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A Tale of Craigslist Wheels… and New Jersey

Kamil Kaluski June 22, 2015 All Things Hoon, Featured 13 Comments

damn wheels

My mother used to have a very nice 2005 Acura TL. For almost nine years she used that car to commute from her home in Edgewater, NJ, to her work in the Bronx. For those of you that have not traveled between New Jersey and New York over the George Washington Bridge, and further north over the Cross Bronx Expressway, should know that this may be the worst road in the United States. The traffic jams are constant, as is construction. Someone always breaks down or rear-ends someone else. Due to heavy truck traffic the pavement is extremely wavy. It’s bad, really bad.

The third generation Acura TL came standard with 17-inch wheels wrapped in 235/45-17 tires. The car handled very well right out of the box, while retaining a ride that was comfortable. With a 270hp engine, it was a fun car to drive, even with the ever-present torque-steer. The problem was that its wheel/tire combination did not resist road imperfections well. Bubbled-up tires and bent wheels were the norm for my mom and many other TL owners. I did my best to ensure that she always had a good set of wheels and tires on the car, which meant frequent Craigslist searches.

tl red acura 2005

One day a friend who new about my endless searches sent me a CL link that seemed perfect – brand new take-offs from a brand-new, base model, fourth generation, 2010 TL. Some dude upgraded to dubs on his brand new car and wanted to ditch those stockers. Brand new wheels and brand new tires, same backspacing, same bolt patter, those things never change on same model cars.


I emailed the dude. We planned to meet around 2pm in Queens on a Saturday. Later he emailed me says it’s got to be at 4pm.

This wasn’t a problem since I was back home in New Jersey without my wife and kids. I had all the time in the world and I was hanging out with my high school homies, all serious car guys. When I say they’re serious car guys I mean they all have done engine swaps, all kinds of modifications, they drag raced, they are Gran Turismo champions, and actually have track driving experience. They really know their shit, and the three of us together are supreme car experts extraordinaire – in our minds no one knows more, no one knows better.

Dude with tires, whose English is far from good, calls and says that something has come up and he won’t be able to meet until 7pm. However, to make up for the inconvenience, he was willing to drop the wheels off in Jersey, near the exit from the Lincoln Tunnel. Ugh, this is annoying, but fine, saves me a trip into New York City. 7pm in Weehawken it is. It’s somewhat of a busy area, especially on a Saturday evening, but there is a gas station there that has some parking and a lot of light. But it’s always busy.

weehawken gas station

As 7pm was getting closer, wheel dude informs me that he’s once again running late. I’m pissed now because I wasted the whole day waiting for him. My boy Vince, a jacked-up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master who may or may not have been raging by now, grabs my phone and goes off on the wheel dude. Wheel dude sounds nervous, apologizes, says 10:00pm for sure. My other buddy, a frequently-paranoid-but-always-ready-for-anything Marine, who also enjoys randomly raging at people, remains relatively calm and laughs at Vinny.

We decide to relax by going to a bar in nearby Hoboken. It was nice, nice views if you know what I mean, and it reminded us of when we used to hang out in this town during our high school and college years. We had a drink or two. Since Vinny and I were not driving, we had a few more.

11:00pm. Wheel guy keeps giving us the run-around. At this point we find the whole thing hilarious and are willing to play this dude’s game just because we have nothing better to do. And we’re drunk-ish. And there are college chicks around us, three married guys in their thirties.

1:00am. Bars are beginning to empty out, which is strange, because I remember how this town used to go all night long. This wheel mofo texts me that he is about to get into the Lincoln Tunnel. Halle-fucking-lujah!

We go to the gas station near the Lincoln Tunnel, but things are different there at 1:00am. The station is closed. The lights are off, and there is no one there. Not a soul. And we’re drunk, except for the Marine dude who is just under the legal limit as per his own paranoid calculations. At this point we realize that this may not be the greatest idea we’ve ever had. But whatever, we are three pretty big guys and we can all fight if we need to – what’s the worst that can happen?

So we’re at the dark gas station, waiting. A beat-up white Dodge Caravan, similar to the one pictured below, with New York plates quickly pulls in. Not the brand new Acura TL we were expecting.

beat up caravan

A skinny Latin guy in his mid-twenties gets out of the driver’s door. He waves to us in a questionable manner, as if to check if we’re the ones here for… the deal. A younger guy gets out of the passenger side door. To us, three drunk idiots, this seems like something out of a movie. The two guys open the side door. I look at Vince and I say “Well, let’s go, let’s look at those wheels.”

Paranoid Marine boy says, “You go check them out, I’ll be here, behind you. I got your back if something goes wrong.”

I look at paranoid Marine guy and ask “Are you packin’ heat?”

“JUST GO!” he answered in a way that only a Marine can. Fine.

To our surprise, there was a twelve year old kid in the back of the minivan where the wheels were. Whiskey? Tango? Foxtrot?

Whatever, I’m here to look at the wheels and tires. Knowing that my boys have my back, I dive into the minivan with a flashlight. The wheels and tires were brand fucking new. Not a scratch on the wheels and the tires still had those little hairs on them. Tire size: 245/50-17, not the 235/45-17 I was expecting.

Hmm. My drunken thinking was that Honda realized that everyone was bending their wheels on the third gen cars, so they upped the tire size, which makes sense as the new 2010 model is also heavier. They probably just changed the final drive of the transmission to make up for the difference. No issues, at worse my mom’s car will just be a little slower.

Of course at this point we were all questioning the origin of the wheels, but for the sake of this story let’s assume he was selling me the wheels off his own car which he said he did not want to drive into the hood that is New Jersey. There was no way to know otherwise, it’s not like wheels have a VIN stamped into them. I had to take him on his word and at this point I just wanted to have the whole thing over with. I offered him fifty dollars less than what he was asking, because Craigslist. He took it.

Vinnie and Marine boy threw the wheels into Marine boy’s SUV, I handed over the cash, we said our thank yous, and we all departed. As we started driving away we burst into a laughter about the whole thing and then we high-fived each other for getting such an amazing deal on a set of wheels. Just like we did back in the day, we rolled those fools!!

TL wheels and tires

Marine boy drops off Vinny, and then me and the wheels. Good times, one day we’ll tell this story to our kids.

Little did we know, the story was not over.

The next morning, I jack up my mom’s ’05 TL and remove the first wheel. I grab one of my newly purchased brand new wheels, put it on…

…AND IT DOES NOT FIT!!! What! The Actual! Fuck!?

I go on the internets and I find this:

TL bolt pattern 2

For the fourth generation of the TL, Honda decided to change the wheel bolt pattern of the TL from the 5×114.3 to the 5×120 which has been used on their heavier vehicles, such as the Ridgeline, MDX, Odyssey, and the Pilot.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” asked Vinny when I called him about my discovery.

“Nope, I couldn’t make this up”

“How the ‘F did we miss this!? We know EVERYTHING!!! The three of us are the supreme car experts extraordinaire!!”



Obviously I had to sell those wheels. That took me five years later, almost to the week, to do that. I met the buyer at the same Weehawken gas station and sold them for the same amount of money. I was by myself and I made sure that it happened in the middle of the day.

Those wheels are actually in demand because people use them to replace the crummy oddly-sized PAX wheels and flat tires that came on their Honda Odysseys.

  • This sounds like one of my craigslist adventures. The wrong lug pattern at the end of it all is the best part.

  • PotbellyJoe★★★★★

    As soon as I read the tire size I knew it was 09+ and the new bolt pattern. A friend of mine got burned on eBay when he had a lease return. His stock wheels were absolutely destroyed from the 3 years of NJ driving, so he bought “Acura TL 17″ OEM wheels” and they look way too similar to him, come to find out the bolt pattern had changed.

    Blame SH-AWD.

  • Cool_Cadillac_Cat

    Yeah, it’s amazing what automakers do here-and-there in what seems like a quest to completely screw over we gearheads!

    After you weren’t kidnapped and ransomed by the beat-to-hell old Doge minivan dudes (they already had one captive, that was enough), my next jump was bolt pattern, or even more aggravating, hub size/center bore.

    If you off-road, you quickly become good at what years/makes/models have acceptably interchangeable hub size, bolt pattern, and one which can really irk a person, backspacing.

    This is why I have 2005 LJ (Wrangler) Rubicon wheels, because they bolt up perfectly to my ’98 ZJ 5.9L’s hubs.

    They look a damned sight better than the old basketweave Limited wheels it had on it when I bought it.

    5.9L wheels sell for a premium, unfortunately.

  • Frank T. Cat

    Probably a good thing that you waited to sell those wheels. I’m guessing by the beat up old Caravan that they were hot.

  • Sjalabais

    Haha, if anything, selling wheels and tires on CL and the like is even shadier than selling beat up cars. Every single time I have sold tires and such the buyers met up and hadn’t read the f* ad. “What? Six years old?” – “Oh, that’s not the dimension I need” – “Wait, you’re not giving me a 90% discount?”…it’s a sea of stupid.

    • nanoop

      I had the brilliant plan to look for winter tires on the local CL substitute, but ceased activity after realizing that 70% of the sellers didn’t bother to list at least corner data – I don’t expect bolt patterns or even age, but at least the BIG NUMBERS written on the outside of each single tire would help:

      “Wheels from a Toyota, with rather new Hong-Lang tires, used for only four seasons, USD250.”

      • Sjalabais

        Exactly! It’s a great market to be a seller, if you manage to navigate the sea of stupid. I sold those six year old Corolla tires with great thread for 150$.

  • dmdukejr

    Sounds like the plot of the next Entourage movie to me.

  • My Craigslist wheel adventure ended up much better. It was the painstaking research before hand that was the issue. Turns out the Ford Escape will accept many different Ford product wheels – as long as the hub center size works out. I ended up with 17″ Fusion alloys to replace the base model steel wheels. They fit perfectly and look sharp. And they were even in the very good condition that the CL ad stated!

  • A “friend” at college took my advice on upgrading the hubcaps on his Ford Orion to a lovely set of Sierra Sapphire alloys, and very nice they were too. On returning from the scrapyard from whence they came I inspected them, nice enough and decent tyres, too, and left them alone to fit them.

    Apparently they looked great on the car, except that thirty seconds after moving from a standstill all four wheels fell off in best slapstick fashion. I probably should have advised them that alloy wheel bolts were a good idea, too.

  • CraigSu

    It’s too bad we can’t upvote articles. Wait! We can! I didn’t realize until now that there’s a Recommended link.

  • CruisinTime

    Drunk Man buys stolen wheels and tires hat do not fit , details at 11………….

  • Scoutdude

    It really annoys me when the mfgs change the bolt circle, hub bore, or offset, often for no good reason. It is nice when they keep using the same one for a long time and across different models. Since I drive Panthers I love the fact that the 05-14 Mustang (and 02-11 Explorer) are compatible.

    I’ve bought 4 sets of wheels or wheels/tires off of the list of Craig.

    My wife has a Fusion Hybrid which comes with the “+1″ tires and wheels. That means that you can not use tire chains with the factory tires and wheels. So I wanted a set of base model 16″ wheels to put some winter tires on. I cruised craigslist and came across a set of the 16″ alloy wheels listed for $50. I made the drive one Sat knocked on the door the guy’s dad said meet me at the garage. Walked around the corner found 4 aftermarket wheel boxes in a stack. Opened them up found them in good condition except for a tiny scrape on one. I pulled out the $50 handed it over and dad said oh yea these go with it and handed me a box of the stock stainless capped lug nuts. The set of lug nuts would go for $50 new. The center caps would sell on Ebay for $50 for the set and $100 per wheel is not uncommon for them on E-bay. They were not the ones that I would have preferred but I certainly wasn’t going to pass them up for that price.

    For my Daughter’s car a P71 I picked up at auction that had marginal tires I wanted a set of tires for winter. I found a set on Craigslist for $200 with almost zero wear. Meet the guy 1/2 way at a Burger King right off the freeway. The plan was to meet at I think 6 and I rolled up at 5:58 and he rolled up at 6:03. Verified they were what was advertized handed over the money and was back home by 6:30. They were mounted on Volvo wheels which I should get around to putting up on Craigslist for $100 or maybe less.

    For My P71 I scored as set of the 05-14 Mustang Bullet wheels with center caps for $100. One does have a little scratch. I’ll put Winter tires on them. Rolled up and the guy was out mowing the lawn. Opened his shed and he pulled out 4 aftermarket wheel boxes verified they were in good shape and I was heading back out 5 min later.

    I also recently picked up a set of the split spoke Mustang 17″ wheels with the stock Pirelli tires in good enough shape to put on the car to sell. $140 for all 4 with center caps.

    While they weren’t from Craiglist I also recently picked up a set of tires to put on those Bullet wheels at the Pick-N-Pull. Literally brand new Pursuit rated winter tires on the factory wheels for $200 plus tax. The agency had to have spent at least $600 on them what couldn’t have been more than a couple of weeks before it was T boned. I also have an extra set of the center caps for those so I figure I can get at least $125 for that as a complete set for someone to upgrade their P71 to the later 17” or for winter tires for a Mustang, Explorer or Panther.

    I’m also very lucky that our local High School is one of a handful in the nation that still has an auto shop and auto shop classes. That means that I get tires mounted and balanced for free. The previous teacher had sought me out to congratulate me for winning the district volunteer of the year event and when he retired I went and introduced myself to the new teacher shortly after the begining of the year. So I keep it down to just a few sets a year, usually bring in just a pair at a time and don’t push to have them done until tomorrow or the next day. The previous teacher and this teacher liked having high quality modern equipment so it is all state of the art.