Rims vs Wheels : How to tell the difference


To understand the difference between wheels and rims, it helps to know how automobile wheels work. Let’s start with the basics. While sometimes people think of tires when they talk about wheels, technically your wheels and tires are separate entities that ultimately combine to form the tire-wheel assembly.

Rims play an important role in this setup. As the outer edges of the wheel, your rims secure the tire on to the wheel by forming an airtight seal. But rims are only one part of the wheel equation. In addition to rims, wheels are comprised of other important features:

As we mentioned, the main difference between wheels and rims is not technically a difference at all: rims are simply one important part of the wheel. Of course, in popular culture the phrase “Nice rims!” has long been used as shorthand for complimenting someone’s wheels, particularly in reference to a sharply designed or intricate wheel cover. But what we’re talking about here is what rims actually are: the two outer edges of each side of your wheel.

As the edge points of contact between the tire and the wheel, rims help hold tires properly in place. As stated, they also help maintain an airtight seal between the tire and the wheel.

For these reasons, your rims play a crucial role in supporting the entire wheel assembly and its place in your car’s suspension system. If you drive over a bump or pothole, the rim is the part of the wheel that receives the initial impact after it passes through the tire.

You may think of your tires and rims as the front line of defense against the rigors of the road. If your rims get banged or dented, it may affect the performance of your vehicle, from flat tires and reduced handling to distracting vibrations inside the cabin.