Hubcaps are steel or alloy disks that cover all or part of the centre wheel. Usually decorative, these devices protect the wheel from minor damage and give it a finished look. Vintage hubcaps for cars from the 1940s to the 1970s can be difficult to find, and car restorers may find themselves in a difficult position because you can't buy most of these hubcaps from the manufacturer any more. As such, sellers of these hubcaps can charge quite a bit for them. If you have a hubcap, on or off the car, follow these steps to identify it.
Measure the cap across the centre from end to end. This will help you determine what kind of car the hubcap was used on and how to list it if you plan to sell it. If available, look around the inside rim of the tire to which it was mounted. You should find a series of letters and numbers, such as P175/65/R14. The number following the R tells you the tyre's size. Even if it differs from your measurement, always use your tire number if you have it, as this is the industry standard.
Decide on the type of hubcap you are looking at. There are two types--those that cover the full wheel and those that cover just a small portion in the centre. These small caps are called dog dishes. Most vintage cars had caps that covered the full wheel.
Inspect the cap for any identifying marks, such as Cadillac or Ford logos, so that you have somewhere to begin. At this point you can take the cap to an auto dealer or a parts store, but you can also do the research yourself.
Go online to vintage hubcap collector sites, such as Hubcap Mike or Hubcap Heaven. Once there, choose the car that matches the logo you have found. For example, click on Ford if you've found the stamped horse or mustang. Most vintage hubcaps will be from old American car factories, such as Ford or Chrysler.
Look through the available hubcaps to help you identify yours, comparing what you have to the pictures shown. If available, you can usually order directly from the site. Also consider that caps that look like wheel spokes or that are a series of concentric circles are more likely to be vintage than others, as these were popular hubcap features prior to the 1980s.