Alloy wheels look great: fact. And not only do they smarten up a car, they’re also easier to keep clean than steel wheels with plastic hubcaps stuck on.
You can get a decent set of alloys for around £400, but be careful – you can’t just stick any old wheels on. The wheel width and diameter need to be suitable and the offset (how much the wheel sticks out from its retaining hub) and the PCD (Pitch Circle Diameter, or spacing of the retaining bolts) must also be spot on. In short, only buy wheels suitable for the car you drive.
You can do this by looking at what’s already fitted; you need to stick to the tyre’s circumference as closely as possible, or you’ll have to get your speedometer recalibrated. You can fit larger wheels than standard, but you’ll have to fit lower profile tyres – that is, the tyre sidewall will be slimmer, giving the car a sportier appearance but a harsher ride.
The key thing is to make sure the wheels clear everything; the hubs, brakes, suspension and bodywork. And don’t forget that the wheel travels up and down on the suspension, so if the tyres only just clear the bodywork when the car is stationary, the wheel arches could be thumped once the car is on the move. That’s why you should only buy alloys from a reputable dealer.
Also, don’t forget to tell your insurer; your cover could be cancelled if you don’t. And finally, don’t forget to buy some locking wheel nuts, or you could be left with no wheels whatsoever.