It is very common for motor home owners to fit alloy wheels to their vehicles, but which ones to go for? are they safe? how do I know that they will fit? I aim to answer these questions and more within this blog post.
Campers which are based on a Ducato chassis will be one to two variations; either a standard Ducato or a Ducato Maxi. Just to complicate things if the vehicle is a maxi it may not say this on the van – not very helpful I know! If you are looking to buy alloys for your van then you will need to determine which type you have. The easiest way to do this is to check your current tyre size, this will read something like 215/70R15. The 15 in this size refers to your wheel size so in this example the van would be running on 15″ wheels. If you vehicle is on 15″ wheels then it will be a standard Ducato, if it’s on 16″ (and was hasn’t been changed onto this size) then it will be a Maxi. If your van has 6 wheels then this is also an indication that the vehicle is a Maxi.
The distinction is important as Fiat have different spacing’s between the stud holes on the 2 types. This spacing can be referred to as stud pattern or PCD, if you start looking into wheel specs then you may see these terms. Just for the record the stud pattern for a standard Ducato has a pcd of 5×118, whereas the Maxi is 5×130. Also the width of the hub where the wheel sits varies (Ducato 71.1mm, Maxi 78.1mm) therefore wheels are definitely not interchangeable between variants.
I’ll start with talking about the standard Ducato (I’ll look at Maxi wheels in a different post), many motorhome wheels are sold for these as vans do not always come with alloys as standard and original Fiat wheels are rather expensive. Owners therefore start looking at after-market wheel choices, but which to go for?
With a heavy vehicle such as a camper I feel that you should really focus on quality, strength and safety! You need something that is commercially rated to carry the weight, most stockists should be able to provide the wheels load rating, if you multiply this value by 4 then you need the figure to be more than your vehicles fully loaded weight.
How do you know what the quality is like when buying online? Check where the wheels are produced, there are various products shipped in from China and the Far East which are of dubious quality. There are a handful of European manufacturers which are a much safer bet. Most of mainland Europe uses a system of TUV approval, which is like a testing centre for aftermarket automotive parts. If a wheel is TUV approved then it has been tested to ensure that it is suitable for the vehicle stated, they carry out a bunch of tests to verify the load rating also. Unfortunately we do not have such an approval system in place in the UK but many insurance companies are familiar with TUV certification. Therefore if you choose to inform your insurance company that you have fitted alloys then the fact that your chosen wheel is TUV approved should mean that they have no issues with such a modification.
Finally look for guarantee length, as standard wheel manufacturers only offer a 1-year guarantee on the paint finish of their wheels. Some European companies offer a longer length warranty which is certainly an indication of the paint quality.
Our partner Tyremen imports a motorhome wheel from German manufacturer, Alutec. They produce an alloy wheel called the Energy-T which is TUV approved for use on Ducato, it comes with a 5 year guarantee which is the longest offered by any wheel company. There are a few other companies that make good quality motorhome wheels such as AEZ (another German manufacturer) or Team Dynamics (UK made, not TUV approved but still great quality).
Most vehicle owners opt to stick to a 15″ wheels which is very sensible. It means that the original tyres can be swapped onto them if they are in good condition and is the most cost effective solution. The only real advantage of going for something bigger is that you get a slightly more impressive appearance, but the ride will be firmed up as you need to use a lower profile tyre to compensate for the increase in wheel size. If you didn’t compensate in this way then the vehicle speedo will become inaccurate and you may get issues with the tyre catching on the bodywork.
You should be able to buy motorhome wheels without worrying about technical info but if you need to know then this is what you should be looking for:
- As already mentioned the pcd, or stud pattern should be 5×118
- The back of the wheel need to have a centre bore of 71.1mm (ideally directly drilled without the need for spiggot/centralising rings)
- Offset (refers to wheel positioning/how close to bodywork it sits) – this needs to have a value of around 50. You may find this figure stamped on your current wheel, don’t worry if it doesn’t match exactly as the vehicle has a certain amount of tolerance.
- Width – wants to between 6″ and 7″
In terms of getting these fitted, most aftermarket motorhome wheels will be supplied with new bolts (you may need to buy a new wheel brace as the bolt head size may have to be reduced). When being fitted to a camper then you should be using high pressure valves, either add these onto your purchase of make sure your fitter has them available. Locking wheel bolts are also a consideration and are supplied by all good wheel suppliers.
Finally, there seems to be a belief that swapping onto alloy wheels will offer a dramatic weight saving, freeing up some load capacity for a few more cases of French plonk! Unfortunately this is not really the case (not another wine reference), campervan alloys are of a similar weight to a steel wheel, due to the amount of aluminium required to get to such a load capacity.
I think that covers it? Happy shopping & happy camping!
Tyremen now import and stock steel wheels that are suitable for Fiat Ducato based motorhomes. They import these from mainland Europe where they are produced to original equipment standards. These can be sold as sets which is a common request from drivers looking to fit winter tyres to their vans. They also solve an issue where a motorhome is supplied without a spare wheel. The steel wheels have a load rating of 1000kg and are a fraction of main dealer prices!!Google+