names people commonly generalize those names which can create a lot of confusion – such as with hubcaps and wheel covers. Most car owners think they’re the same thing but they’re actually quite different.
The true portion of a hubcap on your car is to cover the hub-portion of your wheels. This is the part where the wheel mounts to the hub and the lug nuts attach or screw on. Hub caps don’t generally cover the entire wheel. They actually fit over this center hub region and range anywhere from 2 inches to 10 inches in diameter depending mainly on the size of the wheel.
Hub caps are designed to attach easily to the wheel or hub area by snapping into place. This type of system has been around since the dawn of vehicles in order to provide easy access to the lug nuts that hold the wheel in place. Some hub cap systems did utilize additional plastic lugs that would fit over and thread onto the bolts however the threads of the plastic wear and cross-thread easily. When the threads strip the grip is lost which causes the hub cup to jump off the wheel.
Today the most popular model found in stores use a snap or circular wire, tension and clips to hold the hub cap flush to the hub. This force fit keeps the hubcap from breaking away and flying off.
Vehicle Wheel Covers
This is where the confusion rests with a lot of people, as the wheel cover is very different from the hub cup. Unlike the hubcap which covers only a portion of the wheel, the wheel cover actually extends out and covers the entire wheel.
A lot of modern vehicles will invest in quality wheel systems, such as pickup trucks that use mag-alloy wheels that are precision cut and designed to not only be reinforced but to be aesthetically pleasing. Most other cars however are designed from an economy standpoint. Man y of these economic vehicle options are designed using simple steel wheels. These are inexpensive and easy to produce in the line assembly.
While simple steel wheels are easy to produce and fit to most vehicle styles they tend to be extremely unattractive. For this style wheel, a hubcap wouldn’t sufficiently cover the overall design. This is where the wheel cover becomes a popular choice.
Wheel covers come in a variety of styles and are made from quality metals with intricate designs to simple plastic that serves the sole purpose of covering your wheel… and not much else.
While hubcaps have been a part of American car culture since the early 1900’s, wheel covers have only been around since the early 50’s where they debuted on American made vehicles. As technology always advances, the design was improved upon by Honda in the 80’s into a design that’s still used by car manufacturers and auto enthusiants to this day.