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Aftermarket Wheels

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I've had a 2001 Corolla LE for about four years now, and I've just bent one of its steel wheels beyond repair for the third time. Once hitting a block of wood that fell out of a truck, once hitting a piece of tire tread on the freeway, and this time I'm not even sure how I bent it. I do not think that it is normal for wheels to bend so easily, and the Toyota Dealership here wants something ridiculous for them. I do not remember exactly, but I think it was in the $90 range. I've looked around a little and have been completely unsuccessful at finding them at wheel and tire shops. Because I do not want to have to buy any more of them, I have decided to buy aftermarket wheels.

I am aware that changing the diameter, width, or offset of the wheels can have effects on the steering and suspension, but I don't know how different they have to be for the effects to be noticeable or what the effects would be. Somewhat more importantly, I don't know exactly what size my wheels are. I'm pretty sure that they are 15" x 6" with a 4-100 bolt pattern, but I haven't been able to find this information anywhere.

I think that a lot of people put aftermarket wheels on a car because they think it looks better, without regard to effects on performance. It's not uncommon to see Civics and things with camber issues or tires that have been rubbing on things because of aftermarket wheels that don't fit properly, and I want to avoid that. In fact I would rather pay $90 every year or two than sacrifice any handling or ride quality.

So, if anyone knows the offset of the stock wheels for a 2001 LE, how much they weigh, whether or not 15" x 6" 4-100 is correct, or how changing these things will affect the car, that information would be very helpful.

I am currently considering the MSW Type 15 on tirerack.com. I've never heard of MSW, but they are cheap, reasonable looking, and pretty close to the dimensions of the stock wheels (I think).

The size of the OEM steels wheels for the 8th generation Corolla (1998-2002) are 14" x 5.5" and took either a 175/65-14 or 185/65-14 tire, 4x100 bolt pattern and have an offset of +45mm.

As for what can fit - tire widths of up to 205mm, wheel widths up to 7" and wheel diameters from 14"-18" can fit. Wheel offset depends on the wheel width in question - but Toyota has spec'd the offset to be from 38mm - 45mm and clear the suspension. People have fit wider tires and larger wheels on the car, but your mileage may vary. All depends on what you are willing to do to fit those wheels.

As for aftermarket wheels - I've run both a 16"x7" +38mm offset, with 205/45R16 tires and 14"x6" + 38mm offset, with 195/60R14 tires with no issues. The 16" did rub a bit when I had the car lowered on some TRD springs - but it also depended on the tires I was running, as some treads were a little wider than others (tire construction) for a given tire size. The 45 series tires really had a superior steering feel compared to the 60 series - but I didn't notice much of an improvement in handling. I stuck with the smaller wheel and upgrade to a PLUS 0 (Tirerack nomenclature) - went from a 185/65-14 to a 195/60-14 tire. Considerable difference in grip levels between these two. With the 205/45-16 tire vs the 195/60-14 tire - couldn't really tell as the wider 205mm tire was well beyond the limitations of the Corolla chassis.

You should be fine with a 15"x6" wheel, just need to find out how much of an offset the wheels have and make sure they have a center bore of atleast 54.1mm (I think, can't remember off the top of my head). Most of the aftermarket alloy wheels are hubcentric - so find out if you need to purchase hub rings separately and make sure they will fit your car (almost all will come with them though).

As for MSW wheels - well known company that uses engineering tech and design from O.Z. Racing Wheels, a prominent Italian wheel manufacturer. Though note, O.Z. does NOT make MSW wheels, MSW wheels are made in China, but follow the design and quality control of O.Z. Racing. Same way with ASA Wheels, they use engineering and quality control processes from BBS Wheels, but are made almost exclusively in Korea. These Chinese "knock-off" brands are still pretty decent though, and shouldn't give you much trouble - just trading name and premium manufacturing techniques for price point. They are generally gravity cast alloy wheels, so they won't be super-lightweight - but probably be pretty close to even lighter than the OEM steelies. Try looking them up on www.tirerack.com - they usually list the size, bolt pattern, weight, and offset for their alloys. I'm guestimmating that a 15" 6-spoke alloy wheel, like the MSW Type 15 to be close to 18lbs. An OEM 14" steel wheel is about the same ~close to 17-18lbs.

What I'm more concerned about is the bent wheels, if you can bend a steel wheel, you will definitely damage an alloy one in a heartbeat. I would also be concerned about the wheel bearings on the associated wheels that were bent. Usually an impact big enough to bend a steel wheel, will also mean that wheel bearing's lifespan has been considerably shortend.