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.