How to Change Rims

by Eliza BrooksUpdated July 06, 2023

Tire rims serve both a practical and aesthetic function to any car, and every so often, they need to be changed to improve either. Whether it be the result of a pothole, flat tire, old tires, rim width, or air pressure, there may come a time when you want to change out your rims without buying a new tire or seeking a professional mechanic. If you have basic mechanical proficiency, you can change your car rims without having to change tires with just a few removal tools and a little elbow grease. Before you install your new set of rims, however, you must ensure that they meet the proper rim size and weight specifications, or they won't fit your car tires. Follow these steps to accomplish a DIY rim change.

What to Know First

Before you can purchase you new rims, you have to know a few key pieces of information. First you need to know the tire size to buy the correct rim size. This information can be found in the same place you find your tire’s standard tire pressure. Look on the side of the tire or inside the frame of your driver’s side door.

You will also need to know what rim width is needed for the rim of the wheel. The rim width is the distance from one edge of the rim to the other edge. To measure this, use a rigid or flexible tape measurer and measure from the inside to the outside of the rim.

Change Your Rim

Use your jack to lift the wheel off the ground. If you have access to an auto garage, you can instead raise the whole car off the ground with a lift.

Deflate the tire on the wheel that holds the rim and hubcap you want to change by using the removal tool to put pressure on the valve stem to release the valve core. When the tires are inflated, there is no empty space between the edge of the rim and the surface of the tire. Letting the air out of the tires allows you to jimmy the rim off the wheel by creating room between the rim and the tire rubber.

Use your lug wrench set to loosen and remove any lug nuts on the outside of the rim that physically attach it to your car wheel. Make sure you don't lose any pieces as you work.

Get your flat head screwdriver. Start by slipping it between the top edge of the rim and the side of the tire and push outward - breaking the seal between them. Do this at various places on the surface of the rim to avoid bending damage. From there, use your tire lever or pry bar to separate the tire from the rim.

Remove the old rim, and place the new rim on the wheel. Depending on the size and style of the rim, there may be overlap between the rim and the tire. If there is, you may have to adjust the tire, so that it rests over or beneath the surface of the rim (as dictated by the style of the particular rims you're attaching).

Fasten the new rim onto the wheel using your socket set if it requires any additional securing.

Continue this process until you change all four rims. Remember that it probably won't cost more than an hour's labor to have your rims changed by a professional if you're unsure whether or not you're up to the task.

Dispose of the Old Rim

Just like disposing of old tires, it is important to dispose of your old rim in a proper manner. Don’t discard it on the side of the road or leave it in the street. Instead, find a recycling plant near you who will accept the scrap metal, or dispose of it at your tire shop. Finding someone who will take proper care of your old metal is important.

Video: DIY: Changing Your Vehicle's Wheels

Helpful comments from the video:

  • This is comprehensive. You also included links to the tools. This is so much useful. Great job!
  • Re: TPMS Sensor programming: Devices like the ATEQ Quickset can save you a trip (and $$$) to the dealership. They'll memorize the TPMS sensor codes and re-apply them after you swap tires. It also might be a good idea to have alignment checked after installing the old tires back on. Great video.
  • In case when wheel is rusted on all you need is a spare wheel. Pick it up and swing it so it hits the rusted-on wheel tire on either side, you hit tire to tire and the spare wheel will of course bounce off causing lots of strong vibrations to the rusted on wheel, just like heavy rubber mallet would. This might be useful if you get a puncture and are stuck on a side of the road with little to no tools and the wheel happens to be rusted on. Other no-tools-needed trick (which did not work for me) was to loosen the lug nuts and lower the car, so it's weight breaks the rust.

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