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Sunday, September 13, 2020

Hub Centric Rings: Plastic vs Aluminum

Normally I start off with happy stories of some kind but this time I’m going to start with some sad news. Was a stop light and lined up right next to a Dodge Challenger. Here I’m thinking, “I think I can take it.” So I patiently waited for the green. Once it changed, I shifted through my gears, letting the RPMs hit at least 5000…and then my car started to rattle. So I quickly slowed down and BOOM! My wheel came off and my lugs scattered all over the freeway.

Turns out that my mechanic did not remove my hub centric rings before putting on my winter set of tires. So I had to sit there until my backup support vehicle arrived. For those of you interested in driving a Mazda MX-5, also know that they do not normally come with a jack. I guess they do not expect anything to happen to your car or surveys revealed that jacks in cars are rarely to never used.

As I sat on the side of the road I started to search for replacement rings. I found the same plastic rings (thank you TireRack.com) and also a different set of aluminum rings (thank you Amazon.com). So what’s the difference?
At first glance and feel, the aluminum rings seem more durable and sturdy. They also feel a little heavier than the plastic rings. The plastic rings have a lot of space in the construction.

Aluminum vs Plastic

The interwebs say:

  • Plastic rings tend to wear out
  • Plastic rings tend to break down in high temperatures
  • Aluminum rings reduce the vibration
  • Aluminum rings are great for performance applications
  • Aluminum rings are more resistant to high temperatures
  • Aluminum rings will wear out and put material on your hub

Before I move on, here’s how to measure which rings you need. The first step is to check your manual to see if it lists your hub diameter. If the manual or your internet searches do not bring up anything, take out a ruler. I have a micrometer in my chest for these types of measurements. Then check the diameter you need for your wheels. For me, my hub was 55.1mm and I needed a 73.1mm. When you order them, look for something that says 73.1 to 55.1. Then it’s your choice on plastic vs aluminum.

With all the pros and cons, I am going with aluminum this round. There was a time I took off my wheel to do some cleaning and sure enough, the plastic was either sticking (it took some force) to break it away from the wheel or in another case the hub.
For Miata owners, here’s the breakdown of the lugs and wheels.

YEAR  BOLT PATTERN  STUD/THREAD  HUB DIAMETER
1990-2005 4×100 12×1.5 54.1
2005-2015 5×4.5 / 5×114.3 12×1.5 67.1
2016-2019 4×100 12×1.5 54.1

Let me know if you feel strongly about aluminum or plastic. For the MX-5 2016-2019 drivers, use the link below for the aluminum set you’ll need for a 73.1 wheel.

Edel Alonhttp://edelalon.com
Edel-Ryan Alon is a starving musician, failed artist, connoisseur of fine foods, aspiring entrepreneur, husband, father of two, geek by day, cook by night, and an all around great guy.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Just ended up here, doing a “aluminum vs plastic hub centric rings” search. Recently put aftermarket rims on my daughter’s car, (though stayed with same rim size/width and offset, to stay with OEM tire size and handling) which came with plastic hub rings. After installation, I checked torque of lug nuts about a week later, and noticed one hub ring looked ‘funny,’ and turned out to be cracked. Unsure of cause, whether manufacturer defect or installation error, I just hopped on Amazon immediately, finding and ordering aluminum ones in same size, as contacting supplier would’ve likely resulted in them telling me “installer error,” (I’ve worked in auto service field for few years now and know how places love to hold up their warranty promises) nor did I want to wait.

    They arrived few days later, though had to wait for her to return from a brief trip out of town. Just in time apparently.. driving with the “cracked” plastic ring, and even though it still mostly retained its shape and served its function, must’ve allowed enough “movement” to cause nuts and their corresponding tapered holes to begin slight metal on metal wear. Hoping to have caught it just in time, as holes in rim weren’t wallowed or elongated, and just some slight metal wear present. Did my best to, sort of sand/polish/clean up holes as time was limited, (despite the fact potentially serious issue) and as expected, aluminum ring courtesy of Amazon, was so tight, would’ve had to “press it” on over hub. Cleaned any corrosion present on hub off, and even had to sand away small amount of material away from inner side of ring. Cleaned and smoothed everything as best as possible and with some lube and assistance of mallet, ring finally went on. I wanted to line inside with some sort of tape as bare aluminum contacting bare steel/iron can promote corrosion, I believe. And now currently waiting to check it over again and this time, with more time at my disposal, better clean and prepare contacting surfaces.. but glad I found this post and thanks for sharing info! New to hub centric rings, at least personally using them.

  2. Thanks for reading. I’ve been on my aluminum rings for a few months now and haven’t had any problems. Just had a rotation 2 weeks ago and everything checked out.

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