What is the most common size of car wheel?

Many of us get confused when it comes to different parts that make up the car’s wheel. And, quite often, the words rims and wheels are used interchangeably as a metal part where the tyre is attached. However, there are many differences between the two. A wheel is a round device that is connected through their centre by an axle which helps them to rotate to allow your car to move. Rims are part of the wheel and are connected to it with the help of spokes. Another difference between a wheel and the rim is the way it works. Wheels always come in pairs and they work in tandem with each other and move the car forward and backward. On the other hand, rims, being the outer part of the wheel, functions in a way to ensure that the tyre do not fall off. 

Wheels come in a variety of colours and materials, and also in a large assortment of sizes. Choosing the right replacement wheel for your car is very important, as using improper wheel size can be detrimental to other parts of your vehicle. They can damage the tyres and wheels, disrupt the transmission timing and function, interfere with handling, and damage the braking system too. 

The most common size of a car wheel: 

Car wheels come in a large assortment of sizes, ranging from 12″ to 28″ in diameter. Though 12″ wheel size is not so very common in the market place, and the 18″ to 22″ wheel sizes usually aftermarket, the 15″, 16″ and 17″ are becoming very popular wheel sizes used commonly in most cars. Larger wheels and rims are quite commonly used in sports cars, since they are driven mostly in warm climates thus reducing the chances of developing rust. However, the best wheel choice to drive in cold and snowy conditions is smaller wheels because they come with larger tyres that give the necessary traction to the car. Wheel sizes also depend on the expected load capacity of the car. 

It is always a good idea to check with car specifications before selecting the right wheel size. You can easily find the wheel size that is required for your vehicle by looking at the side of your car tyre. A sequence of letters and numbers will be displayed on the car tyre wall, which looks something like this: P185/80 R15. The last two digits represent the wheel size required for your car. In this case, a 15″ wheel would suffice in order to fit the tyre properly. 

Understanding wheel size:

Wheel size normally shows like this: 15×7 4-100 40S. Understanding wheel size is very important when you want to buy the right wheel size for your car. 

The first number, 15 is the wheel diameter and the number 7 represents the wheel width which is calculated from the front to the rear rim. 

The next set of numbers (4-100) represents the bolt pattern. Bolt pattern shows the way the lug holes are arranged and has 2 elements, the number of lugs or bolts (in this example it is 4) and the distance between each lug across the wheel (in this example, it is 100mm). 

The next number, 40 represents the offset. The offset of the wheel locates the wheel and tyre assembly with respect to the suspension. Otherwise, it is the distance between hub mounting surface and the rim centreline. 

The last alphabet in the series ‘S’ shows the wheel finish and here, in this case ‘S’ stands for ‘Silver’. 

Factors to consider in selecting the right wheel size for your car:

The performance of your vehicle may affect considerably when you use wheels that do not fit perfectly in your car or wheels of the wrong size. It could damage your wheel itself, wheel wells, fenders, and even the tyres. They can disrupt the timing of your transmission system and can interfere with handling. Improper wheel size may look odd and do not improve your car’s external appearance in any way. 

If you are looking forward to replace your old wheels, then replace them with wheels that are of the exact same size. However, if you want to upgrade, then consider the following tips:

a. Cost of changing car wheels is one factor you should consider before changing them. Larger wheels costs more compared to smaller car wheels.

b. Driving condition is another factor to consider when you want to upgrade your car wheels. For instance, big wheels are not ideal for cars that are meant to be taken off road.

c. The third factor is the performance of your car. Bigger wheels can give you better vehicle handling characteristics, but at the expense of riding comfort. 

Consider all these tips mentioned above before upsizing your car wheels.

Upgrading your wheel size (plus sizing):

Plus sizing refers to upgrading the size of your car wheel. Plus one refers to going up 1″ from the original equipment manufacture’s wheel size specification. For example, if you have a 15″ wheel stock, you may consider moving up to a 16″wheel. Thus, you can go as much level that your fenders can handle; plus two, plus three and so on….

Plus sizing is a recent trend in the automobile industry. Along with the benefits of better handling, plus sizing comes with certain disadvantages. Increased road noise, loss of suspension, and loss of ride comfort are some of the disadvantages of going plus sizing. However, if you make only a small change by upgrading to plus one, two or three, then you may not notice any difference in your car’s performance. 


Wheels and rims are significant parts in a car. The most commonly used wheel sizes in most cars include the 15, 16, and 17 inch wheel size, even though you can find other sizes available in the market. Smaller vehicles use small wheels and larger vehicle possess wheels having diameter above 26. The wheels also come in various colours and styles. They not only improve the performance of your car, but also improves its external appearance significantly. There are a number of brands of wheels available in the market, where you can select one according to your requirement at affordable prices. 

Rob Taylor is a car fanatic from Brisbane, Australia

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