Wheel Vs Tire Vs Rim: What Is The Difference Between Them?

Robert Herrera-COR-Wheels

By Robert Herrera

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A car contains many parts, so distinguishing them one by one is never easy, especially when it comes to the wheel. There is an ongoing debate between rims vs wheels vs tires to see if they are the same. 

Things get more difficult since some people are used to interchanging these concepts. One thing is for sure: these three are 3 different parts. Scroll down to tell them apart.

What Are Wheels?

Wheels are circular metal objects mounted vertically on axles to rotate and push the car forward and to support the vehicle’s weight. This part is made of metals, like aluminum alloy or steel, and comes with tires for more cushioning and grip. 

forged wheel

The main components of the entire wheel include:

  • Rim: acts as the outer circular edge of the wheel.
  • Center bore: stay in the center back to align the wheels and reduce vibration.
  • Lug holes: known as the bolts pattern, which shows the arrangement of the bolts on the rim.
  • Central disc: consists of the center bore and lug nuts to attach the edge to the axle hub.
  • Spokes: includes the rods connecting the wheel disc to the rim.
  • Valve stem: a small hole designed for adding or removing air pressure.

Depending on each vehicle, axles, rims, and spokes may come in a single piece or as a cluster of 2-3. P

If you prefer steel wheels, you have two color options: silver or black. Meanwhile, aluminum products satisfy aesthetic purposes due to the variety of outer layers and designs.

What Are Rims?

Gravity Casting wheel

The rim sits on the wheel’s outer edge and is the joint between the wheel and the tire. Its size represents the circumference of the wheel and the tire width. Its main function is to support the wheel and maintain the tire in place. 

Hence, the rim suffers the most once the tire pops out on the road.

Some people refer to the barrel when they mention the rim, but they are two different cases. Barrel points to the part between the inner and outer edges covered by the tire in most settings.

Though you only see the rim as a single part, experts define it by many features.

  • Lip: extends to the width of the wheel that is visible from the front.
  • Flange: come in contact with the tire to keep it attached to the wheel.
  • Bead rests: considered as a circle following the length of the inner tire surface.
  • Mounting humps: functions as a flange but stays in position according to the bead resting on the inner rim.
  • Drop center: acts as a deep hole inside the rim that supports tire mounting.

What Are Tires?

Tire without rim

Tires are ring shells of rubber compound covering rims and inflated to withstand the vehicle’s weight. In addition, it also provides a pad to prevent shocks, increase traction, and direct the movement of the car.

When you invest in new tires, the structure of a finished item looks simple. However, going into detail shows that it includes many parts to form a reliable road contact patch.

  • Tread: grooves help increase grip when the vehicle is moving and create friction.
  • Tire beads: Fit into two-wheel rims to keep the air inside.
  • Sidewall: connects the tread and bead and produces traction.
  • Tire shoulder: acts as a transition area from the tread to the sidewall.
  • Piles: are cords that keep the rubber structure from stretching.

There are 3 main common types of tires based on optimal performance under certain weather conditions, including all-season, summer, and winter. Sub-categories are then divided to serve different uses such as touring, off-road, daily driving, etc.

Difference Between Wheels And Rims

A rim is just an outer part of a wheel that helps keep a tire in place. In other words, it is the edge of a wheel, while a wheel consists of the lug holes, bolt circle, spokes, center bore, center disc, valve stem, and, of course, rim.

Wheels vs Rims


The rim is the outermost piece of metal on the wheel, or in other words; it belongs to the wheel. Rims are made from metal alloys such as steel, aluminum, magnesium, chromium, and carbon fiber. 

Meanwhile, drivers have less choice of wheels regarding material encapsulated in stainless steel, aluminum, or magnesium.


The rim feature is a ring shape with actual diameters ranging from 14″ to 19′. Some luxury vehicles or sporty cars have slightly larger rim sizes. Owners can change the rims if they match bolt patterns and correct sizes.

Incredibly, the rim defines the wheel size. You cannot swap wheels between your vehicles because of the strict installation requirements, including the brand.


Wheels play a key role in the vehicle’s performance. They support the heavy load and balance of the upper part. As the joint between the wheel and tire, the rim contributes to this important responsibility. 

However, its main function is to provide a solid base for tire mounting. A good unit keeps the relevant parts in place and in good working order. A small difference in quality leaves a major gap in handling and friction reduction.

Wheel Vs. Tire: Key Differences

While wheels are the metal part attached to the axle, tires are the rubber ring mounted to the wheel via the rim. As solid as they are, wheels shoulder the car’s weight and transform movements to the tire, and tires add more cushioning and grip and help the car roll more smoothly.


It is easy to figure out the difference between wheels and tires because they are made from two different materials – metal for the wheels and rubber for the tires. You have many modifications to the tire, from function, type, design, etc., and you can update your car whenever you like.

Rubber Tires Made Of
Rubber Tires Made

However, change rarely happens to the wheel. When people mention “smaller or larger wheels” in their new replacement, they usually mean investing in other tires for an outstanding experience or look.

Forging alloy wheel
Forging alloy wheel


Wheels and tires complement each other in the operation of cars. The former converts the force from the engine into rotation and propulsion. Meanwhile, the latter maintains traction to keep the vehicle moving in the intended direction. Without it, the car would skid off the road due to loss of grip.

For this reason, you need to change your tires periodically while taking advantage of the wheels for the rest of your vehicle’s life. Tires are in constant contact with the road surface; thus, it wears out faster.


Wheels are attached to the hub assembly, while tires mount on the wheel. Considering the wheel assembly, the wheel stays inside while the tire is on the outer part.


Why Do People Call It A Wheel Rim?

It’s slang. In fact, these two components are technically separate.

Are Tyres And Tires Different?

NO. Both have the same meaning of “the ring-shaped rubber object that surrounds the wheel,” but “tyre” is a British English spelling, and “tire” is commonly used in American English.


So rims, tires, and wheels are not the same thing. All three are separate parts located in different locations and work with particular functions. Simply put, the innermost metal component in the wheel assembly is the rim, the steel wheel stays in the middle, and the black rubber tire covers the outside.

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Robert Herrera

President & Automotive Expert at COR Wheels

Robert Herrera has been with COR Wheels for 17 years and has a great passion for the automotive industry. During his time at COR Wheels, he has driven and test-driven a variety of vehicles.

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