Tech / Tech Articles

Hub Centric Hubbub: The Argument For — and Against — Using Hub Centric Rings with Your Wheels

hub-centric-rings

Depending on who you believe, hub centric rings are either: A) essential to the performance and longevity of your wheels, or B) a scam created by the wheel industry to charge the customer more money.

As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between.

A hub centric ring is used to help a wheel stay centered during installation. It fits over the center bore of the wheel and over the hub pilot on the axle, filling up the space between the two surfaces. Most aftermarket wheels are non hub centric, which means the center bore is intentionally made larger to fit over a variety of different-sized hub pilots. For this reason, Summit Racing recommends the use of hub centric rings with all its aftermarket aluminum wheels.

According to the Summit Racing tech guys, you shouldn’t use hub centric rings in these cases:

  • Factory wheels: these are made for a specific vehicle and are made with an exact center bore diameter to fit that vehicle’s hub pilot diameter — no rings needed!
  • Steel wheels: these wheels have a thinner mounting surface and are often too thin to accept hub centric rings.
  • Any wheel that uses a push-through center cap as they will not accept hub centric rings.
  • Any wheel with an “as cast” (non-machined) center bore, like the Cragar S/S, will not accept hub centric rings.

There are also a couple of myths involving hub centric rings.

The first myth is that if you don’t use a hub centric ring, the wheel will never be centered on the axle, leading to uncomfortable wheel vibrations while driving. While it is more likely that the wheel will be off center without the use of hub centric rings, it is not impossible to center the wheel by following proper installation technique. However, Summit Racing recommends the use of hub centric rings to improve the ride quality of the wheel. The rings improve ride quality by holding the wheel centered while it is torqued down.

According to a second common myth, the weight of the vehicle is supported by the hub pilot mating with the center bore of the wheel. If you don’t use hub centric rings, you transfer the weight of the vehicle to the lug hardware, and the wheel studs will break.

Fact is, the hub centric rings do not bear a load. The weight of the vehicle is actually supported by the friction between the wheel and its mounting surface on the axle. The friction is established and maintained once the lug hardware is properly installed and torqued to specs.

Hopefully, you now have a better idea whether you need hub centric rings for your setup. If you’re considering purchasing a set for your wheels, here are some buying tips from the Summit Racing tech guys:

  • Plastic hub centric rings are best for street cars in areas where rain, snow, and road salt are a concern.
  • Metal rings are better for race cars and other vehicles that get driven harder, creating more heat.
  • You will need to know the inner diameter of the center bore on the wheel and the outer diameter of the hub pilot on the vehicle.
  • Center bore diameter is listed on the Summit Racing website.
  • Check the size of the hub pilot on each hub (front and rear, left and right). For several reasons, the sizes may vary on the same vehicle.
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11 Comments

  1. Pingback: Winter wheels and tires - Page 6 - Honda Ridgeline Owners Club Forums

  2. That was a good article…
    I think I drank the kool-aid in regard to hubcentric rings.
    For a few bucks they only seemed like common sense. However I didn’t research them.

    Back in the day many years ago, we just slapped rims on cars if the lug pattern fit, but when I was genuinely researching wheels this time around, I came across these and it just seemed like a good idea.

    Earlier today, I am about to put my new wheels and tires on and guess what? My rings are a perfect fit, but I didn’t allow for the center cap so just now I decided to research these things and came across this article. I am glad I did. My wheels are steel with a push through center cap.

    From past experience, common sense, price point, I would think these are “Feel good” item.

    I am glad I saw this and thank you!

  3. TJ Morrissey says:

    This is great info. Thank you. Apparently these are becoming more the norm 🙁 I went to purchase a winter tire/rim package for our car (from tirerack) and find that rims that require this centering ring are the only thing available. I’m trying to avoid having to need these, but I think that is a lost cause. I’m assuming I will be supplied plastic ones (I live in the NE and winter will destroy metal ones). But with that, I also assume the plastic will compress, deform etc. so next year they won’t work so great.

    Do you happen to know if these require replacement every year?

    • TJ, sorry my reply is a month and a half after your post but no. The rings will hold up just fine to multiple years of use. Again like the article says, the weight of the car isn’t doing anything to these since the mounting surface of the wheel and hub are what deal with the vehicle weight.

      As for avoiding them. It’s impossible with aftermarket wheels unless you get a steel wheel generally speaking. Aftermarket wheel manufacturers purposely use large bores so that they’ll fit numerous cars. This means that they don’t need to manufacture more than one fitment for a wheel aside from bolt pattern and offset.

      You’ll find that if you get another set of OEM wheels for your car (and most cars have multiple options based on size and style), then you’ll have a wheel that doesn’t need hub centric rings. For example my Cruze came with 16” alloy wheels but there are different trims so there is also a 16” steel, 17” alloy, and 18” alloy option. I could use my 16” wheels for winter tires and buy any other set of OEM wheels for my summer tires and wouldn’t have to worry about hub bore. Just an example. TireRack is amazing with their included items and usually lower prices so it’s hard to pass up a wheel and tire package when buying just tires at a shop locally will usually cost 2/3 the price of a full set shipped.

      Hope that helps a little.

    • Actually I, and automotive engeneers I know or have talk to, disagree with Mike.

      First, I Know this is long, but I feel that this subject needs a good explanation. That could not be made in one short paragraph.

      I wish that people who write this sort of stuff said what their quealifications are. I say that because I often read articles that sound impressive, but when I compare what they say with what real experts (engineers/designers) say, it doesn’t always match.

      There has been a long debate about centric rings. Some say that the idea behind them is nothing but BS. Nothing but a money making scam from wheel manufactures.

      Being a girl, guys often think I have no idea what is mechanically going on in my car or don’t have anyone knowledgeable to ask. This is not the case by far.

      I actually been to auto repair school and got my A&P certificate from the FAA. That is right kiddos, I actually went to A&P school and became a Aviation Maintenance Tech. I have worked on everything from skateboards, to bicycles, motorcycles, big rigs, to all the way up to wide body aircraft such as 767’s, DC-10’s/MD-11’s, A330’s, A340’s, and others. The only forms of transportation I have never worked on are boats and trains.

      I also throughly educate myself before doing any type of modifications to my car, and I know the people in the auto industry (such as engineer Fujita, a Japanese automotive engineer who designed the fuel injection system for Mitsubishi or Suzuki (I can’t remember) cars in the late 80’s and is now working for GM. As well as Ed Howardstein, a thermal/metallurgical mechanical engineer, among others.

      I keep getting guys telling me or I keep reading online that hub’s do not carry any loads. That supposedly the wheels are held in place by the friction created by the lugs.

      Well, from all my reading, phone calls, and road trips, I have come to the realization that that is not true. In my research a friend referred to the engineering dept at Katana Wheels. What was said to me on the phone pretty much reflects what it says in their site:

      “The other element that affects directly whether a wheel can be bolted onto a car is hubcentricity. Long ago, in the deep mists of time, wheels were located by taper of the lug nuts or bolts. This could lead to all sorts of problems, but they can be summarized by saying centering was liable to be less than perfect, and the sheer stress on wheel bolts or studs could be enormous. We are not aware of any passenger car wheels now made that are not hubcentric.

      Hubcentric wheels have a hole at their center that fits closely over a round feature on the hub, serving to center the wheel on the axis of the spindle, as well as bear the verical weight of the vehicle. The wheel bolts or studs then serve simply to hold the wheel onto the hub, and are loaded only in tension, where they are strong. If the studs were required to absorb vertical forces, they would be loaded in single shear, the weakest arrangement for any fastener. Factory wheels are all machined to fit their specific application exactly, and some for the better aftermarket wheels are, too.”

      Hmm, knowing what I know about fasteners, such as the metallurgical properties of fasteners and their design, I can say that that makes more sense than any other argument I have read or heard about hubcentric wheels not caring loads.

      If one does the math, which I will spare you from, tightening your lugs at 80-100 ft-lbs, would not generate sufficient friction to prevent any lateral movement of the wheel from the center of the hub horizontal axis if at highway speeds one were to encounter anything larger than a small crest or other imperfections on the road surface, extremely hard brakes, and so on. Or even a larger pothole at lower city street speeds could create enough force to give you trouble. And that is only putting the weight of the vehicle at 2,000 lbs.

      Specially if you switch from a high profile to a low profile tires. I am sure that we all know that automotive designers do take into account the Free Radius, Static Load Radius, Deflection, Section Height, and so on when designing suspension systems. I am sure we all know that is because tires are part of the suspension system. A tire with a higher Section Height (“profile”) absorb more road “shock” and gies you a smoother ride than a low profile tire. That is basic knowledge.

      I am not saying that whatever friction generated by the tightening of the lug nuts don’t help, but to say that that is the only factor preventing vertical movement would be ignorant. Specially if you have a wheel lug lock. I have noticed that most tires shops do not tight those as much as the other lug nuts.

      I started suspecting this when I put new wheels and tires on my 2017 Honda Civic. They installed centric rings but where made of polymer. At first there was no problem with the car. Until one night I was doing about 90-100 of the freeway – yes I can be a little speed demon when road conditions are right. Such as on a late Sunday night when LA freeways have less traffic than normal. It was not long after I jumped on the freeway before I started to feel vibrations in the gas pedal and steering wheel. We all know that for us girls vibrations can be good and fun (grin), but not good or fun when coming from the car’s suspension system.

      Eventually my friend Fujita called me back. He told me that he’d talked to a couple of guys from the suspension engendering dept. at GM. They told him that YES, the hud DOES carry loads, and to ignore those who say that it does not carry loads.

      They added that back in the days they discovered that lugs were failing in part due to lateral load sheering. Many attributed (many still do) solely to over torquing of the lug nuts. But they discovered that that was only part of the problem. You can actually tell what went wrong with the lugs by examining where and how they broke under a microscope or other none destructive testing. So manufactures switched to hubcentric wheels to help ease the lateral sheer off the lugs, among other benefits.

      Makes sense to me base on my research and after noticing what I refer to as “compression load damage” on the polymer rings I took off.
      And when I loosen to lug nuts I used a torque wrench and backpedaled on the torque wrench to figure out how much torque they had used at the tire shop. It turned out that the lug nuts had been over torqued by 11 ft-lbs. But that was not the cause of the damage on the junk polymer rings. It appeared to us that the rings had slight lateral compression damage. Even with the wheels over torqued.

      But think about it, there is a reason why pretty much every auto manufacture have switched over to this type of hubcentric set up. Other wise they could just use guide pins or other guiding method to center the wheels when mounting them onto the car. I don’t know about you, but again, that makes sense to me.

      But if it doesn’t to you, try the following. Install a lugcentric wheel on your car designed around a hubcentric design. Regarles of how much you tight them they do move from their original location. You can see evidence of this in the lug holes on the wheel. They go out of shape from the stress imposed on the wheels by road loads. I actually have pictures of such wear but can’t post them here.

      Charles C. Roberts Jr, PH.D, P.E., (an engineering consultant in the areas of accident reconstruction, failure analysis, structural analysis, heat transfer, fire origin analysis, computer analysis, mechanics, and biomechanics) puts it this way.

      “It should be noted that hub-centric and lug-centric wheels are distinct designs with different stress levels at different locations. Substituting a lug-centric wheel in place of a hub-centric wheel can decrease reliability, especially in high wheel-loading and impact- loading environments.”

      Hmm, “stress levels at different locations.” You mean to tell me that if I used a lugcentric in a hubcentric setting, the friction created by the tightening of the lugs won’t be enough to keep the wheel from moving around under lateral stress loads? Hmm, who could had guessed that?

      But wait, I thought that hubs don’t carry any loads and friction is enough to hold the wheel in place. Not just that, if the center bore diameter of the lugcentric wheel is too large for the hub my car, isn’t that the same as a hubcentric wheel with a bore that is too large for the hub? Neither one will fit snug around the hub. Which means that lateral movement could be possible.

      I had to find out if I was right. So I invited my friend Jason (thermal and mechanical engineer) to go with me in a little road trip to a friend’s of a friend’s auto dismantling center in Sun Valley, CA. We looked at after market wheels and discovered that some had signs of wear similar to that one would find in a lugcentric wheel installed on on hubcentric setting. We looked for any hubcentric rings still installed on the wheels or marks that some had been installed previously, but on the wheels with the oval wear none were present. Hmm!

      Once I got home I decided make one more call. I called Versus Racing, the manufacture of my new wheels. I poke their brains about the ins and outs of hubcentric wheels and their thoughts on hub centric rings. They pretty much told me the same thing every other qualified person I’d spoken to told me, “the hub IS a load bearing component…”

      I don’t know where other people get their information, but based on the answers I got from engineers/designers and the tell tell signs left behind on the used wheels we inspected, and my own experience with my car, I would have to disagree with the idea that hubcentric wheels to do put loads on the hub.

      You can believe whatever you want. Hell, you can believe that there is such a thing as a Friction Fairy that magically creates enough friction by the tightening of lugs to prevent lateral movement of the wheels.

      As for me, I will go with what more than not engineers say. Give me some good quality metal hubcentric rings that fit tightly (men in particular should know that things that fit nice and snug is usually better than loose, wink wink) between the wheel and my car’s wheel hubs. Oh and while at it, don’t give me none of that polymer or low quality metal junk. Thank you very much! In my car switching from polymer junk rings to high quality metal rings, made a world of difference.

      By the way, I think that someone should make and sell stainless steel or other types of metals that are more resistant to corrosion for those who live in area where it snows and they use salt on the roads.

      I have a friend in Middletown, Ohio. He also had problems with his after market wheels. I suggested for hin to get rig if the polymer crap and instant food quality metal rings. Bur knowing that it snows in Ohio, I suggested for him to coat the rings in a corrosion preventing material. Iodine or paint. Can’t recall the name of the product he used, I had never heard of it, but I guess in a year or two we’ll find out if it worked. He also told me that he doesn’t mind taking his wheels off once per year and cleaning the area or even replacing the 15 dollar rings.

      Anyway, at the end I did the same thing, I took the wheels off my car and removed the junk polymer rings they installed at the shop and installed high quality metal rings and used an actual torque wrench to torque the lugs. All vibrations went away and I haven’t had any problems at any speed.

      Let’s imagine that no one, not even engineers (wink wink) knew the answer. Some said that the hub does carry weight, some that it doesn’t. Wouldn’t you rather be on the safe side just in case? Jumping from a second story floor onto concrete gives you a 50/50 chance of surviving the fall. I don’t know about you but I rather not jump unless there was no other choice. Yes is faster than using stairs or waiting for the elevator, but why take chances. Am I right ir an I right?

      Be careful where you get your information. There are a lot of people online trying to pass themselves as some expert. Oftentimes they just pass along misinformation they read or heard somewhere and that they accepted as the truth. Being a tire/wheels sales men for years, being a car enthusiast, or even a mechanic for years does not really make anyone an expert. Research what others tell you. Read what well seasoned engineers and other real experts have to say.

      Trust me, no engendering dept will spent the time and money designing something just for looks or because they have nothing else to do.
      Everything on a car has a purpose. Even the body work was not only designed for good looks, aerodynamics is computed into the whole equation.

      Growing up around auto and big rig mechanics, and later getting into the automotive repair field, I saw a lot mechanics performing a lot of “Mickey Mouse” work. “You don’t need this, you don’t need that, hell, who needs a torque wrench!” Type of mentality. That’s a luxury, more like a dumb and ignorant way of thinking, that I thank God is never seen in aviation.

      In aviation all parts are certified, using torque wrenches are a must just as a hammer is a much to a carpenter. Nothing of the guessing how many in-lbs/ft-lbs you have tighten a fastener. Nothing similar to using a impact drive to tight the lug nuts at the same ft-lbs for all the cars, like they do in tire shops. I never let anyone, in any shop, use an impact gun on the lugs of my car. I always take my torque wrench and make then use it, like it or not.

      In aviation we have the FARM – Federal Aviation Regulations Maintenance. In essence is the FAA regulations for mechanics, our bible. In it it says that EVERY time you perform routing maintenance, repairs, or alterations to an aircraft, the aircraft as to be as good or better than new. I cary over that approach onto my car’s maintenance.

      The manufacture engineers/designers put wheels on cars with wheel bores that fit the hub like a glove; then any wheel that goes on my car better do the same. And I use the best I can find, including quality metal centric rings. Manufactures don’t put plastic wheels on they cars, why should I put a plastic ring in there to take the vertical load? Oh yeah I forgot, the hud doesn’t carry any loads (wink).

      Be safe people, and please don’t just use “common sense” when it comes to your car maintenance. Rather, rely on scientific, engineerical (if there is such a word), and mathematical facts.

      • Thanks for the in-depth explanation, makes sense, I felt vibration as soon as steel rims (for winter tires) were installed on my 2016 Civic. I think its only a 1-2 mm difference b/w the wheel and hub diameter.

      • Thank you Yasenia…One word..CENTRIFUGAL FORCE:an apparent force that acts outward on a body moving around a center, arising from the body’s inertia. A few years of linear physics, only need the first couple classes for this one. Get anything off center for any reason with any acting force and the odds of coming back to true center are negligible. Having done a bit of off roading in the east coast rocks, you’ll find out real quick when you get back on the pavement. Racing applications, designed parts and smooth asphalt don’t count. Steel rims use good steel rings, aluminum rims use aluminum rings (expand and contract similarly) use anti-seize paste between aluminum and steel. Bottom line..if it costs $50 and keeps physics in check just do it.

      • Andrei Fasola says:

        I am bookmarking this Yasenia. Thanks for taking time to explain.

  4. Thanks for the tip on hub centric rings. I will look into this.

  5. Yasenia made some good points, however, if it were true that the pilot on the axle/front disk takes the load, how do you explain the fact the wheels like Centerline Auto drags, which use the bolt holes to locate the wheel, arent flying off in droves? They used a shank nut to hold them on and locate the wheel, some having through caps. I had them on my street strip car. In fact on the rears, I went to 5/8 studs which were almost size on size to the bolt holes, and used a spacer and a nut to hold the wheels on. They never broke off. Volkswagen beetles also have a huge center hole in there wheels. I think the hub is getting too much credit here.

    • Nate Perry says:

      John,
      Probably because the examples you’re using lack the sheer downward force as mentioned by Yasenia.

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