OEM vs. Aftermarket Wheels

Definition of OEM

OEM is an acronym used in the automotive industry that stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. OEM refers to any part, including wheels that can come equipped on a vehicle as it is delivered from the factory. Wheels that are not OEM are referred to as non-original, aftermarket, replica or any other term that refers to the fact that the wheels did not originally come on the vehicle.

Types of OEM Wheels

OEM wheels come in two different types, steel and alloy. Steel wheels are cheaper to make and are generally used as a "base" wheel on vehicles that are intended to be cheaper than models that are heavily optioned. Steel wheels are also used frequently on trucks. The other type of OEM wheel is the alloy wheel, which is far stronger and better looking than a steel wheel. Alloy wheels are generally made of aluminum alloy.

Who Makes OEM Wheels

OEM wheels are usually made in China under strict specifications from the original car manufacturer.

Advantages of OEM Wheels

OEM wheels on a vehicle can be desirable for several reasons. They ensure that the vehicle is original, which can help maintain the value of it. If the OEM wheels have been replaced with non-original, aftermarket wheels, the value of the vehicle may be negatively impacted. Manufacturers have much higher standards for their OEM equipment than aftermarket wheel makers, which are many times of lesser quality and engineering.

Another benefit of OEM wheels is that they look more correct on a given vehicle than aftermarket or non-original wheels, since they were designed and chosen specifically for the vehicle that they are fitted to. Aftermarket wheels often do not look right on a car if the design of the wheel does not complement the design of the vehicle.

Disadvantages of OEM Wheels

Disadvantages of some OEM Wheels - Along with advantages, OEM wheels can potentially have some disadvantages. Because of cost limitations, OEM wheels are sometimes made from steel, which is heavier than alloy and bends more easily. Steel wheels also are not as attractive as alloy wheels and are usually painted silver or black. On vehicles equipped with steel wheels, the wheels are often upgraded with alloy wheels for a performance and appearance upgrade.

Aftermarket / Replica Wheels

Many of the rims that are being installed on automobiles by consumers are aftermarket or replica wheels, meaning that they were not manufactured by the automobile manufacturer or were not manufactured specifically for that vehicle by another company for the vehicle manufacturer.

The rims are typically made of aluminum. The aluminum is often made as an alloy, blended with other materials like magnesium or other non-ferrous metals in order to strengthen the aluminum. However, the integrity of the aluminum or aluminum compounds used, and the manufacturing process employed by the aftermarket manufacturers varies greatly with aftermarket wheels.

Unlike OEM wheels, most aftermarket wheels go through little or no quality control checks during or after the manufacturing process. There have been many reported incidents of aftermarket wheels collapsing or breaking. Because of the boom in the market, it is expected that many more accidents will occur because of faulty and defective aftermarket rims.

OEM wheels that come on a vehicle are wheels that are designed for the vehicle. The aftermarket wheels, on the other hand, are not designed for the vehicle. The wheels can affect stability and handling of the vehicle. Also, depending on the integrity of the rims, the weight and stress applied from normal operation of a vehicle can cause the wheels to fail in a variety of manners.

Virtually every vehicle manufactured today has computer and electronic systems that are designed to adjust handling and suspension, based upon events that occur with the wheels that come standard on the vehicle. When non-OEM wheels are added to a vehicle, the computer system cannot interpret the data correctly, meaning that the braking action and stability of the vehicle could be impaired. The aftermarket wheels are also shown to increase wear and tear on suspension. All of these factors, from the integrity of the metal to the interface of the tire system with the vehicle’s electronic stability system, can greatly increase the risk of serious bodily harm of injury.