Do you differentiate between hubcaps and wheel covers?

This is a hubcap. I call that a ‘wheel cover’. I call this a ‘hubcap’, because it only covers the hub. It’s also known as a ‘center cap’. I’m guessing people call it a center cap because a ‘hubcap’, in their minds, covers the entire wheel.

For a long time, most cars had stamped steel wheels that were completely covered by decorative trim. Originally, hubcaps only covered the hubs. When stamped steel wheels became the norm, the name carried over to the trim that covered the entire wheel. By making the distinction between trim that only covers the hub, and trim that covers the entire wheel, I’m being pedantic. (Or as the SO says, ‘annoying’.) I can’t help it. When I say that I’m getting new hubcaps for my Jeep (the original ones melted off the other day), I mean I’m getting the caps that cover the hub. My BIL thought I was intending to get wheel covers – even after I explained what I meant. Sometimes it takes longer to be precise. (I think he still doesn’t understand. He’s like, ‘Why don’t you just get new wheels?’ and ‘Hey, are you going to get spinners?’)

Do you differentiate between hubcaps and wheel covers?


Same thing.

Car has many parts with accompanying names that generally describe their function (still not sure just what a plenum is though). All wheel covers are hub caps, not all hub caps are wheel covers. The more restrictive term is needlessly overdescriptive and is thus rejected in favor of the more general term that describes both analogous items.

Thank you, Ellen Cherry.

I agree that I’m being pedantic. Before alloy wheels became so popular (early-'80s? – though I remember that ‘mag wheels’ existed when I was in the single digits) a hubcap was a hubcap. But no one is going to put a full-coverage hubcap on an alloy wheel; so I make the distinction.

I understand the distinction, but I don’t choose to make it myself unless these there is a particular reason that it’s necessary.

I see and understand how you differentiate between them (and voted yes,) but as a hot rodder, here’s the difference to me.
A center cap is something that only goes over the hub to protect it. It only job is to protect. My Honda has aftermarket alloys and the center pops out; that’s a center cap.
A hubcap is a larger (usually OEM) metal cover that protects the hub but is also decoration. A 1939 Ford or 1955 Cadillac Sombreros are good examples of what I call hubcaps.
Wheel covers are usually made of plastic and are made to cover steel wheels but are supposed to look like more expensive alloy/afternarket rims.

I’ll have you know I specifically avoided saying "pedantic. But only because I love you and it’s a pretty brutal word.

What D.E.S.K.Top668 said is pretty much how I use the terms as well.

Further complicating things, until recently many cars still had the original hubcaps (the small metal covers that went over the actual hub/bearings) in addition to the ornamental hubcaps that covered all or part of the wheel. They’re usually called a dust cover or a grease cap now, but they are literally caps that go over the hub.

Huh. I had no idea hubcap had a more specific meaning than wheel cover. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use it to mean something other than the whole wheel cover.

Nah. Hubcap’s a hubcap. I’ve sometimes heard the smaller ones (often seen on police cars, for various reasons) called a “half-moon” hubcap. (Looking on ebay, “baby moon” seems even more popular.)

I hope this isn’t old enough to be considered resurrecting a zombie. Was looking for something else and came across this thread.

“Half-moons” and baby-moons" are derivatives of MOONEyes/Dean Moon’s aerodynamic wheel covers from the fifties, still used today. Half-moons (more commonly called baby-moons) were originally by MOONEyes and didn’t cover the entire wheel.
OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) covers that were similar were usually referred to as “dog-dish hubcaps” because they were less shallow. While cop car dishes were chromed because they were also used on lower end civilian cars, their main purpose was to protect the hubs of the car, hence hubcaps.
While todays police hubcaps are closer in shape to baby-moons, they’re sometimes called dog-dishes to denote their OEM production and due to tradition.

not a zombie or no

i just call whatever is there an uglycover.

They don’t really go over the hub, but yes they are the main defense.
The hub cab is so that any damage (eg from a stick or stone.) is done to outer defense and not the grease cap.
Wheel covers are for the spare wheel.

In my mind, I agree with the OP about the difference, and with his definitions. However, in casual conversation with friends and family, I tend to call them all “hubcaps” because that’s how I first learned it, that’s what most people seem to call them, and it’s easier than explaining the difference.

Just like I don’t point out to my girlfriend that what she (and Bed Bath & Beyond) erroneously calls a “tension rod” should really be called a “compression rod.”

They’re all hubcaps to me.

“Hubcaps” are magical creatures that can spontaneously regenerate (see Bullitt car chase) much like a lizard’s tale or a Tribble. They also are known for vanishing like socks in a dryer. Humm… Schroedenger’s Hubcat? :confused:

Wheel covers are what the old man down the street puts over his RV tires to prevent sun rot that happens anyway.

I wonder if there is a correlation to those of us who have gotten out in a blizzard to manually lock the hubs.