When you are shopping for that next great set of wheels for your Jeep, one selling feature you’ve probably heard or read about is how the wheel is ‘hub centric.’ Or maybe you’ve noticed people trying to steer you away from ‘lug centric’ rims, but are not quite sure why.
Hub centric. Lug centric. What’s the difference? After all, the wheels you want do have the correct lug pattern and that is the most important thing, right?
Well, sure, things like bolt pattern, offset and backspacing are certainly major factors when contemplating a wheel purchase. But whether these new wheels are hub or lug centric will determine just how they fit on the vehicle, as well as where the vehicle weight sits.
Basically, hub centric means the space inside the wheel’s center bore is designed to fit perfectly on the axle. This way, the wheel is centered by the hub connection and the lugs can hold it flush against the mounting plate. In a hub-centric design, this connection will bear the weight of the Jeep. Most OEM wheels, as well as some aftermarket versions like Rugged Ridge, Tactik and Quadratec Hardrock, will be hub centric and many believe these provide the best ride quality.
Lug centric is where the wheel is attached and centered by the lug nuts – instead of the hub. Most aftermarket wheels fall into this category as manufactures make these with larger hub diameters to fit a wide range of vehicles. So, when installed, there usually is a space between the axle and hub instead of flush contact.
As far as what is better, some report no difference in drive quality between hub and lug centric wheels, especially when using acorn style lugs to center. But many others say lug centric rims cause a degraded driving experience and could even fail depending on conditions. This is because driving – especially off-road driving - on lug-centric wheels can mean some impacts will apply shear force to the lug studs, sometimes more than they are designed to handle. This can potentially cause the lug studs to bend, leading to vibration as the wheel slips around on the mounting plate - possibly damaging the wheel's center bore if it has enough play to contact the axle.
A good way to correct this, should you choose lug centric and have an issue, is to purchase hub centric wheel spacers. These spacers fit inside the wheel hub and then fit over the axle, making that that lug-centric fitment into a hub-centric one.