Are there any mechanical / safety issues arise when you do not put trims on car tires? Even when using the car in winter temperatures? (Say -15C to -20C)

  • 1
    The only real issue I could see is you could get salt-laden slush splashed up or caked on the lug nuts, which could make them hard to remove later (if you only remove your wheels to change tires; if you rotate them regularly then no issue).
    – TMN
    Nov 6 '17 at 17:16
  • Of course not! pistonheads.com/gassing/topic.asp?t=1635625
    – RemarkLima
    Nov 6 '17 at 22:10
  • Plenty of vans (such as mine) use steel rims without trim
    – Chris H
    Nov 7 '17 at 9:18
  • How would you even go about attaching a hubcap to a tyre?
    – Dan Mašek
    Nov 7 '17 at 14:27

No, hubcaps are purely cosmetic and do not need to be fitted. Some designs improve fuel economy and reduce wind noise by having a fairly flat surface but a car with one or more missing hubcaps is perfectly safe and in the UK, for example, hubcaps are not required to pass the annual MOT (safety inspection).

  • 3
    Hubcaps can also protect the lug nuts from getting jammed up with road crud. Nov 7 '17 at 8:56
  • 2
    And they protect the actual hub nut as well. Nov 7 '17 at 13:11
  • I agree with @chrylis and mickburkejnr. Would it be wrong for someone to modify the accepted answer to also reflect this information? I want to say that it might also help prevent rust on the lugnuts? Is that farfetched? Nov 7 '17 at 15:29
  • 1
    Doesn't this make the mistake of not distinguishing between hubcaps and wheel trims? Wheel trims are purely cosmetic but actual hubcaps (although now very rare and only really found on older cars) are designed to keep dirt out and lubrication in on actual hub nuts, not the wheel studs of modern cars? If it were an actual hubcap that was missing then I suspect it would fail an MoT as it would allow dirt ingress to the hub assembly. Nov 8 '17 at 9:30

I have driven on steel wheels with no hub caps in the harsh Finnish road environment for about 6 years. I had hub caps on neither the winter wheels nor the summer wheels. No problems encountered. The reason for doing so was that I didn't want to remove and reinstall the hub caps two times per year at wheel changes.

The car was of course inspected annually. No one there complained about missing hub caps.

Now I have aluminium wheels. On my previous car, the winter alu wheels once were so tight due to expanding rust or aluminium oxide that removing them required a rubber mallet. Hasn't happened on my new car yet, though. This is less likely to happen with steel wheels, which is a major advantage of them.

The reason for hub caps is that they make steel wheels look like aluminium wheels, and hence more expensive. Just cosmetics.

  • 6
    I don't believe this statement is accurate "The reason for hub caps is that they make steel wheels look like aluminium wheels", I am pretty sure hubcaps have been in general usage, much longer the alloy wheels en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubcap#History Nov 6 '17 at 18:48
  • 3
    Valid point, @JamesJenkins, however, they are simply a vanity item meant to dress up plain steel wheels.
    – FreeMan
    Nov 6 '17 at 19:00

front disk brake assembly with "spindle" cover

One winter (1978) I drove my then 11 year old car over the Cascade mountain passes in Washington state many times and for some reason I didn't have hubcaps or wheel covers on the front wheels. Before the snow was gone, I had to replace the wheel bearings on the front and I believe the reason is that slush (maybe salt?)was able to penetrate the "spindle" cover. Maybe the "spindle" covers were loose (they are a force fit and had been removed several times for brake work), and maybe there was another reason for the wheel bearing failures, but I think hubcaps or wheel covers provide added protection to the "spindle" cap. (I don't know the actual name for what I am calling a "spindle" cap.)

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