What are Wheel Simulators?
Simply put, Wheel Simulators are hubcaps that look like wheels when they are installed. They are an economical alternative to expensive aluminum alloy wheels, allowing you to have the look of stylish wheels without the high cost. Wheel simulators are sometimes referred to as wheel liners or wheel covers, although the latter term can also refer to traditional styles of hubcaps.
Simulators are used as motorhome wheel covers or truck wheel covers on a variety of vehicles. They are primarily used on medium and light-duty trucks, SUVs, and motorhomes. Travel Trailers and Fifth Wheels do not generally have wheel simulators installed. More often these have their RV tires mounted on solid steel or aluminum wheels instead of simulators.
How are Wheel Simulators available?
RV or truck wheel simulators are sold individually or in sets of four. The sets of four contain front and rear wheel covers. These sets will contain simulators that are either all the same or with the front a different shape than the rear ones.
Insets with different front and rear simulators, the front ones are shaped like "frisbees" and the rears like a "punch bowl". The "punch bowl" simulator style is designed for vehicles that have dual rear wheels. If you are buying simulators for a camper van or light truck with single rear tires, they will likely be all "frisbee" shaped
Wheel covers that are not wheel simulators are available from RV Part Shop in a chrome finish. True wheel simulators are made of stainless steel, making them resistant to rust, staining, or corrosion. These are easier to maintain and last longer. This is especially true if they are used in winter or other harsh environments.
Benefits of Wheel Simulators
Less Expensive than Aluminum Alloy Wheels
The Same Stylish Look as the Aluminum Wheels
Solid, Heavy-Duty Construction
Easy to Install, they usually come with their own tool
How to find the Right Wheel Simulators for your Vehicle
To determine the correct wheel simulators for your vehicle, there are three variables you need to factor in:
Wheel Diameter (on the tire, the diameter of the wheel is in the tire size molded into the rubber, usually at the end, e.g. "16" in R225/75 R16)
The number of Lug Nuts on the Wheel
The number of "Hand Holes"* on the wheel (matching replacement simulators only)
*Hand holes are the larger holes around the outer edge of the simulator face in a "frisbee" style simulator. On the "punch bowl" style used for dually tire applications., they are around the bottom of the "punch bowl".)
Some simulator manufacturers, like Phoenix USA, Pacific Dualies, and Wheel Masters, will have fitment charts to make this process easier for you. RV Part Shop's product specialists have access to these lookups. We can assist you to make sure you order the correct wheel liners for your vehicle.
How to Install a Wheel Simulator
First, consult the installation instructions that came with your simulator set or download it from RV Part Shop or the manufacturer's website. That way you will know all the steps you need to take when installing your simulators because different installation methods are used.
You may have to gently tap the edges of the simulator to initially start the installation. Use a rubber mallet to do this so you don't damage the surface or edge of the simulator. Don't pound on the simulator because you may break the clips holding the simulator to the rim. Be sure the wheel simulator is snug all around the edge of the rim.
The real fastening, though, comes from wheel nuts holding the simulator to the wheel. Wheel Simulators usually only have two of the 8 or 10 lugs that are used to fasten the simulator to the wheel. The rest are just for show.
You may need to install a stud extender prior to installing the nuts. This is so that you have enough stud thread showing through the wheel simulator to fasten the nut that will hold the simulator on.
For some wheel simulators, you will install what is referred to as a jam nut onto the stud. Then, you snap a simulated chrome lug nut cover on top of it to complete the installation. A jam nut is just a low-profile nut about half the height of a standard nut. Its purpose is to act as a locknut, "jammed" up against the simulator to prevent losing it.
Some wheel simulators will use encapsulated jam nuts. This is just a fancy way of saying that the lug nut cover is permanently installed on the jam nut.
Whatever style of jam nut you use to hold your simulators on, make sure that you have them on tight and check them regularly. You don't want the extra expense of replacing a wheel simulator because the nuts have come loose.
Shop for Wheel Simulators
RV Part Shop offers a selection of wheel simulators for Ford E-350 and E-450 Vans, Mercedes/Sprinter Vans, and T-350 Transit buses. We also have them for most light and medium-duty trucks that are 3/4 Ton or higher. Wheel sizes range from 16" to 22.5" in diameter. Contact one of our parts specialists for recommendations on available options for your vehicle
Don't forget, if you have a mounted Spare Tire, you might want to match it to the other wheels. You can do this by getting an additional wheel simulator unless you have a spare tire cover