If you’ve never had to zip tie your hubcaps on, it’s a little confusing to see.
It’s becoming increasingly more uncommon to come across but, if you randomly look at someone’s car equipped with those hard, plastic hubcaps, you might see one or two zip ties securing it to the steel wheel.
But why? New cars with hubcaps don’t come off the dealership lot with zip ties, so, what do these car owners know that car manufacturers don’t?
First, you have to understand hubcaps, especially older OEM ones, aren’t cheap and, if you want to buy a matching one, you’ll either have to source one yourself or end up spending at least $20 buying one online.
Check out this 2006 Toyota Corolla equipped with hubcaps on AutoTrader and here’s how much the cheapest matching one is on eBay.
Keeping in mind how much they can cost, here are why people zip tie their hubcaps.
People often zip tie their hubcaps because they’ve lost one or a whole set in their lifetime and, by zip tieing them on, are making sure they’ll never lose a hubcap again.
Not all hubcaps are made equally, and some hubcaps have the propensity to fall off, unsecuring themselves from a wheel, more so than others.
Exacerbating the likelihood of losing a hubcap in your car’s lifetime is how bad your roads are.
Although cars have shock absorbers and springs to absorb road irregularities like bumps, potholes, and rough pavement, they don’t absorb energy sent a hubcap’s way.
If you live in a city that uses its tax dollars everywhere else but their local roads, losing a hubcap isn’t a matter of if, but when.
If you know your hubcaps will fly off at any moment, zip tieing them on also prevents them from flying off where they might randomly hit someone or something.
You don’t need to be in a Physics class to understand how much it’ll hurt if you get hit by a hubcap flying off a car going 45 MPH.
Car owners rocking hubcaps also zip tie them to their wheels because people steal them for money.
I showed you how much one hubcap for a lowly Corolla costs, so you can imagine what a thief sees when he sees an unsecured set of hubcaps. If he puts them up on eBay, that’s an easy $100 or, if he flips them to whoever locally, a whole set is probably a quick $20 to buy whatever.
Zip ties won’t stop a persistent hubcap thief.
Regardless, taking them off takes time, an additional challenge that just might be enough to deter someone.
As you can see, there are many good reasons people zip tie their hubcaps on their wheels.
Some car owners don’t care much for hubcaps and think, if they had the choice between bare steelies and covering them up with plastic discs, they’d choose the bare life every time.
Kudos to them, but some car owners prefer the upgraded look hubcaps offer, that nice affordable compromise between alloys and black steel wheels.
So, for them, rather than risk losing them in any multitude of ways, they’d prefer to zip tie them on.
Is it safe?
Hubcaps usually have a uniform pattern so, when mounted, do not pose any balance issues on a wheel.
But, will a zip tie, placed randomly on a hubcap, cause any balancing issues or any safety issue?
The short answer is no, putting zip ties on your hubcaps is perfectly safe.
I weighed an extra long zip tie and it barely registered on my scale, weighing .01 ounces.
In other words, the extra weight a zip tie adds is negligible.
If you do zip tie your hubcaps, buy the UV resistant ones.
Zip ties on your hubcap will have a harsh life of repeated heat cycles, will get blasted by the sun, and will suffer whatever Mother Nature throws at them.
Regular zip ties won’t cut it.
If you do buy zip ties for your hubcaps, buy the black UV resistant ones, it’ll usually say as such on the packaging.
Regular zip ties will get brittle under an unforgiving sun and, when you hit that one pothole, will break.
Soon after that, you can say bye-bye to your hubcaps.
Hubcaps make even the barest steel wheel look OK and, if you don’t want to spend money replacing one that flies off, zip ties are an easy way to make sure that never happens.
And if you do see someone with zip ties on their hubcaps, it’s all too easy to poke fun at them, judge them for their so-called frugal choices, or even let them know how “janky” they look, but you know better.