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For those of us who don’t think about cars very often, hubcaps can be a mystery. They cover the wheel, but we’re not really sure why else they’re there. When one falls off, that question suddenly becomes very important. Is the hubcap worth replacing? Does it serve a purpose? The answers to these questions about hubcaps may surprise you. 

What is a hubcap?

Hubcaps are a cover that goes over your steel wheelbase. The center of your wheel is attached to the car by steel nuts and bolts. The car manufacturer will usually cover those bolts with a hubcap. Nowadays, they’re usually made of plastic, since it’s the cheapest material. 

Another option to hubcaps would be alloy wheels. These are more expensive, but they look nicer and will protect your wheel better. They also don’t fall off as often as hubcaps do. 

Do hubcaps serve a purpose?

Some people say that hubcaps help protect the nuts and bolts on your steel wheels from becoming rusted, but this is debatable. If you’re regularly cleaning, rotating and changing your tires, they should get loosened often enough to prevent rust buildup.

In reality, a flimsy plastic cover doesn’t do much to protect your wheel. And underneath is steel anyway, which is a far more durable material than plastic. So if you wanted to go without hubcaps and just use the bare steel wheel, your car would probably be fine. 

Another reason some people think hubcaps are necessary is for looks. It can make your car look pretty dumpy if you’re missing just one hubcap. But really, hubcaps aren’t that aesthetically pleasing anyway.

Most people who really care about the look of their car chose alloy wheels instead. And some that can’t afford alloy, decide to remove their hubcaps and wear bare steel proudly. If you give it a coat of shiny black paint and keep the steel clean, it actually doesn’t look bad to go with bare steel. 

Functionally speaking, hubcaps don’t really serve a purpose. They’re mostly for looks, and they really don’t look that great anyway. Although, if you’re missing just one hubcap, lots of people think that makes a car look junky. But functionally, it’s not going to do any damage to forgo replacing it. 

Why don’t car manufacturers get rid of hubcaps?

While researching this post, we noticed that a common question on the internet was why manufacturers have chosen to use hubcaps at all. Why wouldn’t they use alloy wheels on all cars? They look nicer and perform better. 

The reason manufacturers won’t make alloy standard comes down to cost. Alloy is just more expensive than plastic hubcaps. As shocking as it is to car lovers, there are plenty of people out there who couldn’t care less about their car’s appearance. Some people only care about functionality, and they wouldn’t appreciate the extra cost when they go to buy a car. 

Those who do prefer the appearance of alloy always have the choice to spend their money on alloy wheels, but luckily, manufacturers aren’t going to force everyone to take this upgrade. 

Do you need hubcaps?

In reality, you don’t need hubcaps. It all comes down to personal choice. Some prefer the look of hubcaps to bare steel, and some people hate hubcaps more than anything. Some insist that alloy is the only choice. But, it all comes down to what you want to do with your car. 

Going without hubcaps isn’t going to damage your tires. As long as you keep them clean, you can go bare or attach whatever cover you prefer. It’s a matter of personal choice.