How to make flat aerodynamic aluminum wheel covers

Discussion in 'Gen 2 Prius Accessories & Modifications' started by TheForce, Jul 22, 2008.

  1. TheForce

    TheForce Ron Paul 2012

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    This is going to be a short description on how to make flat aerodynamic wheel covers.

    I'm making these because the rounded ones from Hubcap Mike sick out too far for my rear wheel skirts. So I needed to buy or make some flat ones. Unfortunately I could not find any thing locally to buy and modify so I had to make my own.

    First you will need a sheet of aluminum from Lows or other hardware store. I would recommend getting the largest you can find that will fit 4 16" covers. The sheet I found was 48" long by 24" wide by .025 thick. This allows for 3 caps. They had smaller sheets but they would only fit 1 cap so you may have to buy one large sheet and one small sheet. The large sheet was $42.88 and the smaller ones were $22 something.

    I also had to buy some tin snips. My receipt said they were 9 3/4" 'R' Metalmaster.

    To make the brushed aluminum look I bought a Sand Blaster sanding sponge coarse 60.

    You will also need some 3M double sided adhesive tape.

    Some aluminum polish will also help a lot to make the caps look pretty.

    I also used the extra aluminum rivets I had from my other wheel cover installation.

    I'll try my best to describe the process because I did not take very many pictures.

    First off take a trim ring and lay it on the aluminum sheet. If you use the larger sheet to get three caps on it you will need to position the the trim rings with one at the top corner, then draw a circle around it with a magic marker. Then position the trim ring next to the first one you traced out near the bottom, then the next trace will be at the top. I had to cut on the inside of the marker trace then cut an additional 1/16" all around to get it to fit the trim ring. I then filed everything down smooth so I would not cut myself.
    [​IMG]


    Once you get the caps cut out you need to find a way to brush them to make them pretty. Since I don't have the right tools for the job I decided to use my prius as a lathe to turn the discs to get that pretty brushed aluminum look. To do that I had to mount the discs temporarily to the trim rings using the 3M sticky tape.
    [​IMG]

    Then I attached the the whole thing to the front wheel of the prius. Now in order to get the front wheel to spin you must disable traction control. To find out how to do that just do some searching on "disable prius traction control" and you will find it. After the little dance is done I jacked up the side of the car until the wheel came off the ground. I then put the car in drive and the wheel started to spin at the normal 7mph. (NOTE: During this process the odometer will continue to advance just like the car was moving down the road. I was able to get one cap done in about .5 miles. So expect your odometer to read about 2 miles greater after your done brushing the aluminum.) I first brushed the aluminum with the sanding pad, then used polish, then wipe the polish off, then another final brush with the sanding pad. This gave a nice clean look almost matching the caps from Hubcap Mike. :D

    Here is the before.
    [​IMG]


    Here is the after.
    [​IMG]


    Here is a side by side. My flat cap on the left and Hubcap Mike's round cap on the right.
    [​IMG]


    I used a putty knife to remove the discs from the trim rings.
    [​IMG]


    Here is the video showing how I brushed the discs. Video is 2x speed.
    [ame=http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=428497399714999524]How to make a brushed aluminum aerodynamic flat wheel cover for a Prius[/ame]​


    Now I just need to align the cover onto the ring and start drilling holes. I used masking tape to keep the disc in place while drilling.
    [​IMG]


    I drilled and riveted at the center of the flat spots in the location you see below.
    [​IMG]


    Next I drilled a small hole where the valve stem would be. Then drilled a bigger hole, then and even bigger hole. Then I used a dremel to sand out an even bigger hole and smoothed out the edges. The result is what you see here. This is the finished product.
    [​IMG]


    And here is what it looks like mounted on the car with the wheel skirts.
    [​IMG]



    I think I will have to buy some valve stem extensions to make it easier to fill the tires up with air. The holes are just big enough to fit my air compressor end into. Of course if you dont have wheel skirts you may not want to drill a hole to check the air pressure as the cover/trim rings are easy to pop off with a screw driver or plastic panel removal tool.
     
    ClintJ001 and blueumbrella like this.
  2. diamondlarry

    diamondlarry EPA MPG #'s killer

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    As usual, very nice looking work Jay! That looks simple enough that even I might be able to pull it off. I'll have to see what my boss would charge me for materials for a project like this.
     
  3. TonyPSchaefer

    TonyPSchaefer Your Friendly Moderator
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    Very nice, Jay.

    How are you making the wheel spin?
     
  4. McDonald

    McDonald New Member

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    How do you plan to attach them to the wheel?
     
  5. TheForce

    TheForce Ron Paul 2012

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    You have to do the macarena in the drivers seat first. ;)

    The discs will be attached to the trim rings with aluminum rivets and then the discs/trim rings just attach to the wheel like normal.
     
  6. Highly ImPriused

    Highly ImPriused Impressive Member

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  7. Flying White Dutchman

    Flying White Dutchman Senior Member

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  8. TheForce

    TheForce Ron Paul 2012

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    I finished up my firs post.

    No, if you want Mike's caps you need the screw on 15"
    http://www.hubcapmike.com/rdc02-15.html

    There might be an improvement of 2mpg with a +- 2mpg margin of error.

    I have the non touring 15" wheels. Since I don't have or have seen the touring trim rings I cant comment on if my way of making/mounting the caps will work with the touring rings.
     
  9. douglas001001

    douglas001001 smug doug

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    If there is enough interest in this, I could have a batch made up to replicate this attachment technique.

    I'll send a note to the supplier to see what a cost would be on a run of like 25 sets.

    The trouble is I have a touring model, if diamondlarry is willing to be the test car (he lives like 15 minutes from the supplier) I could proceed.
     
  10. Hybrid Effects

    Hybrid Effects Junior Member

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    Cool Jay I am glad to see that you have some hub caps that fit the skirts and the caps look good on the car

    I had attached the fiberglass aero hub caps with double sided stick tape and they seemed to stay in place fine with out the rivets.

    The touring model aero hub caps will need to be made from a mold due to the fact that the original hub caps are curved.

    Franklin
     
  11. subarutoo

    subarutoo New Member

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    Pretty cool. My only comment: running a car with only the jack is VERY dangerous. At the very least, use jack stands, and I would have somebody behind the wheel ready to mash the brake if it comes loose, or you may be chasing the car a long, long way, especially with the mpgs the Prius gets, (until it hits something solid). Very inventive though. Not my style, to do the California Kustom look. We used to call them Moon hubcaps!
     
  12. TheForce

    TheForce Ron Paul 2012

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    Yes a jack stand is a good idea but the car was not going anywhere even if the jack had failed. The e-brake was on and the car was in drive. With the car in drive it does not have enough power to move its self with the e-brake on. I guess I also should have been wearing a dust mask so I did not breath in the aluminum dust. And safety glasses should have been worn too. And maybe some leather gloves to protect the hands.
     
  13. max9952001

    max9952001 Plugging In

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    Fantastic finished product. I would rather buy off the shelf, but also don't want to screw into my existing wheels.
     
  14. PeaceKeeper

    PeaceKeeper New Member

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    I would like to do this on our new 2010 using the the screw on ones from online. But I don't want to destroy my wheel covers, it's a leased vehicle, what would be a good substitute for the factory wheel covers?

    Thanks
     
  15. zion

    zion New Member

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    Do you think that there would be a difference in mpg from the mikes version and the flat version? Given that I am not great at aero designs I am not quite sure on this one...