’97 Nissan 240SX
2.0L SR20DET turbocharged four-cylinder
Tein SuperStreet coilovers, SPL camber arms.
With the popularity of low-offset wheels at an all-time high, it’s no wonder more and more enthusiasts are looking to fit wider and bigger wheels under their fenderwells. Looking past whether this is a good trend or a bad one, there are many used three-piece wheels on the market that can be transformed from hella-sunk to hella-flush, in a good way of course.
Several years back, finding a set of new lips was like searching for a pot of gold—you didn’t know where to look. These days, however, more and more companies are offering wheel barrels and even full refinishing and rebuilding services. VR Wheels is one of those companies that can take an old set of tired wheels and make them look like new again. It also helps that VR imports serious numbers of JDM wheels and has a huge stock for you to choose from. So you can order a like-new set of wheels, or you can rebuild your own with the company’s custom-stepped lips and wide variety of barrel sizes.
We wanted to get the full experience of what it takes to rebarrel our own set of wheels, so instead of sending our Work VS-XX wheels to VR Wheels, we bought some of the company’s aftermarket reverse-lip replacement barrels. Before we pulled the trigger on the set, we talked to the staff to make sure we’d be ordering the right set of lips in the proper sizes. Figuring out offsets can be a bit tricky, but the crew at VR Wheels is well versed, and after providing them with our current wheel sizes—18x8.5 +31 front and 18x8.5 +26 rear—we explained that we wanted to add an inch to the width of the wheels and stay within a reasonable offset range. There would be no poking wheels on this car. As we found out, you can have a reasonable amount of lip without having to look ridiculous while doing so. VR Wheels came back with the following specs for our new wheels: 18x9.5+19 front and 18x9.5 +14 rear. That meant our current 2.5-inch lip would be increased to 3.5 inches, and the rear 3-inch lip would now be a sizeable 4 inches.
A bead of silicone is holding the two pieces together, so run a sharp utility knife right down the middle and they should separate.
The barrels VR Wheels sell are made in the USA from high-quality metal to withstand high abuse and are built to be an exact replacement without any modification needed.
We didn’t expect the process of actually breaking down the three-piece wheels to be hard, but boy was it tedious and time consuming. All the nuts and bolts holding the faces in place take forever to remove. Prepare for an aching back or feet when you tackle this job. Once the faces are off, you have to separate the barrel from the rim. A bead of silicone is holding the two pieces together, so run a sharp utility knife right down the middle and they should separate. You may need to tug a bit to break the barrel free.
It’s important to clean all the silicone off the surface before you begin to even think about mating the new barrel. Any contamination here will mean a possible leak that you won’t be able to track down until a tire is mounted, and that’s just going to waste a lot of time and money. Be concise and clean the mating surface with a wire brush and then wipe it off with some acetone or paint remover. Now you can mount the new barrel, insert the face, and begin the fun process of putting all the bolts back into the rim. Once that’s complete, you’ll need some silicone sealant. We used GE aluminum silicone and laid a thick bead down the center of the two mated surfaces.
Using the best tool we have, our finger, we carefully went around the entire wheel, flattening out the silicone surface, pushing down gently to ensure it seals. Leave the wheels in a well-ventilated area for two days to ensure the silicone cures and then stare at the new bling you’ve created.
If you’re like us and have a set of three-piece wheels that don’t meet your width or offset requirements, think about investing in some new barrels rather than selling th
After mounting a set of 235/40R18 Continental ContiSportContact 5P on our rebarreled Work wheels, we checked the tire pressure for the next couple of days to ensure there was no leaking from the inner wheel.
If you’re like us and have a set of three-piece wheels that don’t meet your width or offset requirements, think about investing in some new barrels rather than selling the wheels. It’ll set you back about $800 for a full set, but that’s much cheaper than buying them new, and even better, you have the option to custom size and spec them out. Just please don’t get too crazy and build wheels that have so much lip that you’ll need 7 degrees of negative camber to make them fit. Remember form and function, not form or function.