Hubcaps are attached to the rim in several ways. Some are held on by lug-nuts, made of either metal or plastic. Others are secured with metal or plastic clips, known as spring retention clips. The final type of hubcap is a simple push-on model. Push-on models are designed to fit snugly inside the rim of the tire. Hubcaps which are installed too tightly can squeak, rattle or make other unappealing sounds. If left on the rim for long, hubcaps that are too tight are subject to cracking, splitting and friction damage.
Before attempting to remove or realign the hubcap determine the type. Hubcaps attached with lug nuts are easily recognizable. If the hubcaps are attached with spring clips you will find these on the underside of the hubcap, secured to the rim. Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual if you cannot identify the type of hubcap.
Loosen Lug-nut Style Hubcaps
Use a socket wrench or lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts on this type of hubcap. If your hubcaps are attached to the wheels with lug nuts, turning the nuts a quarter turn may loosen them enough to stop noise and prevent damage. If the nut will not turn, tap the end of the wrench with a rubber mallet, only until the nut breaks loose. Take care not to damage the hubcap when using a mallet to loosen the nuts.
Adjusting Spring Retention Style Hubcaps
Reposition hubcaps with spring retention rings. Remove the hubcap with a screwdriver or crowbar. Realign the retention ring, making sure to place it in the position which is nearest to the inside of the rim. If the ring is positioned on the outside edge of the hubcap this can create a lot of extra tension, causing the hubcap to fit poorly.
Lubricate Push-on Style Hubcaps
Apply a automotive lubricant to push-on hubcaps. Either a silicone gel or a lubricating spray can work well for this task. While this may not loosen the hubcaps, it can help reduce the amount of noise present when driving, as well as help prevent damage to the hubcap.
Test the Hubcaps
Before driving the vehicle test the hubcaps to ensure that they are installed securely. You should not be able to pull them off easily with your bare hand. While hubcaps that are mounted too tightly can be troublesome, those which are mounted too loosely may come off if you strike a pothole or hit a bump in the road.
When All Else Fails
Replace hubcaps if loosening them does not solve the problem. Before ordering replacement hubcaps check to ensure that size of the wheel is compatible with the size of the hubcap.