Nefarious Racing

ESR Wheels Review: Are They Any Good?

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ESR wheels used to get a lot of hate and became synonymous with “fake” wheels. They were considered cheap and rubbish, and if you ran them on your car you were thought to be putting children’s lives at risk, because they could shatter at any moment and you’d crash into a school bus.

However, ESR has weathered the storm and are still producing wheels, having moved up the wheel brand ladder and now producing some pretty good looking forged two and three piece wheels as well.

In this post, we’ll take a look at ESR wheels in detail and answer the question of how good they really are.

Background on ESR

ESR was founded in 2014 and are owned by a company called Wheelimage Corp who own a number of wheel and aftermarket parts brands. They are based in Southern California where they design, engineer and manufacture all their wheels.

ESR began by making replica wheels of pretty much every well-known wheel model you can imagine. BBS RS, BBS LM, Volk TE37, Work Meister, Work Emotions – you name it, ESR probably made a rep.

Their wheels were incredibly cheap as well, costing as low as $600 for a set.

So Why the Bad Reputation?

Many people got angry at ESR for several reasons:

  1. They were making direct knock offs, which already have a bad rep among car enthusiasts for taking market share away from the companies that designed the original wheel and make high quality products
  2. They were making “fake splits” – cast one piece wheels made to look like multi-piece wheels with fake bolts
  3. Because they were so cheap, people were very sceptical of their quality, and immediately deemed them rubbish

The name ESR basically became synonymous with cheap, low quality rep wheels, and any time the name was mentioned you would get a flood of comments about how bad they were and how they would break and you would crash and kill yourself and others.

Now, there is some truth to this, as cheap wheels are inherently lower quality than more expensive options.

However, like most things on the internet, ESR’s bad rep was probably blown quite a bit out of proportion, and you’ll struggle to find any examples of their wheels actually breaking. I will cover this more a bit later in this post.

ESR Wheel Options

Cast Wheels

ESR cast wheel

ESR make a wide range of cast wheels which consist of a mix of replica and fake multi-piece wheels as well as some original designs.

Most people looking at buying ESRs will be looking at this line of wheels, and these are the wheels that got ESR the hate they received and are generally looked down upon due to being direct copies of more expensive wheels.

Whether that bothers you or not is up to you, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are poor quality (more on that below).

They do offer a pretty wide range of sizes, designs and bolt patterns, so if you are just looking for some cheap wheels to make your daily driver look a bit better, odds are they have something for you.

Forged & Multi-Piece Wheels

ESR forged wheel

A few years ago, ESR started produced a series of forged wheels which are much higher quality, more expensive and extremely customizable.

With a wide range of monoblock, 2 and 3 piece designs, they come in a range of sizes from 17-24” and pretty much any width and offset you need.

ESR also offers an extremely wide range of finishes and options for these wheels, with every aspect being able to be customized to your requirements including colors (and multiple color fades), carbon fiber, custom hardware, center caps and more.

These wheels are all made to order.

Are ESR Wheels Good?

In order to answer whether ESR wheels are good, it’s important to make a distinction between their budget wheels and their forged wheel line. There’s a big difference between the cost and the quality of these wheels, so they can’t be lumped together into the same group.

ESR Cast Wheels

When it comes to the quality of the ESR cast wheels, there are a few points that need to be covered.

Strength & Durability

The most important aspect of any wheel is whether or not it is actually safe to use and won’t break on you when you hit a bump or a pot hole.

The issue many people take with wheels such as ESR’s reps is that they are a cast version of a forged wheel design.

The problem with this is that forged wheels are designed specifically to be made using the forging manufacturing process, which allows for certain designs that would not be strong enough when made using a casting process.

Now, it is possible for them to modify the design of the wheel to make them stronger when using casting, but we do not know if they do this or not. This will also add to the weight of the wheel, which I will cover in a minute.

What we can look at is how many reports there are of ESR wheels failing to try and get an idea of the quality.

After doing a bit of research, it’s actually not very common at all to find any actual reports of failure. Sure, you will find the odd report here or there, but you will also find that with brands like BBS and Volk. It certainly isn’t so common that it makes me think these wheels will explode as soon as the car is off the hoist.

What is much more common is finding people who say they have been running ESR wheels for a few years with no issues.

Now, most of these were street cars, and if you are planning to track your car it could be a different story, but that’s not really what these wheels are made for.


One thing that most people can agree upon is that ESR’s cast wheels are pretty heavy. More than likely this is because they have had to adapt the designs to be strong enough for casting, which adds weight.

The positive side is that this means they likely did add strengthening to the wheel design, which is probably why there aren’t that may reports of failures.

If you are looking for wheels to use for autocross or on the track, these are probably not the best option due to their weight.

However, for street cars and daily drivers this isn’t a big issue.

Quality of the Finish

One area where I did find several reports of problems was with the finish of the wheels themselves, meaning the paint or coating used.

The reports mentioned that either the paint was not very good quality right from new and didn’t look very good, or that after a year or two it started pitting and showing signs of failure.

This is not entirely surprising since to make wheels so cheap you have to cut corners somewhere, and the finish is probably one of the areas where they used lower quality materials.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that ESR’s current wheel finishes have not been improved, but we won’t know until time passes and someone tests them out.

ESR Forged Wheels

ESR’s forged wheels are a lot less common, mostly due to the fact that they usually cost upwards of $1000 per wheel, making them out of reach of most car enthusiasts.

However, at that price point, I would expect to get a decent quality wheel, and ESR claim that every wheel they make is tested used Finite Element Analysis (FEA), something that BBS uses on their wheels.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many reviews about these wheels online, so it’s hard to say for sure how good quality they really are.

They definitely do look cool though, with some very unique color schemes and designs.


ESR do offer a limited lifetime structural warranty and a 2 year finish warranty on their wheels, which does bring at least some peace of mind and ensures you will be taken care of if your wheels fail.


ESR started out as a budget wheel manufacturer and did what they had to do to get going. They made cheap replica wheels that clearly enough people wanted which allowed them to grow their business and start offering high end wheel options, some of which are pretty impressive.

Their cast wheels are cheap, and are obviously not the best quality and are known to be heavy. However, if you are just after budget wheels to make your daily driver or street car look better, they will get the job done.

If you have more money to spend, ESR do offer some really cool options in their forged wheel line and will custom make wheels that match pretty much anything you can come up with.

I do hope they manage to get past the reputation of being a cheap wheel maker, as I think their forged wheels are very cool and are in a totally different league.


Some FAQ Regarding ESR Wheels

Are ESR Wheels Reps

Yes, a large portion of ESRs wheels are reps, based on many popular wheel models such as BBS RS, BBS LM, Volk TE37, Work Meister and more. However, they also have a wide range of original designs, particularly in their forged wheel line.

Are ESR Wheels Real?

Some ESR wheels are real, mostly in their forged line. Their forged wheels are mainly original designs that are real 2 and 3 piece wheels. However, most of their cast wheels are reps and are not really multi-piece.

Are ESR Wheels Cast or Forged?

ESR’s budget wheels are all cast, however they also make a forged wheel line which consists of forged monoblock, 2 and 3 piece wheels.

What Are ESR Wheels Made Out Of?

ESR’s budget wheel are made out of cast aluminium alloy, while their forged line wheels are made of 6061 T6 Aero Space Aluminium. The centers of their multi-piece wheels are forged milled aluminium, while the lips and barrels are spun-forged aluminium.


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