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Hub Cap versus Wheel Cover

Hub Cap versus Wheel Cover — What’s the difference?

Hub Caps and Wheel Covers are often used interchangeably, but are actually quite different. Although both components are used to enhance the look of a vehicle’s wheels, their design, function, and purpose differ substantially. Here is a comprehensive look at these two distinct but similar-looking components.

What is a Hub Cap?

A hub cap, also known as a “center cap,” is a decorative disk that fits over the center of a wheel. This disk typically covers just the hub area, where the lug nuts are visible, and leaves the rest of the wheel exposed. In most cases, the hub cap is made from metal or durable plastic materials.

steel wheel with hub cap

Function and Purpose of Hub Caps

The primary purpose of a hub cap is to protect the wheel’s hub and wheel bearings from dust, debris, and external elements. While it has an aesthetic function, making the wheel look complete and polished, its main function is protective. In some designs, hub caps also include the car manufacturer’s logo, adding an extra visual element to your car.

What is a Wheel Cover?

A wheel cover, often called a “wheel skin” or “rim cover,” is a full-face design that covers the entire wheel. Unlike hub caps, which are smaller and only cover the hub, wheel covers can provide a completely different appearance to the wheel. They are usually made of plastic or metal materials that are durable but also lightweight.

If you look through the spokes on a wheel cover, you can see the steel wheel behind.

steel wheel and wheel cover

Function and Purpose of Wheel Covers

Wheel covers primarily serve aesthetic purposes, allowing car owners to customize or upgrade the appearance of their wheels without having to replace the entire wheel. However, they can also offer some degree of protection to the wheel by covering it entirely, thereby shielding it from dirt and minor impacts. Some individuals opt for wheel covers to mimic the look of more expensive alloy wheels.

Alloy Wheels Usually Don’t Have Wheel Covers

An alloy wheel looks like a wheel cover, but it’s actually the entire wheel. If you look through the spokes, you’ll see the disc brake rotor and caliper.

alloy wheel

Key Differences: Hub Cap versus Wheel Cover

Hub caps cover only the center or hub area of the wheel

Wheel covers cover the entire face of the wheel and do a better job of protecting the wheel from road splash

Where to get replacement wheel covers and hub caps

You can buy generic wheel covers and hub caps or you can buy exact replacements with your car’s logo. You can buy brand new wheel covers and hub caps from the dealer. Those will be the most expensive. However, you can also buy used and “knock-off” wheel covers. The knock-off designs duplicate the factory look but without the actual logo.

Used wheel covers and hub caps are usually given a condition “grade” with “A” or “1” being “like new” and “C” having scratches or gouges. Here are some sources for wheel cover and hub caps.





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