The difference between replica alloys and OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) are that replica aftermarket rims are made by an independent manufacturer. Whereas OEM wheels are made by the car manufacturer and are the exact specification to the vehicle. Often replica rims are made to fit several vehicles i.e. Mercedes and Ford.
The main reason car owners choose to purchase replica rims is because they are much cheaper. However, does this result in a cheaper made alloy that will be terrible quality or won’t fit the car properly?
The main reason to buy direct OEM replacements is for peace of mind that they will fit perfectly. There is nothing worse than fitting a wheel to find that they do not fit and you have just spent hundreds on them.
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Replica Wheel Fitment Caution
Replica rims are an excellent way to get wheels to fit your car that wouldn’t be possible if they were OEM wheels. A personal experience of mine was where I owned a Volkswagen Polo but wanted the GTi wheels from a Golf.
The Polo’s stud diameter was 5×100 and the stud diameter of the Golf (MK5) GTi wheels were 5×112. There were two options in this scenario, which are to use wheel spacer adapters to convert 5×100 to 5×112 or buy replica wheels.
Due to potential issues with the offset, I went with a replica set that fitted perfectly and looked the business.
However, the different stud diameter may lead to many issues for Golf MK5 owners looking to upgrade to GTi wheels. As these are 5×100 fitment, they will not fit a MK5 Golf even though they are designed for a golf.
When purchasing replica rims, ensure that you double check and check again on the stud diameter as well as other specs such as the offset, width and diameter.
What is a Wheel Spacer Adapter?
Wheel Adapters often called Hub Centric PCD Adaptors are an excellent piece of kit that allow you to use a different PCD wheel on your vehicle. Wheel spacer adapters are fairly cheap and can save you a large sum of money if you have the wrong fitment wheels.
For your safety, when fitting wheel spacer adapters, you should also use lug bolts that are extended in length. A rule of thumb is that you should use longer lugs if the spacer is larger than 3mm thick. This will also include changing your locking lug nuts as part of the process.
What Are The Best Brand Replica Wheels?
I have bought multiple replica wheels in the past from various independent manufacturers. On Amazon for example, you can simply type in the wheel that you want followed by the “Replica Wheels” and you will have a big list. The best branded replica wheels that popup to mind are Dare, TSW and Konig, which are highly rated as far as replica rims are concerned.
5 Advantages of Replica Wheels
- Much cheaper than OEM
- Alternative PCD for various vehicles
- Readily available worldwide
- Unique aftermarket designs aside OEM
- More options in terms of rim width and offset
5 Disadvantages of Replica Wheels
- Often use lower quality material prone to cracking
- Made overseas and not always meets safety regulations
- Can be much heavier than OEM wheels
- Can reduce value of the car compared with OEM
- May require adapters or spigot rings to fit properly
OEM Wheels Are Better Than Replica Wheels
Original Equipment Manufacturer wheels will always be the best buy. However, the biggest drawback is simply the cost where you can buy 4 replica wheels with tires for the price of one OEM wheel. I still own some replica wheels that I have wrapped with winter tires for icy roads, which I don’t mind getting damaged.
There are good and bad replica wheels. The latter are made in a cost effective way by using cheap materials that will crack from hitting a singular pothole.
Higher quality replicas are the wheels to go for as they will be more durable for a small amount more money.
Its important to note that alongside the structural strength of an alloy wheel, it must also need to defend against the environment. Wheels are constantly being covered in road salt, dirt and car wash chemicals. OEM wheels would have been tested millions of times whilst replica wheels would be tested a fraction of that. A replica wheel could look terrible after a month on salty roads especially if its diamond cut, chrome or has polished lips.
Are Replica Rims Identical To OEM?
The short answer is no. Replica wheels are made cheaply and therefore do not have the machinery required to create an exact replica of an alloy. On top of this, if you were to completely copy a wheel, there is a chance that the manufacturer can be sued.
Often replica wheels have minor changes at the front of the wheel with the majority of differences at the back. For example, most Mercedes AMG replica wheels will not have the AMG logo on the front of the wheel and have an unknown brand at the back of the wheel.