What is OEM wheels?

Updated July 19, 2017

The wheels on your car or truck are some of the vehicles most important aspects. Depending on the type of wheel they can contribute to better performance as well as a better appearance. Wheels can also be a confusing subject for those not familiar with them and the specific vocabulary that is used in reference to them. There are two main categories of wheels, which are OEM and aftermarket wheels, though the two types of wheels are often made by the same wheel companies.

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 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 aluminium alloy.

Who Makes OEM Wheels

OEM wheels are usually made by the same companies that make aftermarket wheels but instead of having the wheel maker's logo on the wheels, the manufacturer's name is on the wheel. Car makers have wheels companies make the wheels for their vehicles to their specifications.

Advantages of OEM Wheels

OEM wheels on a particular 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 often have higher standards for their OEM equipment than aftermarket wheel makers, which are sometimes of lesser quality and engineering. Another potential benefit of OEM wheels is that they may 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. OEM wheels on the used market are often cheaper than aftermarket alloys since the automobile manufacturers have so many wheels made for the cars they are making.

Disadvantages of OEM Wheels

Along with advantages, OEM wheels can potentially have some disadvantages. Because of cost limitations, OEM wheels are often 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. OEM alloy wheels are often heavier than aftermarket alloys, which is one of the reasons that car owners often replace their OEM wheels with higher quality aftermarket alloys wheels. On vehicle equipped with steel wheels, the wheels are often upgraded with alloy wheels for a performance and appearance upgrade.

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About the Author

William Zane has been a freelance writer and photographer for over six years and specializes primarily in automotive-related subject matter among many other topics. He has attended the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, where he studied automotive design, and the University of New Mexico, where he studied journalism.